Monday, November 17, 2014

On Being Enough

I've always felt inadequate.

When I was little, other children reminded me I was actually too much - too "weird", too fat, too much an introvert and too unable to emotionally cope with the day to day interactions of other kids. I could lose myself in a fantasy world all my own, a coping mechanism I developed coming into middle school, and that too was strange. I dealt with the emotional and physical repercussions of not fitting in by creating a world of magic and intrigue in my head that accepted me as whatever I wanted to be, and that appreciated my participation and existence. When I was old enough to get involved in extracurriculars like music, I was always reminded that I was not particularly GREAT at anything I did - by the results of tryouts and mandatory testing of skills and comprehension - and that my skills were always lacking at least a little.

By the time I was old enough to begin truly comparing myself to my peers (and especially to my close friends who participated in the same things), I found myself more concerned about what my mother had to say about what I was doing. Sure, I knew thanks to my teachers and the less compassionate among my peers that I wasn't particularly talented in the long run, but I also heard the comments from my mother who took pride in reminding me that one friend was a first chair in one of her three chosen instruments, was doubling up in performances, had joined jazz band and was a favorite of our band teacher, while another was trying out for drum major and accomplishing great things in her chosen instrument; others were far better performers vocally or could also dance and were far thinner than I, putting them in positions in show choir or other choirs I could only dream of being in. Not that I didn't try out - I did - but I was never good enough. There were always those whose abilities far exceeded my own, and I quickly became self-conscious. Whatever talent I had became quietly wasted, shared only with myself (and my by then long distance boyfriend, now husband), behind closed doors where I knew only I would be judging my ability.

Once high school was over, college became a secondary point of contention. It was no longer necessarily me being concerned about what my mother or any other parental figure thought, as I was suddenly an adult who supposedly needed only to be concerned about whatever judgement she passed upon herself. It became me versus my instructors, namely my choir teacher, whose push for perfection and need for impossible commitment from his students led to me leaving my two week old firstborn behind with my mother, effectively killing any attempts at breastfeeding that I'd begun (I dried up while I was away, as I had no idea how to pump and no ability to store milk) and essentially destroying the mother-child bond that I am still working on fixing and establishing seven years later. I was still not good enough when it came to the few things I enjoyed doing, but I had by that point accepted it; as I was in a smaller, less competitive environment, my lack of talent didn't prevent me from participating in certain activities and in some groups, because they were desperate for performers. The down side was that I still heard second hand about the things my friends were accomplishing at the actual colleges they had left town to attend, which proved absolutely soul crushing as I attempted to maintain my relationship with my husband, raise my child, afford to live, and continue school. I ended up dropping out, unable to cope with my chosen major, unhappy with my place in life, and unsure what I wanted to do with myself. Nothing really made me happy, and (adding insult to injury) I had to face all of this head on as the fantasy world that had protected me as a child had completely disappeared when I had grown up.

Now, a long time and three kids later, here we are. Unable to competently provide for my family I pursue the only hobbies I have as a source of income, only to be proven all the same that I am still not good enough, not talented enough for it to be worth my time and effort. I struggle with emotional and physical issues and silently cry out to finally be good enough, to finally be a decent enough person that someone is surely proud, yet I am still not enough - mostly to my mother, the one person I have always tried to impress. Nearly 30 years of existing and I still have yet to make her proud, a lack of accomplishment that sits heavy on my heart. The expectation of caring for my own children and house, running our errands and her's, spending time away from my family several weekends a month to specifically spend time with her and run even more errands for her, and I am told I should be at her house multiple times a week, vacuuming her floors and caring for her dog and making repairs on her house and cleaning for her. I should be doing all these things, I am told, because what I do is not enough. What I do is never enough - not for my kids, or my husband, or my mother. And it absolutely breaks me.

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