Enough

I’ve said it before, but seriously, you couldn’t pay me enough to re-live high school. Oh, there were great things that happened to me, so many amazing experiences. But holy wow, the stress, the pressure, the hormones, the emotions, the jerks and queen b’s. It was really hard – trying to live up to expectations, real or imagined, while trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to be, while trying to  make sure I did what I had to do to get into college, while dealing with friends and classmates going through the exact same process. I remember crying a lot. I remember dealing with ulcers and other stress-induced illness by the time I was fifteen. I remember pushing myself harder than anyone else – the drive to be “perfect”.  And this was all in the time where rumors were spread via those folded up notes a-la 80’s, and during lunch or at post-game dances.

I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like for teenage girls these days. It was hard enough to get through each day before there were phones and cameras around 24/7. Social media has been around most of my kids’ lives. They live their lives on blast. Remember when you had a bad hair day in high school? There weren’t any cameras around to capture it. Or if you fell walking across Senior Court, people would talk about it, but there wouldn’t be video evidence to spread the humiliation even further.  You would likely have to see that boy you really liked walk his newest girlfriend down the hallway, but you didn’t have photos of everything else they did in your face every day. I can’t imagine the pressure girls (and likely boys too) these days have to always look perfect, be perfect, not let things get to them in public. I think they’ve had to grow up much more quickly than we did.

With that all in mind, I want my babies to know they are enough for me. Just them, just as they are.

You are enough…

You are not what you wear. You are not what uniform you might put on for whatever sport you choose. You are not your success on the field. You are not how many honors or AP classes you take. You are not even the grades you get or the test scores you earn. You are not how many friends you have. You are not whether you date anyone before you’re sixteen. You are not whether you ever date. You are not whether you take someone or get asked to Homecoming or the Prom. You are not how many pictures there are of you in the yearbook. You are not what college you might get into. You are not how clean your room is, or if you finish all your chores without being told. You are not whether you finish that half marathon at a faster pace than last year. You are not your golf ranking. You are not whatever role you get for recital or Nutcracker. You are not the IEP meetings we go to annually. You are not the papers you write, the projects you finish, the number of books you read, the car you drive. You are not the money you earn, the house you live in, the career you decide upon. You are not the Facebook posts, the Snapchats, the Instagram photos, the re-tweets.

You, just you, you are enough. You are loved, you are cherished, you are wanted, just as you are. Remember that……There’s going to be so much pressure in your life to do, to be, to look everything “perfect”. But none of that makes you more. They are just what you do, how you look. They are accessories. You – you are enough.

Mean

When I heard Taylor Swift’s song “Mean”, a chord was struck. I’m sure that’s pretty true for many females over the age of 9.  Who wouldn’t want to sing/say that to anyone who has ever bullied you or made you feel bad about yourself? It came on Pandora the other day and I realized the biggest bully in my life is myself. Talk about breakthrough and breakdown.

I  think I was nine or ten years old the first time I measured how wide I was (front to back) and was unhappy with what I saw. Cue food issues. I made so many rules about eating, I could hardly keep track of them all. But I was on a mission to be perfect in so many ways, the perfect body (whatever that is, especially when you’re ten) included. If I failed at eating one day, one meal, I would spend hours beating myself up. I would wake up in the middle of the night and obsess, setting all kinds of boundaries for the next day and the next until I’d undone the fail. My heart aches now for that little girl.

I was brutal to myself in so many ways. I was never good enough in my own eyes. Perfection the goal, failure my view of my reality. When so-called friends did bad things to me, I blamed them. They were at fault. I’ve come to realize that I was the mean one…I was the one who let unfaithful people in my life who would prey on my own insecurities. Had I been stronger, had a better and more realistic view of myself, they never would have had the chance, or even if they did, I would have been able to handle it better.

