Are You Doing Enough?

My daughter, a freshman in high school, said to me this week, “I don’t feel like I’m being productive right now.”

We were on a long walk with our dog because we miss being able to go to the beach during this pandemic and we both wanted to see the water. We walked and talked and she added, “Like, I’m not being useful.”

My first response was to tease her about how she was welcome to be more useful around the house (she already helps with dishes and laundry and cooking). But then we had to drill down deeper because what she was feeling is something I think a lot of us are feeling lately.

I believe humans are created with the innate desire to be useful and productive, to do work. To make things, care for each other, invent, build, improve, brainstorm. Most of that involves being around other people. Yes, some of us can work from home but clearly, there are significant limitations to this, and we are being forced to examine in new ways the choices we make in how we spend our days.

I think an underlying question is, “Am I doing enough? Am I enough?”

Is it enough to feed my family three meals every day entirely made by me? No pizza delivery, no restaurant, no bag of spaghetti from the corner, no fresh baguette?

Is it enough to keep the floor (sort of) free of dust and dirt?

Is it enough to play Settlers of Catan and do puzzles?

Is it enough to call my nieces and nephews over Zoom and read them Dr. Seuss?

Is it enough to make cinnamon rolls and drop them off on door handles for coworkers on Easter?

Is it enough to help a third-grader with math?

Is it enough to hold my tongue at the end of a long, monotonous, groundhog-type day?

Is it enough to create inside jokes, like literally inside (the house and the family)?

Is it enough to tutor students through lessons over the telephone?

Is it enough to ask over WhatsApp, but how are you really?

Is it enough to respect a lockdown law?

All of these things look like good things, right? But they aren’t what we want. We want more. We want to celebrate Easter by sharing the meal of cinnamon rolls. We want the third grader to learn from an actual teacher. Forget about all the development and aid work or business work or whatever job work we are hired to do.

Is this really enough? Enough…what? What does that even mean? Enough to be worthy of being alive? Enough to be pleasing to God? The question seems to imply a belief that we must earn the right to exist.

And yet.

Marilyn Gardner said to me recently, “It is as if we forget that just being alive is productive enough.”

John O’Donohue wrote in Walking in Wonder, “To be born is to be chosen.”

Do you believe that? Do you believe it is enough to breathe in and out, for your heart to beat? Do you believe that simply by nature of existing, you are chosen, you are enough? 

And all that other stuff – the cooking, cleaning, teaching, working, loving – that’s part of the enough-ness. It isn’t bonus or extra because you can never be extra enough. You are already completely enough. You can’t be extra chosen, either you are chosen or you aren’t. And you are.

This week as you go into yet another week of long days and an uncertain future, remember you are enough. It is enough.

It is enough to pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apple slices and to spread a blanket out over the grass (or rocks, in our case) in the backyard and go on a picnic with your toddler, to lean back and watch the clouds or to examine the lively ants.

It is enough to complete all the work Zoom meetings for the day and then sit back and watch Netflix.

It is enough to reheat leftovers and to leave a patch of dirty footprints through the kitchen.

It is enough to call your friends just to say hi and check in.

It is enough to take a shower and put on fresh clothes.

It is enough to admit your worry and anxiety.

It is enough.

It is more than enough.

You are chosen.

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Rachel Pieh Jones

Rachel writes about life at the crossroads of faith and culture. Her work is influenced by living as a foreigner in the Horn of Africa, raising three Third Culture Kids, and adventurous exploration of the natural world. She has been published in the New York Times, Runners World, the Big Roundtable, and more. Check out her latest book, Stronger than Death: Get all her stories and updates in the Stories from the Horn newsletter

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