Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lagom: Sometimes good enough is good enough.

I am writing this in response to Peter Pollock’s blog carnival topic of intimidation, or actually, letting go of intimidation.  I believe I can feel intimidated by life’s challenges when I think I don’t have what it takes to meet those challenges.  Sadly, I often feel “Not good enough.”

Then I learned a Swedish word – Lagom.  There is no direct English equivalent, but roughly, it means, “good enough”, “adequate”, “sufficient”, without the negative connotation of mediocrity or scarcity that surrounds our English words.  It sounds like a good philosophy to have.  For many times, we may not have more than others, but we have lagom.  And that is sufficient.

Sometimes good enough is good enough.

Wow!  What a hard time I have with that concept.  Our American culture is one of constant striving. We are never to be content with what we have.  Each person should aspire to be as the 70’s TV series “The Six Million Dollar Man” stated, “…Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.”

Striving to improve is not a bad thing.  How can I reconcile it with the idea that who I am, and what I do is “good enough”?  When is lagom appropriate in my life?

I believe lagom is appropriate when

  • I sense that perfectionism is affecting my ability to take any sort of action at all.  When I experience “writer’s block”, more often than not, perfectionism is at the root of my inability to write.

  • I am interviewing for a position or making a presentation.  Provided that I have prepared adequately, I simply have to follow my plan and realize that others’ opinions are just that: their opinions.

  • I am in the midst of a depressive episode and nothing I do seems good enough.  During those times, I need to give myself credit for accomplishing anything at all, no matter how meager the results.

  • I wonder if God loves me.   Many Bible verses point to God’s love for us, his children.  Here are just a few examples: 

There’s the popular John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  

Also, Romans 5:8 – “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”

And, Romans 8:37-39 – “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And finally, Romans 8:15-16 – “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God…”

The comic character Stuart Smalley is known for saying, “I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” While that type of affirmation has become a cliché, it does illustrate an important fact: Life need not be intimidating. God loves you. God loves me. And that is lagom.

**Note: I realize, knowing nothing about Swedish grammar, that lagom might be incorrectly used in this post. I hope that fact does not take away from the concept of lagom itself.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The First Draft of Anything is Always Shit

A Quote from Ernest Hemingway

I figure if I am going to identify myself as a writer I need to associate myself with other writers.  So, I've been joining writers' groups on LinkedIn and Facebook in order to see what others are doing in the profession.

One of the first discussions I scanned started with this quote.  Of course, being a writers' group, the discussion focused on the editing and rewriting process.  I see the first draft as kind of a brainstorming draft -- getting the ideas out of my head and onto the screen or sheet of paper.  The editing and rewriting then refine that brainstorming draft, clarify the ideas, and make it so the reader can understand what I am trying to communicate.

I do some editing on this blog.  But since it's supposed to reflect what's in my head in a given moment, I try to edit with a light hand, only changing what is absolutely necessary.  If there's a bit of stream-of-consciousness in here, I don't care as much.  Now that I'm attempting to write for companies that want a particular style, I'm finding there's a learning curve involved in figuring out what is an acceptable product.

I also read Hemingway's quote and thought about its broader implications.  Many times I have tried to do something and it's -- to use Hemingway's word -- shit.  Just living life involves making so many mistakes, so many hurt feelings and broken relationships.  But it's not all depressing.  Thank God, I'm also given the opportunity to repent, to change the trajectory, to make amends.  That's the revising process in life.  And if I'm diligent, the end product will be so much better then the initial draft.

God willing, the final sentence in my story will be, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Another Maundy Thursday Post...

...and a return to blogging.

Since my last post was about Maundy Thursday two years ago, it seems fitting that today's post would reference it as well.

Last Maundy Thursday (known to some as Holy Thursday), my parish priest talked about "pivotal moments" in his sermon.  Pivotal moments are those times in your life when things are irrevocably changed.  They are the events that make you define life as "before x" and "after x".  After listening to him share some of his pivotal moments, I stopped to think of my own. 

I have many pivotal moments.  Some, I didn't even recognize except in hindsight.  Some examples in my own life include
  • Divorce
  • Remarriage
  • Recovery from a severe depressive episode
  • Quitting my job to help care for a family member
  • Deciding to pursue writing as a career
There are so many more I could list.  Each event, if I had decided on a different course of action, would have changed the direction of my life.  Some of these did not have a "wrong" course of action, but rather, one that would have defined me differently.

Let's look at my divorce.  I could have decided to stay in the relationship.  I had my reasons for leaving, but had I decided to stay, I would have been married to my ex-husband for 26 years.  However, having gone through with the divorce, I have since remarried and now have not only a wonderful husband, but a terrific step-daughter and the best grandson ever.  Yes, that is a very biased statement.

"Nana" is now on my short list of monikers.  It's one that I am so pleased to have.

A few years after my divorce, I had another pivotal moment. A relationship had ended, and with it, came the feeling that life was more than a little overrated.  Coming out of that depressive episode marked the death of how I perceived myself then, and the birth of a new perception.  The irony that this was precipitated by a failed suicide attempt is not lost on me.

Recently, I celebrated 10 years of recovery from depression.  That's 10 years of being in the process of recovery, as opposed to 10 years post-recovery.  It was a great feeling to meet up with friends who were there to see me at my worst and share my sense of accomplishment with them.  We started out by offering prayers of thanksgiving and petitions for those who are suffering from emotional distress.  Then we went to a cool burger joint and shared good food, good conversation and good beer.  For anyone with a similar milestone, I highly recommend some kind of commemoration.

I was once told by another priest that a death must happen in order for new life to begin.  I see these pivotal moments as a kind of simultaneous death and birth.  I cannot hang onto my old life so tightly that the new life inside of me cannot be born.  So while the passing of some aspects of life invite me to mourn, I have to look ahead in hope for the new life to come.