Nothing Will Ever Be Good Enough, Part II: The Fall

First, an announcement:

Thanks to you, dear readers, “Vessel” celebrates one year tomorrow, April 20! Tune in for a special “Vessel” birthday treat.

And now, Part II, continued from Tuesday, April 12 post.

I stood on the table, facing the loving people who would catch me, and announced, “I am ready to release the belief that nothing will ever be good enough.” As the words settled over their heads, I thought, I can totally do this. I almost laughed, remembering how anxious I’d felt just a few minutes earlier when our facilitator James demonstrated the backward fall into the interlocked arms of eight fellow participants.

Then, as directed, I turned around, my back to the group. I faced a grand view of rocky hills of chamisa and sage. I felt both held by the land and weightless. Not the free kind of weightless that we feel in dreams of flying, but the disorienting kind of weightless that I get when my blood sugar drops, or worse the kind of weightless that can’t be remedied by eating a banana, the kind that comes with loss. I felt it when my Grandma China died. I felt it when I left my community in Oaxaca in 2006. I felt it when my apartment burned down.

I started to cry. It wasn’t that I feared they would not catch me; I knew they would. What I feared more was leaving behind my belief. Although, up to this point, I had never acknowledged, much less articulated it, on a deep level that I did not understand until I stood on that table and prepared to fall backwards into the arms of a group of people I had met only hours earlier, I credited that belief with making me who I am. Believing that nothing would ever be good enough made me do well in school. It made me practice my band major salute for hours in my front yard. It got me into—and through—Harvard. This dear, precious belief helped me get a Masters degree and win a Fulbright and write a book. It led me to Henry and the kids. Was I insane?! How could I let this go?

Letting go of this belief meant settling. It meant doing and having and being less than perfect. It meant that I would never again accomplish anything of value to me or anyone else.

Here in black and white, the fall behind me, I can see how believing that nothing would ever be good enough had become a barrier to cultivating much of what I claim to love and want and need in my life: authentic relationships, community, a vital writing practice, meaningful work. Rather than serving as a motivator, my belief had become a lodestone attracting other ancillary beliefs that bound together to suck the joy out of my life.

I’m not working hard enough on my book. Therefore, I will never finish, and even if I do finish, it won’t be my best work.

Henry only sends flowers when I ask him to send them, so he must not really love me.

One of the joys of my late-thirties adult life is learning to listen to what Catholic priest and author Henri Nouwen calls “the inner voice of love.” In his book by the same name, he shares the spiritual lessons that guided him through a “period of extreme anguish, during which I wondered whether I would be able to hold onto my life” (xii).  He writes, “You have to trust the inner voice that shows you the way. You know that inner voice. You turn to it often. But after you have heard with clarity what you are asked to do, you start raising questions, fabricating objections, and seeking everyone else’s opinion” (6).

As I whimpered on the table, afraid to fall back, the inner voice asked, “What if believing in good enough just meant accepting, not settling, but accepting?” Then it asked, “What if good enough really is good enough?”

I answered by falling. They caught me. It was better than perfect; it was good enough.

Next week: La Pascua

Published in: on April 19, 2011 at 2:00 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Beautifully articulated and so touching. I shared a deep transformation and am excited (and nervous) to see where it leads me. I am so glad we were able to experience the workshop together. Blessings… Adrianne

    • Thank you, Adrianne. The blessings from the workshop continue to reveal themselves. I hope we’ll have another opportunity to share that space together.

  2. I, too, Michelle, am not good enough. You have beautifully, smoothly, graphically, emotionally, spiritually, physically described what I felt when I first walked off the side of a cliff onto a rope held by my belay-er down below. Most things I do, now, are good enough — almost. It is a continual effort. With much love for you Michelle — one of my favorite people.

    • What a powerful metaphor, Angela–walking off the side of a cliff. We are always good enough. We just need reminders from those who truly see us, no? Thank you for always reflecting the good. I hope to see you at the Galeria de la Raza reading in San Francisco on May 17.

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