When I first moved to Los Angeles, I often babysat for the Meier family. The father was a hands-on Dad. I remember learning charts on the kids’ wall when they were still babies and toddlers. He was also intuitive and caring toward me. I must have shared some of my epic (to me) failures with him. I remember one evening when Rabbi Meier drove me home, he asked me: “When will being Dvora be enough?” The question confused me. I didn’t understand what he meant.
How could I “be enough” if I had so many to-do lists and no end in sight?
I’ve always been into self-improvement. When I was 19, I enrolled in the Schick Program to treat my binge eating. I married in my early 20’s and dedicated myself to my community and family. In my middle 20’s, I facilitated a Recovery Inc. style group to address family stress. In my late 20’s, I enrolled in graduate school. It took 16 years to complete an MFT while bearing and raising our large family.
Even 42 years later, I have to-do lists in my head, in digital and paper format. I’m never finished. I don’t have a job that I can leave and come back to. I’m an educational therapist, curriculum developer, social networker, a student of Judaism, student of psychology, mindfulness practitioner and more.
In a way, I’m still trying to prove to myself and the world that I deserve to live and join the human race.
When is enough good enough?
Psychoanalyst Donald Winnicut describes a concept that he calls the “good enough mother.” This mother provides a safe place for her child to grow and develop. Physical and emotional needs are met. Although she isn’t perfect, she fixes her mistakes. Being an imperfect mother allows the child to cope with life’s ups and downs, such as losing a favorite toy, not getting the best grade, having an annoying sibling, and so on.
Having the flexibility to solve everyday problems is modeled by the good enough mother, and builds a resilient child who can cope and be a successful adult.
As healthy adults, we parent ourselves. We don’t have to be perfect. To be good enough to ourselves, we need to let go of perfectionism and nurture ourselves through life’s ups and downs. When we have a minor car accident, argue with an adult parent, adjust to a change in employment, and so on, it’s important to be flexible and forgiving to ourselves and the people around us.
Over the last two years, I’ve found comfort and relief through practicing mindfulness self-compassion. It sounds selfish and self-absorbed. The opposite is true. MSC is taught and practiced in a supportive group setting. Participants practice internal compassion to self as well as external compassion to others. MSC phrases express hope for a life that is livable, including the following: “May I be safe, may I be healthy, may I love myself just the way I am, may I have peace.” The approach extends the same intentions to focus on loved ones, mentors, neighbors, strangers, the world at large, using the same phrases such as: “May the people in my neighborhood be safe, may they be healthy, may they love themselves just the way they are, may they have peace.”
I’ve found no better way to let go of my inner critic and outer judge.
The father of the Meier family, Rabbi Levi Meier, would later become the Director of Chaplaincy at Cedars’ Sinai Medical Center. His compassion and nurturing manner supported innumerable patients, many of them terminal. He held that position until he passed away in 2008 in his early 60’s.
Rabbi Meier’s question is a challenge for humankind. “When are we enough?” It isn’t up to us to be perfect. We do our best to do what is right and to fix our mistakes, and at the same time, to treat others with care and compassion.
As summer approaches, let’s practice self-compassion and gratitude. Let’s celebrate our support systems that include family, friends, neighbors.
I want to thank my Twitter Professional Learning Network because they are the most open-hearted colleagues that I could possibly ask for, and they keep me going while I find my way in a confusing transition from full-time mother and full-time teacher to some other, and as yet the undefined definition of self.
(Mindful Self-Compassion Resources:
http://self-compassion.org/ http://www.mindfulselfcompassion.org/ https://www.insightla.org/meditation/mindful-self-compassion
Reference on Good Enough Parenting:
Kunst, Jennifer, Ph.D. “In Search of the “Good Enough” Mother.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/headshrinkers-guide-the-galaxy/201205/in-search-the-good-enough-mother)