Volume 2, Issue 14: We Are Enough

Hi friends! I had a three-day weekend last weekend and I have one this weekend as well. Nothing brings my being burned-out to light more than having an extra day off and that absurd amount of joy that brings me. It is totally reasonable to be happy about an extra day off. But this happy? Almost crying with relief that I had one extra day happy? That’s… not healthy. Guess I better start using my vacation time, you know, that thing that I literally tell all my loved ones they should be using.

Before I jump into today’s newsletter, I want to share a photo of the notebook I decided to use for my notes for therapy:

A couple weeks ago I wrote about celebrating wins and apparently I have more to say on the topic so that’s what’s on today’s agenda as well.

I like to say that, “I am very intelligent, but I am not always smart.” A couple weeks ago, my therapist asked me to write down my wins for the week, even if I thought they were small. So I did, and I shared them during our session, and we talked about them, and then in my pretty little head I crossed that bit of homework off my list and congratulated myself for a job well done. Imagine my surprise when this week, she asked for my wins since last session. I do not know why it made sense to me that I was “done” when I damn well know that celebrating wins is something to be done in perpetuity. SIGH.

In the past two weeks, I’ve:

  • Worked my full-time day job

  • Wrote 3 newsletters

  • Wrote a few thousand words about books

  • Recorded 3 podcasts

  • Woke up early to take my wife to work almost every day

  • Wrote 18 pieces of snail mail (I have a backlog, if you haven’t heard from me, I’m getting to you soon!)

  • Finished reading 7 books

  • Got my hair done (that was a good 4-ish hours)

  • Painted my nails twice

  • Visited my aunt and uncle

  • Spent quality time with my wife

  • The usual chores and errands involved with being an adult

And I’m sure I’m forgetting things. When I list these things I qualify it with, “But this is all the normal stuff I do. I should be doing more. There are so many other things I want to do. I should be writing more. I’m not doing enough.”

You may not be surprised to learn that this is my restart of exercising self-compassion, as my therapist did the thing where she said to me what, unbeknownst to her, I say to other people all the time:

“What would be your response if a loved one told you that they did all those things in a two-week period?” I would be amazed, of course. I would say, “How did you find the time? The energy? The motivation?! TELL ME YOUR SECRETS.”

But me doing these things? Normal and unremarkable and I am not doing enough. <eyeroll> What my therapist DIDN’T say, but I’m saying to you, is this: There is a very short distance between the phrase “I am not doing enough” and the phrase “I am not enough.

I see a pattern with those in my circle who frequently tell me, “I don’t feel like I’m doing enough.” It’s total anecdata, of course, but stay with me for a moment. I hear it a lot from other people of color, especially those of us who were firsts in some way. First to go to a four-year college. First to get an advanced degree. First to work a white-collar job. Or I see it with friends that have parents who are high-achieving. Doctors, college professors, teachers, business owners. Or any of my friends from any type of marginalized communities, who feel like they should be doing more. Giving more money. Volunteering more time. Achieving more to be the exception, not the rule. Achieving more in order to give a hand up to those who come after us.

On top of this, the people I always hear saying “I’m not doing enough” are always those who are already doing SO MUCH. I remind my high-achieving friends (and sometimes myself) that “we shit glitter.” That is, sometimes even our average work is better than some people’s best. Not always, but sometimes, and we don’t give ourselves enough credit.

Never in my wildest dreams could I ever just be mediocre. The concept of not doing the most is so incredibly foreign to me, as it is an option never afforded to Black women, much less Black queer women. There is nothing more shameful than having potential and not living up to it. Than having even a modicum of privilege and not using it to uplift everyone in our community to the fullest extent.

I don’t have any answers for how to not feel this way. The root causes are often systemic. But what I can control is how I treat myself. I can allow myself some gentleness and grace. I can cultivate self-compassion. It’s already hard to not be able to do everything I want to do, I don’t need to beat myself up on top of that.

But until I get the hang of this self-compassion thing, I will continue to cheerlead for you (I’m so much better at that) and hope that you use the opportunity to cheerlead for someone else who can use it.

Related: The “What would you do if you heard this from someone else?” exercise also works for self-compassion around trauma. Those things that happened when you were growing up that you convinced yourself were “not that bad:” What would you do if it was your loved one telling you these things happened to them?

I don’t know how to end today’s newsletter. Um. Here’s the big therapy resource list I shared a year ago. Drink some water. Unclench your jaw. Celebrate your wins. You are enough. We are enough.

That’s it for this week! You can shop any books I’ve mentioned in this newsletter at my affiliate shop, The Infophile’s Bookshop, and support independent bookstores. If you want to send me some snail mail, you can find me at P.O. Box 21481, Oakland, CA 94620-1481. If you want me to send you some happy mail, feel free to give me your address.

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