Enough with “Never Enough” {Take Heart…in the Quest for Wholeness}


This past week, I sat in the orthodontist’s chair for the last time. The doctor took pliers to the brackets and snapped them off of my teeth one by one.

He had done that to my skepticism, too.

I had come to him a mess after two and a half years in braces at another provider. Teeth that should have curved around instead formed a straight line out across my lip. My bicuspid was so far gone from the arch that its root just about poked through my gums. A periodontist had told me I’d need to try a bone graft and even then may end up having to get it pulled. I’d gone through two unnecessary dental surgeries and rough recoveries with swelling, infection, and dry socket. My mouth was tender and so was my sense of trust.

Then, I kicked myself while I was down. Why did I get the braces at all? My husband had told me he didn’t think I needed them. Why hadn’t I left my bite as it was, dealt with the little bit of crowding and the off-center mid-line, and saved myself all those years of awkward smiles and kisses, saved myself from looking worse than when I started, saved the tooth with the protruding root that would possibly have to be removed?

If there’s one thing the whole fiasco had done, it was to show my perfectionist self the virtue of “good enough.”

My new doctor studied the X-rays and photographs, recorded precise measurements, outlined a plan and handed me tissue after tissue when depression and doubt locked in like the stubborn brackets and wire.

“It’s not going to be perfect…” he told me. I knew there was no way to make my smile completely symmetrical due to the fact that I’m not a teenager anymore, not to mention  the extractions I’d endured before finding my way to his office. He went on, “…but it will be good.”

I’ve long dealt with the “never enough” sickness just like the rest of our culture, so I nodded my head the other day as I came across a quote from Lynne Twist in Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly”:

“We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of….Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack….This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life….”

In my saga, my own “never enough” surfaced in my insistence that I get braces when they weren’t really necessary. I’ve seen the “never enough” of other people come out in other ways. I remember not too long after we’d moved into our home, someone asked my husband and I if we had a dream house in mind. “We love where we are,” my husband said with a puzzled look on his face.

Sure, maybe we’d like a little more land or an extra upstairs bedroom or a garage on the side of the house instead of the front. But to focus on what this house doesn’t have would be to look past the gorgeous craftsmanship, the quality fixtures, the ample square footage and the fact that it sits right in the middle of our dream life…a walkable town with easy access to our son’s school, the library, restaurants, shops and all kinds of seasonal festivals. This is dream house enough for us. It’s not only good enough– it’s more than enough.


Then there’s the scene of two authors chatting at a party thrown by a billionaire friend. There, Kurt Vonnegut jabbed his friend Joseph Heller and told him that the host of the party “had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history.” I’ve never gotten over how Heller responded: “Yes, but I have something he will never have…enough.”

Emotional wholeness eludes until we can say we have enough, we are enough, this is good enough…enough! Ironically, the vulnerability of physical distress or sickness can have a way stripping us down bringing us to that place of enough.

You know what Brené Brown calls the opposite of the “never enough” mentality? She calls it “wholeheartedness.” It has to do with the courage to be imperfect and an openness to life even though it offers no guarantees, like our Take Heart focus these last several weeks, like my orthodontic treatment these last four years.

Right on schedule, visit by visit over the next 18 months, my doctor worked the miracle. He pulled my wayward tooth back into the curve, closed my horrid gap and made my bite line up. My mid-line will always be off and my smile will always sit a bit asymmetrical, but it is good, more than enough.

On de-band day, some brackets held tight, bonded complacent from the four years of drama and trauma. The doctor and my friend, his assistant, rocked them back and forth, chiseled them away, and little by little the chains fell off, braces and perfectionism.

{What experiences have revealed/transformed your own “never enough” attitude?}


Thanks for visiting Message in a Mason Jar where we’re finding the loveliest things in the most ordinary containers. To get posts delivered to your email box or blog reader, enter your email address on the homepage sidebar or enter http://messageinamasonjar.com/feed/ in your reader.

