January/February 2012 Spirituality
Am I Enough?
by Carolyn Campbell
As a coach, I am honored and humbled to be invited into the hearts and souls of my clients. I feel privileged that they trust me with their dreams as well as their fears — of not being enough, of being unworthy, of never trusting themselves and their way in the world.
The question they keep asking is, “Am I enough?”
Last summer my mother passed away. Many people might think I should feel a great loss, but honestly, I feel relieved and, well, released.
I do honor her spirit and that a life has passed. And, I am part of the tribe of motherless children — people who don’t really have mothers even when their mothers are alive. As I quietly disclose this to others, I am astounded by the number of people who’ve had the same experience but are ashamed to say so in a culture that reveres mothers.
Truth be told, my mother gave more love and affection to strangers than she did to her own children. Not only did she not give the love I witnessed other mothers give, but she did unthinkable things that I still find unspeakable.
On some days, “not enough” was an understatement.
Last fall, my father called and asked if I might come back East and help him after a recent bout with cancer. When we talked, he never mentioned that my mother was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, he would laugh and say she was memory challenged, and then tell a little joke about an event where they both had a senior moment.
When I arrived two days later, my mother’s condition was shocking. Ashen white with a gaze of uncertainty, it was clear she had no clue who I was. When I came into their room after a long flight, my father jovially said, “Look honey, Carolyn’s here.” She smiled thinly, then proceeded to treat me as a visitor.
As I’ve shared this story, people often apologize at this point. The truth though, being treated as a visitor was an absolute blessing. She treated me with a kindness rarely shown to her family. And, even more surprisingly she welcomed affection — letting me hold her in her hospital bed one morning when she was scared. It was such a beautiful experience to know that my mother did have love within her. I fell in love with my mother in ways I never could as her daughter.
Not Being Enough
Today, after her death, I started thinking, “What if we really aren’t enough? What do we do then?”
I thought about the other side of my mother’s story: a woman who never recovered from the unresolved loss of her own father. At age nine, she went to a friend’s house the day after Christmas. While she was there, her father died suddenly. She was sent to play with other families over the next few days, having no clue what was going on at home. When she finally did go home, her father was dead and buried. Gone.
My grandmother, a widowed single woman, struggled to survive and make a life for the two of them. This experience changed the way my mother would live the rest of her life.
She did everything “right” and even finished college. She dreamed of having a “real family” and married the perfect man to be a great father. She was way in over her head. Each day she fought her fear and anxiety of never being enough. Most days, the fear won.
For years, I have struggled with my place as a motherless child. I rebelled, withdrew and raged and then, I gave up. The divine though, had another plan for me. I was offered the wondrous gift from mother of being treated as a stranger. I could now see why others loved my mother and felt loved by her.
I could finally see my mother just for what she was — a woman who was broken, trying to be the best she possibly could be. With that truth, an honoring occurred.
I sent off the spirit of my mother with a gentle forgiveness and an appreciation for the gifts she gave me. Her embattled attempts at order helped me gain understanding for others lost in their own confusion. Her outrages taught me how to sit with others’ fear and rage and not be scared.
And perhaps the greatest gift was watching illness unmask her fears. Quite honestly, some days felt like a hall of mirrors. It has made me see the ways in which I’m like her. It made me realize how often I’m not enough — not patient enough, not kind enough, not socially adept enough.
But when I get frightened and try to be enough (whatever enough is), I get more stressed and anxious. I’m realizing that we just might not be enough. And perhaps we should stop trying so hard. We have our failings. We have our gifts.
What if you’re not enough? So what! Let go of control. Instead, focus on the bounty of who you are. The more you try to be enough, the more you may lose the best of who you are already, and the love you are here to share.
An international speaker and coach, Carolyn Campbell inspires visionary entrepreneurs and forward-thinking leaders to honor their strengths and connect from compassionate truth. Visit www.carolynscampbell.com.