never enough

All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough
Never be enough
Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough
Never be enough
For me
(- by Pasek and Paul, for “The Greatest Showman”)
Yesterday, I got to thinking (in therapy) about something really big that has been percolating in my brain.
And so, I got to talking (in therapy) about where I have been, and where I am now, and the strides (leaps!) I have made.
I have written, many times, about the feeling of not being enough or not having enough or not doing enough; about my feelings of inadequacy and of longing.
I have written about the constant “Mom-petition” that exists in the land of mom.
“You haven’t slept for 3 days? Well, I have not slept for a week!”
“You ordered takeout? That’s so cute! I WISH I had thought of that! Instead, I am making vegan, gluten-free pizza that my kids are OBSESSED with, but it’s NBD. I am just testing out this recipe for my new vegan, gluten-free cookbook!”
“My husband and I are going to a romantic dinner at this secret chef’s table, and then we are headed to a concert, and I’m just so worried if the band will remember us or not, because we really want to party with them backstage, and then finish our romantic evening, together. With all the drinks. And in high heels. Why, what are you up to, tonight?”
Do I feed into mom-petition? I really, really try not to. I certainly never shame other mothers, nor do I invalidate them. I try to say things like, “I 100% know what you are feeling, and it is normal. But, just because it is normal, it still doesn’t feel OK to you, so I am here to listen.”
But am I immune to all of this? Of course not.
And that is just one form of feeling less than.
My talk in therapy, yesterday, had more to do with my own soul-searching voyage. After my severe postpartum depression, I have spent a lot of time unpacking my emotional baggage, and, at times, adding to it.
I have always been somewhat of an intensity-seeker (if not addict?), but it has always been in relatively quiet ways.
I do not jump out of airplanes, and as good as it felt to get my three tattoos (all procured post-postpartum) I have been able to stop there.
I crave emotional intensity. I have powerful relationships, and I have been known to dive into friendships (and other relationships) with both feet, and eyes closed.
For a long time, the (sometimes) mundane nature of my marriage plagued me.
“It should feel like more,” I told myself. I fretted over this.
“It is not enough,” I cried. “
Never be enough,
Never be enough,
For me.”
I have always been an intense person. I feel deeply, I live deliberately, and I am a true empath.
Music hits me in my gut, my moods are big, and my relationships have always reflected this.
When I started going to therapy for postpartum depression, I developed a metaphor with my former psychiatrist:
My whole life, it is like I have always chugged straight whisky. For me, that is what feels “normal.”
Yet, when one drinks straight whisky all the time, it dulls the senses, is intoxicating, and makes everything else taste bland; like nothing.
I described typical married, mom life as being like drinking water. It is healthy, and it is what is recommended, but it doesn’t taste like anything to me, and for someone who craves intense flavors, I miss the burn of the alcohol, dancing on my tongue, and heating my esophagus, and warming me from the inside out. I miss the haze of that world.
But, I could always reconcile, I could not go through life drunk.
And so, I tried to settle.
I tried to make water enough. 
For years, it did not feel like enough. And that was a lonely feeling.
How does this all relate to my life today and my conversation in therapy, yesterday?
I still live in a world of mompetition, and my life is notably less “intense” than it has been in years.
The drama that has propelled me has abated. My friendships are stable and solid.
My marriage is awesome.
So, what happened?
Last Spring, Belle became obsessed with “The Greatest Showman” and listened to the soundtrack on repeat. I was particularly taken by the stunning ballad entitled, “Never Enough,” and as a new guitar player, I figured out how to clumsily play the chords so that she could sing along. It was very special for us.
For so long, the idea of “never enough” ruled me.
Contentment eluded me.
I wanted to be the great mother who got quality sleep with the help of essential oils, and then woke up to make healthy, hot breakfasts that my kids would actually eat, and end the nights with gourmet meals on romantic dates with Kenny.
While that kind of intensity would not be straight whisky, it would be a Jack and Coke, and I could swallow that (pun intended).
And then, I got to thinking about the lyrics from the hauntingly beautiful song.
All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough
I could add all of the external things to my life, like the shine of a thousand spotlights, and fancy hair, and cute outfits, and boast-worthy dates, and over-extended but accomplished kids, and book deals, and followers, and all the stars we steal from the night sky, and though it could be a temporary fix — a shot of whisky — it would, of course, never be enough.
My happiness would never come from the shine of a thousand spotlights.
Because, when you are under a thousand spotlights, you not only appear visible and vulnerable, but your shadow can make you feel very small.
I have not found complete contentment in my life. I am not zen, and I do not know how to temper my feelings. I am still intense, and I still feel so deeply. But, I am channeling this intensity in different ways, now.
When I first started meeting with my psychologist, almost two years ago, I was a different person. I was dealing with fresh pain, new trauma, and so much uncertainty.
The latter, I still have. There are things in my life about which I am so uncertain. But where I am supposed to be is not one of them. The things that scared me, before, like spending weekend nights at home with Kenny, on the couch, watching Netflix, eating takeout asian noodle soup? They are now my goals!
That is the thing about change. The things that I was scared of giving up, because I did not want to lose the taste and feeling of whisky in exchange for dull, virtuous, flavorless water, are things that were not good for me.
They did not serve me. They might have felt good in the moment (insert any example of when I have overextended myself, and stayed out late, and pushed myself, and not been home for Kenny and the kids, and put our family’s needs second to the needs of others), they were eroding me from the inside out.
I was not going on benders, here. But, I was listening to my intensity brain, and intense things often feel extremely good in the moment, but then leave a steep drop when they are over. Withdrawal.
And, when you drink too much whisky, and you have the time of your life, and party and play, and shine and dazzle, what is the remedy for this the next morning?
Water. Lots and lots of water.
Today, I am still an intense person, and I feel as deeply as I have ever felt. I love spending time with my kids, and when I give them cereal for dinner I feel a little guilty about it, but it does not shatter me.
I love having dates with Kenny, but when we stay home together, I love it, too. Not all the time, but enough.
I have things that are just my own. I play music at night. I go out with my friends. I still crave allthefeels, I just need less in order to feel allthefeels.
I no longer pine for the straight whisky. I no longer fear the water.
I like chai tea. Sometimes, an Arnold Palmer. Good beer. A glass of red wine.
There is flavor, and warmth, and it is enough.
I still aim to strive for more, but I do not feel so empty.
I am not completely content, but I am happier with where I am, and, more importantly, with who I am.
I guess this is part of growing up. This has taken a lot of hard work.
And, for this I am very proud.
All the shine of a thousand spotlights
paints a beautiful picture. But, that is no longer my definition of “enough.”
That would be too much.
I much prefer the glow of the tv in our cozy basement, or the candles on the table at a nice, but not crazy-fancy-exclusive dinner with Kenny, or the flashes from the kids’ karaoke machine as we do a family dance party.
My name is Rebecca. I used to be an intensity addict.
Now, I can feel happy for what I have.
That is more than enough for me.

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