Enough. It came to me this morning. How appropriate that it should happen on New Year’s Day and after a few days of wondering about my deficiencies, how many I have and how deep do they possibly run. That’s when it came to me. “I am enough” is my motto for this year.
I was at OrangeTheory with Greg doing a New Year’s Day workout. He had already run 6 miles this morning and was now doing a HIIT class as the second part of his day. I was having a good workout when I looked up at the board and realized that though I was giving it my all, Greg was still ahead of me in calories burnt and Splat points earned (an OrangeTheory goal of effort). I immediately started to feel like I was not doing enough. I mean, I was working. I was giving it my all and honestly present. But my being behind him made me feel like I should have been doing more. Here my husband not only had already logged six miles on the 29 degree icy streets of Chicago; he was once again kicking my ass. Like a gift from Santa a week late, I realized that I am forever feeling that I am not enough – as an athlete, as a parent, as a spouse, as a host, as an advocate, not skinny enough, not kind enough,…I could go on ad infinitum. i think you get the point.
Last night, putting the kids to bed. I had one who was afraid to be alone and the other who wanted to be downstairs with the adults even though it was bedtime. No matter what combination of solutions I came up with, it was not alleviating the problems. Someone’s needs were not being met to their satisfaction, even though everyone’s basic needs were being met. Roof over head? Check. Food, clothing, heat? Check. Loving family? Check. Hearing my eldest sob (somewhat for effect) while I was trying to get the little one to settle, I felt not enough as a parent. And it’s not just in this particular moment that the feeling of inadequacy as a parent occurs. It can happen, and often happens every day. Whether it is a self-induced feeling or a look or comment that someone makes, quite possibly even innocently, a parent can be quickly rendered to feeling utterly insufficient. It is that perception that there is always something you can do better or someone who seems to be doing it better without even trying. Sometimes instead of acknowledging to one another that the job is difficult. That it comes without a user manual and is forever changing, we snap into judgment mode and make assumptions about one’s abilities or intentions. Sometimes, for dads, their ability, because of typical societal gender roles is called into question.
Similarly, being at-home parent/househusband, with no paying or “real” job is another area in which one can feel inadequate. Society unwittingly often minimizes and trivializes the role. I will preface the rest of this paragraph with this: I love my job. I love staying home with the kids and being a homemaker. While some may view this , and possibly this whole blog post, as complaining, I am sharing and illustrating my personal experience. In addtion, whether actual reality or my perceived reality, it is still in fact, my reality. At home parents make a choice to sacrifice our careers. We embark on a new one, an important one, yet one that is often measured against paying careers in a way that is not fair or feasible. We spend time, quite often in isolation. We do a job that we will not see whether our results were successful for at least 18-22 years. We do loads of trivial things like laundry, cleaning, taxiing and cooking. We also do a number of complex things like scheduling, trying to keep everyone balanced and content, life planning, etc. Yet there isn’t a meaningful societal value assigned to that job. Instead, our role is viewed quite widely as one of leisure and “non-working.” Now add to that doing this job as a man, and then layer onto that once again a gay man. Society provides almost no modeling for this and when it does, it is generally “mom knows best”. Being out with our children, we can be perceived as “babysitting” or “giving mom a break.” At-home parenting is like a hotel or hospital, we are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is no actual “weekend”. There is no actual “time off.” Of course, we have downtime. I am not implying that we are forever doing things every minute of every day. That would be absurd. But our workweek isn’t defined in any way. Sure, many people have more than a forty hour workweek. But you still have some general parameters of when you are expected to be in the office. We don’t leave an office. We don’t shut off at night. When we go to bed our “bosses” are in the other room. We put our “bosses” to bed. If they puke, we clean it. We remind them to flush the toilet and brush their teeth and was their hands. If you work a traditional job and have to do any of those things, it may be time to look for a new job. If you are an at-home parent, you will understand my point that quite often there is always be something more that could be or should be done. There is almost always a lingering feeling of “I am simply not doing enough.” I will also note, before someone else does that I realize my privilege in being able to stay home. Many people simply do not have that option. It is a luxury that I get to do so. The luxury and privilege of the role does not make the job any easier. As another example, people will sometimes be critical of my traveling with the kids. Yes, I am insanely fortunate to be able to travel with them. I appreciate that there are people who cannot able to get on a plane and go somewhere. The flip-side to that is when I am traveling with our children, quite often my husband is working. So, while I am away and on “vacation”, I am also single parenting in a remote location. It’s not like I have a nanny minding my kids and I’m at spas all day. This is not a call for sympathy. Don’t get me wrong. It is an illustration of perception. People perceive it to be easier because I am somewhere amazing. Is it fabulous? Heck, yeah. Is it easier? Not always. I choose to do it. We choose to do it.
