More than (good) enough: Allowing gratitude to guide your way to the end of the semester

writingWhen I was in my mid-twenties, I was part of a women’s group that met once a month in the evenings to discuss readings about politics, the environment, religion, women’s health, and our emotional lives.  It was not the first women’s group I was ever in, nor was it the last, but it was very special because of its diversity– with women from 21 to 61, from different backgrounds, regions, religions, races, and classes.

I was one of the younger women, and I admired and appreciated the wisdom of the ones who had had long marriages, and jobs, and children, and skills for living.  One of these women was Beverly.

Beverly’s birthday was coming, and for reasons I can’t quite remember now, I didn’t have time to get her a present, so I wrote her a card and mailed it.

A couple weeks went by, and the next meeting was at Beverly’s house.

After we had gathered our cups of tea and glasses of wine and plates of snacks, we sat in a circle in Beverly’s lovely living room, surrounded by art and pictures of her lawyer husband and beautiful children.  I was feeling young, and poor, and underemployed.  And then Beverly suddenly jumped up and said, “Wait! Before we begin, I want to read you Cassie’s poem!”

What, I thought to myself, is she talking about?  What poem?

And she proceeded to take the birthday card I had sent her off the mantle and read it out loud.

What she read were the words that became the poem, “Wishes.”

         Wishes

the wind across your porch

the rose and its cycles

your husband’s patience

your children’s laughter

how flowers prosper

sunlight

a turtle in your yard

lizards on white wood

African dance

letters from friends

books you get lost in

how leaves come and go

the opposite of pain

wind from the North in summer

wind from the South in winter

wind from the West most days

wind from the East when we need rain

butterflies in daylight

moths at moon

dragonfly

hawk

philosophy

dreams

hunger

food

I had not meant it as a poem.

But lovely Beverly saw it as a poem.

And so it became one: later that evening, I copied the words from the card onto a scrap of paper so I could take them home and type them up and make them a poem.

This is how we co-create.

We allow people to see in us what we cannot yet see.

And we rise to their vision.

I encourage you to take this story and apply it to your own personal narrative to see what lessons in “enoughness” and gratitude might be waiting for you. Here are three suggestions:

  1. Look back through what you’ve already written—seminar papers, articles, abstracts, chapters, journal entries—and see what might be already “good enough” to submit for publication.
  2. Ask a friend to share with you one thing she admires about your work. Let yourself journal about this quality and see if you can integrate her vision into your self-image.
  3. Plan a Skype session with some friends, colleagues, mentors, or grad school buddies. Let yourself connect with others instead of always trying to handle everything on your own.

Cassie Premo SteeleCassie Premo Steele, Ph.D., designed her class for women academics, The Feminar, as a way to give support and accountability to women scholars who struggle with questions of privilege and oppression, reason and emotion, sabotage and empowerment. She is the author of 13 books and blogs regularly at the Huffington Post.