I don't have enough. I can't do enough. Indeed, I'm not good enough! Is this your mantra? I think it's a mantra a whole lot of us intone daily, and with a frequency we barely notice.
No surprise. Wherever we look, we are inundated with information telling us to improve ourselves, insisting we have problems -- or are a problem -- that needs fixing. All around us, messages bristle for our attention, commanding us to notice -- Hey! It's time for an upgrade or a makeover. Voices insist we bind ourselves to that dreary lockjam of thinking -- IF ONLY I would get promoted -- or banish those eye wrinkles, or dispel the cellulite, or beef up my portfolio, or master "work-life balance," or hand-make every one of my kids' Halloween costumes one painful stitch at a time, THEN I would be more successful, desirable, secure or influential. THEN, very simply, I would be more worthy.
And so down the rabbit hole we go, seduced into thinking that our bodies and beauty, our relationships and health, our jobs and children, our journeys taken or not taken are simply "not good enough."
Nowhere does this logic show up more powerfully in our culture than in the story we have about relationships. American society is obsessed with the idea that finding a soulmate is a panacea for all woes. "Soulmates," we are told, fill lots of gaps. They make us look good, feel good, and stand tall through all that they offer from great sex and adventure to security, stability and social standing. I think here of the refrain -- "Those two look amazing together!" You know, the power couple in the Silicon Valley mansion commanding piles of stock options, investing in big ideas, galavanting across the world with or without brilliant pups in tow.
What if we stopped pursuing this fiction? After all, it's nonsense. I'm not saying relationships can't be fulfilling, soul-enlivening or adventure-making. I'm not saying they can't open our hearts, settle our bodies or invite us into phenomenal transformation -- in all the ease and discomfort they bring. And I'm certainly not saying relationships aren't powerful medicine to wake us up to our deepest humanity or that they can't happen in mansions or in Silicon Valley. But not until we follow a much deeper -- and simpler -- injunction:
I have a friend who stumbled on this realization a few decades ago. She was hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains with her then boyfriend when he left up the trail without her, announcing cavalierly that he was going to do his "own thing." And up the mountain he went, taking the water and food supplies with him. Not a particularly thoughtful choice. Definitely not a best wilderness practice.
Rather than despair, opine or lament, she did the obvious thing -- obvious to her, at least. She sat down by a nearby stream to take counsel from her intuition. It arrived clear as day with one simple message: "Marry yourself."
So with that, right then and there, she improvised a ceremony, vows, a ring - the whole enchilada. In that moment, she pronounced herself married to herself, "until death do us part", vowing to love, cherish, support, encourage, protect, challenge and serve herself, no matter whatever life brought her by way of opportunity, challenge, or tragedy. From that moment on, she vowed that -- whether or not a soulmate arrived -- she would never compromise her commitment to the most important partner life could offer: herself.
I count this friend as one of the most self-possessed, powerful and infectiously joyous people I know. A brilliant redhead with enough chutzpah to reverse the magnetic poles, she left those mountains to pursue her passions, first as an ICU-nurse, then as a Chinese medicine doctor. Along the way she met and married the love of her life, a Harvard-trained doctor and head of ER. Now in their later years, my friend and her longtime husband live a life of deep soulship on a property nestled in the Oregon woods. He pursues his passions. She pursues hers. And their relationship deepens.
There is a lot of talk about taking our power back -- as women, as concerned citizens, as human beings divinely instructed to follow our call. All good.
But first, let's abandon our collective hypnosis and walk away from the fiction that fulfillment lies anywhere but in that first, inborn imperative to marry the only partner we can truly have until death do us part: ourselves.
Let's marry our fear. Let's marry our pride and petulance. Let's marry our power and our brokenness, our intuition and sensitivity, our sensibility and grace. Let's marry every last morsel of ourselves and nurture every last shard of our exceptional, unique brilliance until it reveals itself sitting there -- right there next to us -- as we sip our morning coffee and pile through emails and meetings and old movies on groaningly long transpacific flights. Let's marry that - all of that - until all of that is our life-giving, soul-nurturing, foe-dispelling, chutzpah-generating partner.
Then, if we wish, we can erase wrinkles or sprout them with abandon. Beef up our portfolios or simplify our lives. Live in perduring partnership with a beloved or relish a life of solicitous solitude. But whatever choices we make -- let's make them because we are already inside the one conversation that makes all others possible -- the conversation that returns us home to ourselves and to the wholeness, the stillness, and the joy that arrives in partnership with our self.