Max and I are cleaning out our car. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, the car has become a moving dumpster. The back seat is full of cereal crums and broken toys and half empty water bottles. Papers that were once too important to throw away are now so faded that we cannot read them, shoved in corners, tucked under the mats. Pollen and dust and old salt from winter. No matter how frequently we tackle the car there are some things that are just stuck–like gum on the bottom of the shoe, hard to scrape off.
We take the cleaning of the car seriously. It is metaphorical for me, fresh starts, clean space. A clean car means we don’t need to apologize when carpooling. A clean car means we don’t need to ponder how out of control our lives seem to be spinning every time we get into the car. And so we empty and vacumm and spray and wipe, this time more thoroughly than normal, but still there are so many layers of dirt and grime. At 10 am we need to call it a day. We have other things to do, this level of cleanliness–this absence of junk and crumbs, this state of significantly less dirt is going to have to be good enough.
Good enough. It is a phrase that can send me spinning in so many directions.
For one relief. As a child, there was no such thing as good enough. Things were either clean or they weren’t. The were right or they were wrong. I spent much of my youth desperately trying to get it perfect with the understanding that only 100% complete would do. When I first tried to wrap my brain around “good enough” it felt like a cop-out. But the truth was I was slowly killing myself with my perfectionism, dying an early death each time I failed over and over again to make the mark. One day, I found myself meditating on the phrase, “I am enough”. As I did, a seismic shift registered right there in my heart and suddenly love for my tender self, love for the part of me that would never be perfect, love that had been locked away and withheld began seeping out of the fault lines, like magma. When I could finally embrace good enough, at work, at home, even in my friendships and relationships I could relax and just be. Good enough are words that give me permission to just exist and know that it is OK, that all will be well. All manner of things will be well. Good enough saved my life.
But there is a shadow side to “good enough”. Now I see that it is its own prison. I see so much suffering in my life…suffering that comes from when people settle for “good enough”. I see it in the far away look in the eyes of the woman who has settled for a good enough marriage, and as a result feels a piece of her soul is lost, unexpressed, dying. I see it in the hollowed out gaze of the friend who is stuck in a career that is going nowhere and has nothing to do with his creative self. I see it in myself sometimes. when I cheat myself, not finishing something that I have labored long at, when I walk away from something before it is complete, when I avoid the hard work of seeing the truth in my heart, when I tell myself that the life that I am yearning for is so unattainable and the life that I have now is just fine. Good enough gives me permission to throw up my hands and tune out. In those moments “good enough” is not a relief, it is an excuse for giving up, stopping and just going to sleep.
What then is the balance point –how can we be in the place where we le to accept what is, to let go of yearning all the while avoiding being stuck in the place where we give up, give in, and stop moving, stop growing, stop trying. Where is the balance point where our souls are free to seek, grow, blossom into what they are without being held back by the belief that where we have landed is “good enough” and therefor we can safely slumber, turn off, tune out and Stop. Moving. Forward.
Whatever that place is, it has nothing to do with my car, and I think sometimes that maybe that is the point. Good enough applies to the things that are unimportant, small, silly. Good enough doesn’t apply to things like hearts and soul work? Or can it? Or is it a matter of degree? That somedays, it all just needs to be good enough, but in our next breath there is a potential for expansion? Or it it just a matter of staying awake? Being able to be content with whatever life throws at us, all the while staying awake to whatever potential and possibility may unfold. I don’t know that I will know the answers. I don’t know that I will ever figure out it out.
And maybe the fact that I am asking the question and seeking the answer is really in the end…Good enough.