When Good Enough is Good Enough…

Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.

— Parker Palmer

I awoke at 4am last night and couldn’t go back to sleep.

I’m a therapist, and paying close attention is the center point of my job. Paying close attention requires herculean effort when I haven’t slept.

I’m also a writer and was planning to write first thing in the morning. It’s hard to write when thoughts are foggy and slow due to sleep-deprivation.

So I stared at the ceiling in the dark and fretted about how messed up my day was going to be. I felt irritated every time one of my husband’s satisfied snores roused me from the edge of relaxation.

Well, guess what? Fretting about not sleeping doesn’t invite sleep! And being angry at the innocent person sleeping next to you isn’t calming! My heart pounded and my mind raced.

Finally, my inner voice gently reminded me that being tired wasn’t going to be a catastrophe. In fact, when I haven’t slept I’m often soft and vulnerable, and therefore more open than usual to being pierced by compassion for others as I walk through my day.

I don’t necessarily enjoy having to work so hard to attend to the moments of my day when I haven’t slept. But the blurred edges around my thoughts and the tenderness of my heart create an inner environment that isn’t all bad.

I have to admit that I was hoping that this shift in attitude would in the end calm my mind and lull me back into sleep. But alas it didn’t. I laid awake. Calm and at peace, but awake.

What my new attitude did do was push me on out of bed to begin my day earlier than I’d planned. Groggy and disappointed, I padded down the stairs in the dark and stood alone in the quiet kitchen.

While the espresso machine warmed up, I stared out the window at the empty street and felt alive. Not enthusiastic, but alive, noticing my aliveness, and feeling grateful for it.

I’d like to say that with this newfound gratitude I entered the day with some sort of wonder and creativity, but I didn’t.

I sat down to write feeling heavy and disappointed that my head was so foggy. And I wrote anyway.

My deepest self felt relieved and appreciative that I had embraced both sides of my experience. I didn’t override my disappointment and exhaustion with falsely positive affirmations that would’ve just pissed me off. Neither did I allow my disappointment to descend into a resigned giving up of my writing goal.

Embracing the both/and of disappointment about the imperfection of my sleep, and desire to write allowed me to feel alive in a way that maintained integrity within my whole being.

Living in this integrity of both/and feels like the best kind of hope to me. I didn’t feel optimistic or overly positive. I simply made a choice to take action while feeling kind of bad.

Sometimes good enough is good enough.

I get to be here, imperfect, tired, wishing the morning were different, and embracing the morning I have been given. And I am grateful.

In a century of staggering, open questions, hope becomes a calling for those of us who can hold it, for the sake of the world. Hope is distinct … from optimism or idealism. It has nothing to do with wishing. It references reality at every turn and reveres truth. It lives open eyed and wholehearted with the darkness that is woven ineluctably into the light of life and sometimes seems to overcome it. Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a practice that becomes spiritual muscle memory. It’s a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be.

– Krista Tippett