This week in our Take Heart series we’re talking about the quest for wholeness, whether physical challenges illness or emotional struggle. Body and spirit together form our complete nature, designed by God. I hope you’ll take time to read the amazing array of posts from our guest writers this month and let us know what resonates with you and your experience.

Laundry Dunes, Everyday Vacations…and a Summer Book Club!!!

I can count on one hand the times in my married life I’ve had a perfect closet. In that closet, everything has a place: short sleeves on one rod, long sleeves on another, dresses and skirts on another. Belts and strings are tied up at the waist, never dangling low. Sleeves are smoothed out. Hangers are equidistant. Each rod is an array of color in the order of roygbiv.

Every time I’ve gotten it to that point, I’ve always had plans for keeping it that way, but really it’s like sweeping the the beach. Just as soon as I think I’ve got my spot smoothed out, the winds of busyness keep moving the sand about, and I just can’t keep up. Within a week, the clothes are lingering long in the basket and the dryer steam cycle has to save the day, springing them to life again.

As we are packing for a day trip to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore this weekend, in my house, laundry is piling like those sand dunes. Do you know how dunes are formed? Sand moves through the air on bursts of wind and stops when it comes upon an obstacle, like the trunk of a tree or a large rock. And then it builds.

For me, that “obstacle” is creativity and the written word. Each day, when nap time comes around and the kids are tucked quietly (well, on a good day, anyway!) in their rooms, I retreat to my notebook and pencil, my keyboard and screen, a little vacation in the middle of my day.

In my last post, I mentioned Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s affirmation that women need solitude in order to “find again the true essence of themselves”. Sometimes that may mean taking some time to get away alone like she did on Captiva Island in the early 1950s. Sometimes it means resting from our work in the middle of our day to day and taking time to find our own contemplative corner.

On vacation, domestic work is cut to a minimum. I make simple meals, dirtying only a few dishes. Clean up is quick and easy. I bring a minimal wardrobe and wear things more than once. I forget about make-up and perfectly-coiffed hair, and instead let the wind give me the tousled look.

Of her own vacation, Anne said, “I find I don’t bustle about with unnecessary sweeping and cleaning here. I am no longer aware of the dust. I have shed my Puritan conscience about absolute tidiness and cleanliness. Is it possible that, too, is a material burden?”

When nap time is over and I return from my mini-vacation, I do have to work a bit at the laundry to keep us from getting lost in it. I simplify and speed up the task by keeping myself from that Puritan perfectionism. If a shirt comes out of the dryer inside out, that is how I hang it. The seconds I save on each item add up into valuable minutes of time working at my real passion. My creative call may be an obstacle to a perfectly clean house, but I’m willing to live in view of the laundry dunes and a few inside out shirts in order to feel the breeze in my hair and sand in my toes on this daily little vacation all my own.

I hope you’ll join me in exploring more of these ideas as we dig into Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s classic book Gift from the Sea in our brand new Stories Preserved Summer Book Club!  This memoir helps women contemplate how to live a simple life in the midst of a complicated world. Take a virtual vacation with us this summer as we ponder such topics as love, marriage, the work of the mother, friendship, the creative life, simplicity, solitude, generosity, communion, youth, and age, all through the metaphor of beautiful seashells found on a quiet island. This is a short, refreshing read perfect for an easy, breezy summer book club. It’ll be our own little getaway.

I will write on a different chapter each Monday throughout June and July. Make sure to sign up right now by subscribing in the sidebar and commenting below. Then you’ll want to comment on each Monday’s Gift from the Sea post. Each comment will get you one entry in the drawing for a Gift from the Sea prize package at the end of summer. The more Gift from the Sea posts you comment on, the more entries you get!

{Linking up today with Hayley at The Tiny Twig and Jessi at Naptime Diaries for a series on Giving Up on Good (in exchange for something better).}