When is Enough Enough?

I’ve done some amazing things in my life.  I’ve written books, helped produce over 70 public radio documentaries, worked on a film doc, and had three babies and 8 grandbabies.  Then why then do I continually feel like it isn’t enough?  It’s a core crazy-making question that continues to drive me.  If my do list has thirteen items on it and twelve of them have a pink highlighter slashed through them (done!)—I see only that unlucky thirteenth item.

I have a “yes but,” pattern running in my programs, and it’s beginning to tick me off.

“I am published!”
“Yes, but you haven’t found an agent.”


“I have the perfect marriage.”
“Yes, but you are petty and bossy sometimes.”


“I built a house out of straw bales.”
“Yes, but you haven’t done the upper window yet.”


“I am an award-winning author.”
“Yes, but you didn’t  get a Bush Fellowship.”


See, no matter what I do, it’s never enough.  How does a person live with such a demanding core self?

I’ve tried to send her on vacation (to Siberia) but she refuses to go.  I’ve tried gratitude—thank you for believing in me and pushing me, but she just snorts. I’ve tried getting her drunk (she likes bourbon), but she gets even meaner when she’s drunk.   I’ve tried appeasing her—look, my story just got accepted in X literary journal.  “Only one?” she quibbles.

She is tough.  Really tough.  I feel like I have let her down again and again.  I can’t even blame my parents.  They just wanted to see me happily married and financially secured.  Well, I got the marriage part right—the second time.  (I think that was her voice again.)

I’ve even tried reasoning with her, to help her see the lack of logic.  “If I had a novel that was third on the NYT bestseller list, what would you say.”

“Only third?”

See, you are not at all reasonable (now I am talking to myself).  Is there anything that I could do that would be enough?

That stops her cold.  She really has to think about that one.  I really have to think about that one.  I wish she wouldn’t stare at me that way.  “Well?” I ask her.

Her face softens and now she has tears in her eyes.  She drops her head for a moment and then smiles.  “Yes, it would be enough for you to be just exactly as you are.  You dig deep, you wander into big questions, you get side tracked by big—no huge—ideas.  You want to wake up the whole freaking world.  That, my dear, is enough.”

Suddenly, I get it.  She is not the one who demands so much.  It’s me.  I’m the one whose mind finds the widest frame around every picture.  It’s how I’m built.  And I have to learn to balance the widest frame with a single precious moment and say, “That, my dear, is enough for now.”




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When is Enough Enough? — 1 Comment

  1. Jamie,
    Thank you for sharing all of your wisdom, insight, and, yes, occasional exasperation with self. Rereading your “When is Enough enough?” has reminded me of my own personal and professional struggles.
    It was a refreshing reminder to live in the moment or live each moment as fully as possible while planning for future endeavors to come to fruition.
    Have a blessed day, and thank you again for being that lighthouse beacon for me today.

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