The Story Of All Of Us

Photo By Henry Kowaleski
Once upon a time you were conceived. A bundle of potential, you were declared "good enough". In your personal Eden, life was complete. For a time you knew sufficiency.

Then you joined the outside world. Maybe this was met with rejoicing. Maybe it was met with silence and loneliness. Maybe you were cherished. Maybe you "cried too much".

And life happened. And the cherub slowly fell from grace.

And then you realized you were not enough. You were too chubby or too loud or too sensitive. You wanted too much. You were too dirty. You spoke too much or not enough. You were too slow or too fast. You were too stupid or too smart for your own good. And every cell in your body longed for the early moments of perfect sustaining comfort.

So you aged and you learned. You learned that there were things you could do to improve the odds. Ways you could control the feedback you got. You could be quieter or smile more or be agreeable or silence your questions or run really fast or get good grades or take what you needed or make people laugh. And you learned, slowly, how to hustle so that you could minimize the pain and get closer to "good enough."

And hustle you did.

You hustled to be liked or you hustled to pretend you didn't care if you were liked. You hustled to be nice or to be tough. You hustled to achieve or to be different. You used a combination of genetic lottery and what you were taught would work and you tried to bend life to your will- so that you might stave off the pain of not being enough. You hustled every minute of every day except the brief moments you were alone and you made sure to fill those alone moments with a constant din of distraction so that you would not feel that which you feared most of all.

And then it came. It always does. The crushing blow. The deep ache of longing. The reminder that it was a false bargain all along. That no amount of hustling would ever get you what you wanted most of all: to be called "good enough" by those you loved. They would always be ready for more. They would always be blinded by their own hustle. They would always see where you fell short. They would always be ungrateful. They would always be unavailable, or indifferent, or vacant. And the deepest pain would creep back upon you yet again. As a mutt on your heels, the momentary pause of self-doubt put you in danger of being consumed. So you searched for something beyond the hustle.

This is a pivotal moment. This is where you can do the unthinkable. You can dive into the pain instead of away. You could look at your deepest, scariest, darkest chasm squarely.

This is also where it gets hairy. Because you don't want to look at it squarely. Because you need something to numb not only the pain of "not good enough" but also the pain of the false bargain that fails. You need a way to soothe and numb. You need a way to distract and avoid. You need a way out of the pain.

by Unsplash
And so this is the part where the damage compounds. Maybe you're anxious. Driven by control and mastery. You double down on your hustle and start managing others' as well. Productivity is a great mask for the fear underneath. So is popularity.

Or maybe you choose to numb. Picking substances that take the edge off of the reality of how you feel inside. Food. Prescriptions. Drinking. Smoking. Drugs. Electronic screens. You figure you're not hurting anyone else.

Or maybe you choose distraction. You seek exhilarating experiences. Moments where you can forget the ache. Something that demands so much attention it consumes your attention and gives you one good deep breath.

Your numbing might even get a name. It might have an "ism" attached. Or a diagnosis. There might be a tidy label for it. But with or without the label, it makes no difference. You are working hard here.

You are so creative. There are many ways to do this. You can rotate through them if you need to.

Pretty sure you are the only one who aches, you retreat into functioning. You do what you need to do. Perhaps you even do it well. Maybe you are even kind and well-regarded. If you're lucky, your talent takes the focus.

But under it all, the ache. The part of you that feels all at once familiar and terrifying. The part that you are certain will consume you whole. The part that keeps you in constant motion. Or constantly numb. Or in constant distraction. Outrunning the nips at your heels.

But once upon a time, you were good enough. That is still true. You are only running from the ache that was ever only a lie. You were always good enough. You still are. That's different than perfect. Yes, I can hear your fear objecting even now. The inner voice that took over for all of those who said otherwise. You are enough. Always were. Always will be. It is done. That chapter was written and sealed before you drew first breath.

You simply are.

by Toby


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