You couldn’t pay me enough money to go back to middle and high school. I don’t want to be that girl anymore. But then again, if I could go back, and talk to that girl, tell her how strong and perfect she truly is, it would be worth it. There are blessings to being over 40.  I know who I am. I know I’m not perfect, but I am easier on myself. Those impossible standards I used to set are grayed-out. I can still see them if I look very hard. When I “fail”, and sometimes start to obsess about that failure, I just sigh and think that tomorrow is a new, clean, fresh day. Now when I hear the song “Mean”, I think about those voices in my own head telling me I’m not good enough, not thin enough, not young-looking enough, not perfect. I tell those voices to shut it. And I move on.

The Voices

I honestly don’t remember how old I was the first time I heard the voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough, would always be second best, would never measure up. Maybe it was in third grade when my best friend picked another girl for her group on our field trip. Or it could have been fourth grade when I came in second in the class spelling bee (I said “k” instead of “c”…never have forgotten that).  I’m pretty sure it had kicked in before fifth grade when we moved to a new, very small town.  That didn’t help my shyness and insecurity in the least (although I’m very thankful to my parents for making that move).  In seventh grade, I met the girl who would be my best friend throughout the rest of junior high and high school. I ALWAYS came in second to her from then on out. I accepted it as my place…felt it was the place I deserved, if even that.  I lived in fear of failure, horrified that people would figure out that underneath it all, I wasn’t even as good at school, music, whatever as they might have thought. I was (and still am) a perfectionist. It’s not an easy life.  I controlled as much as I could. It seemed to make things easier somehow.  I thrived in order, needed order just to be able to deal with everything else.  My closet was organized by type and then by color.  My books were in alphabetical order.  I ate one thing at a time on my plate, and heaven help me if any of my food “touched”. I had so many rules for myself…..fun always came second to work.  If the work wasn’t done, then there wasn’t time for fun. If I remember correctly, I was a sophomore or junior in high school when we found out I had ulcers. I pushed and pushed myself, but it wasn’t so I would be the best…it was so I would feel I deserved the second place I always seemed to end up in.

I wish I could say that as I’ve gotten older, these fears have faded or gone away.  They haven’t, they’ve just shifted focus.  The voices returned with a vengeance when Ryley and Grace were babies. I became overwhelmed.  I was sure I was an awful mother.  My house was never clean enough in my mind, the meals I made were garbage, I felt a failure even as a wife.  I broke down. I fell apart. I saw a counselor.  She woke me up to the voices I’d been hearing since childhood.  And she gave me permission to tell them to shut up and go away.  They’ve come and gone over the years, never leaving completely.  Lately, when I wake up in the middle of the night for whatever reason, they’re there waiting….telling me I’m not a good mother, I’m lazy, I have no will, I’m a bad employee, my house is trashed, I’m an awful friend, a terrible daughter. I still live in fear of people figuring this out.  I fight a battle with myself every day, every night.  I try to drown out the voices that pull me down. I am sure that when my kids are grown, they’ll know…..they’ll have seen right through my attempts to hide the fact that I’m not even second-best as a mom.

I hate the voices. And I know I sound like a lunatic even admitting that there are voices in my head. I promise they’re not the type of voices that will put me away in a little white padded room forever.  But they’re there…and I battle with them all too  often.  I’d love to have confidence in myself and my capabilities.  I’d love to believe half the things people tell me about me are true.  I’d love to truly believe in myself, so I wouldn’t end up in a panic at 3am over the laundry that’s left on the couch, dishes unwashed in the sink, furniture that doesn’t match in any of the kids’ rooms, baseboards that aren’t finished, the yelling I did that day, the books I haven’t read to my daughter, the fight with Ryley over his medicine, the phone call I forgot to make to my Daddy, the dogs that haven’t been walked, the run I didn’t take, the birthday gift I have yet to buy much less send. I wish I were even half as perfect as I’d really like to be. I wish I had it half as together as I can make it seem.  I wish the voices would just disappear.