Last year I ran two marathons. One was five minutes faster than my first, the other nearly 20 minutes slower than my first. I was happy to finish both, even proud to have finished both (well, the second one was more a feeling of relief) but I still was left feeling I could have done more. I could have done better. I should have done better. Many of you reading this will be thinking, “I have never run one marathon. Here he is complaining that he could have done more! How preposterous!” I get that. I also don’t mean for it to sound in any way pretentious. It is a ridiculous amount of work. Only because I have done it, I now understand it.
A few things have happened for me that make me feel this way. For one, I have normalized what it means to run a marathon. Heck, I’ve even made normal what it means to run two of them three weeks apart. When my husband told me that he was going to do that in 2016, I practically scolded him and said he was getting to be obsessive and that it “was not normal behavior.” Flash-forward exactly, two years later, not only did I do it, I now feel like I didn’t do it well enough. Secondly, I live with someone who is basically an elite athlete with a type triple A personality and a drive that is unstoppable. I ran about 1200 miles in 2018. He ran 2500. He qualified for the Boston Marathon not only once this year but twice. The second time he cranked out a very elusive sub 3 hour marathon. Now don’t get me wrong. He works his butt off to make this happen. He trains in a way that I can not visualize and quite frankly don’t have the desire to do. He will set an alarm for 4:30AM every day to workout. No interest here. He does HIIT classes after long runs. Again, no thanks. He also never, ever makes me feel like I am less because I am not doing what he does. However, my temptation to compare is always there. As my wise coach has taught me on many occasions, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Consciously, I totally get that. Subconsciously, I need to remind myself quite often: I am enough.
Then there is my weight. At the age of 48, I began training for marathons and becoming the most active and athletic that I have ever been in my life. By no other explanation other than a mean and vengeful god (and maybe soft-serve, pizza and wine), I managed to not only lose no weight before my first marathon but have also managed to somehow to gain 15 pounds over the past year. People kindly say “oh, it’s muscle weight,” except it’s not. Well, unless I have evolved into a Human 2.0 whose spare tire and back fat is muscle. If I did, look out world! I’m all in. If that is not true, it’s fat. Do you know what else it is? Frustrating. So as both someone who has run three friggin’ marathons, instead of feeling a sense of huge accomplishment, I get to make myself feel “not enough” by looking in the mirror and seeing someone whose body I do not want. Seeing the body of someone who wonders, “when I wear this snug Chicago Marathon shirt, do people think I got it from Goodwill? Or do they wonder, WTF happened to him?” In this case, I see too much instead of “enough.”
Finally, the tipping point in the “enough” scale happened this past weekend when I posted something that was interpreted by some differently than the intention. As someone who has both a juvenile and off-center sense of humor, I have always said that I am the cilantro of facebook. There are those who love me and those who don’t. This particular post was one that lent itself to comments. At first they were funny and then it took a serious turn. There was a comment and a rebuttal and then a spiral that went down faster than a Kardashian on a Friday night. I was immediately and neatly put into containers. If the clerk at Mariano’s could bag my groceries so expertly, I would be a happy man. I was told effectively, time and again, that I was not enough in many categories, some of which I actually think I do a reasonable job. I wasn’t the only one treated this way. Others were, too. Others that the individual who had the crosshairs neatly pointed, doesn’t even personally know. The theme in each of these was again, not being enough – not advocating enough, not liberal enough, not “woke” enough, not apologizing enough, etc. I did a good bit of reflection on what was said. Could I learn from some of these things? Absolutely. However, where I typically see myself an ally someone else saw an enemy. Where I see myself as enough, with the ability to be more, someone saw me, and many others, as wildly insufficient. Also, as someone who knows the other people who were rebuked for their opinions, they too are enough.
As I look to get off “the book” aka facebook for a while, and try to write again, this isn’t the most fun foray into blogging. It’s not my typical, humorous to some sort of post. It is however a timely one as we kick off 2019. I am starting this year with my mantra being “I am enough.” As long as I know, in MY heart, that I am giving my best, that is what it shall be. It is not my burden or responsibility to take on every battle. It is not mine to be what everyone else wants me to be. For many in my life – those most important to me, those present either in person, on a phone or even through social media – I want to be in your world. YOU are enough for me – just the way you are. For others, if you don’t get me or if you choose not to get me, that’s ok. If you don’t like me or that I travel or that I say things about the Kardashians or that I like nice shoes, that’s ok, too. Remember, nobody is holding you hostage to be a part of my life. Feel free to leave. I am still enough. Happy New Year!