Good Enough

There’s a line, somewhere in Jonathon Greyson’s Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, that runs something like the following:

There is no clean, there is only cleaner.

I have spent a lot of time incorporating this idea into my life. There is no perfect state, there is only more or less of a thing.

In the past few days I have seen or read discussions of Natural Parenting, of how much water a person needs to drink, or whether serotonin really is related to depression at all, and of whether a work of fiction not-yet-published is going to be feminist or not. The impression I get from all of these conversations is that at some point, one of the parties involved has determined that there is an Ideal State. An Ideal State of parenting, of health, of mental health, of responsibility, of feminism, whatever. And that anything that does not meet the Ideal State is a failure.

I think I am pretty good at recognizing when people are behaving irrationally out of anxiety. It is a hallmark of OCD in particular to search for certainty and absolutes as a defense against anxiety. When I see people championing things out of good intention yet in a vitriolic and abusive way, I wonder what they are so damn afraid of.

This extends, by the way, to my government officials saying and doing things that violate my as-of-yet-still-legal rights. What are you so damn afraid of. What do you think you are going to lose?

I don’t care whether you are anxious because you worry you are not doing enough for feminism, or your depression might be partially your fault, or that your kids might resent you the way you resent your parents, or that if your kids get a cold and pneumonia and a high fever and suffer brain damage it will be your fault. Those worries are yours, and I won’t tell you to not have them, because god knows I have them too. But none of that gives anyone the right to tell other people that they are a failure for doing things differently.

When someone makes choices that one would not make, it is not an automatic criticism or invalidation of one’s choice. Other people’s lives aren’t about you. You are the center of almost no-one’s world.

Perhaps that’s part of the fear I see. Fear of invisibility, fear of irrelevancy. Perhaps that’s what the all-male congressional committee dedicated to female birth control was actually about. Fear of a shrinking penis.

On the other hand, some people really are judging you. You are being talked about. You are being criticized and insulted. I KNOW I have been in the past, and may well be today. You can live with it, and with the choices you’ve made, or you can decide you want to be a different kind of person and change your actions.

Changing habits, changing actions, is a grueling slog of a process. I detest it. I do not like change. I get upset when my partner parks her car in a different spot in front of our house. (It’s. In. The. Wrong. Spot.) But the thing no-one ever told me is that once you change the habit, you have a new habit. What a glorious realization. What a delightful thing.

But here’s the kicker — you still won’t be perfect. You will never be perfect. You will never live in a perfect world.

There is no such thing as perfect parenting. You cannot do all the good ideas and well-intentioned suggestions all at the same time. They are mutually contradictory.

There is no such thing as perfectly healthy living. You cannot do all the good ideas and well-intentioned suggestions all at the same time. They are mutually contradictory.

There is no such thing as perfect mental health. There just, there is no such thing. You can be happier or more stable or more motivated or calmer or whatever than you are, but there is no perfect state. Take the Vitamin D if you want! (I certainly do.) But understand that, scientifically speaking so far, what you are mostly doing is administering the placebo effect. (Which I enjoy, thank you very much.)

But please, I beg of you, I ask you, don’t make your performance and failure anxiety anybody else’s problem, as certain elected officials seem bent on doing. There is no perfect performance, there is no safe, there is no clean, there is no powerful, there is no done. There’s only safer, cleaner, more powerful, more productive.

The world is full of good enough. It’s built on good enough. We were all raised somewhere on the good enough spectrum, from nowhere-near-good-enough to pretty-good-thanks. Our governments are run somewhere between nowhere-near-good-enough to pretty-good-thanks. Our brains operate between nowhere-near-good-enough to pretty-good-thanks, sometimes changing location on that spectrum from day to day or minute to minute.

There’s no perfect. There’s only good enough.

That has to be enough.


7 Responses

  1. So very, very many hearts.

  2. Sigrid, I like this a lot. My favorite line is, ‘You are the center of almost no- one’s world’.

  3. *deep breath* Thank you. Today has been a very bad day indeed, for exactly the things you are talking about. (Not the big stuff, just the little personal stuff). And you helped it. A lot.

  4. @spuffy 🙂 Thanks!

  5. :grins: Thanks, mom. 🙂

  6. @Jenny Aw, shucks. Happy to help. Here’s to the just-good-enough days, you know?

  7. I read this earlier and then read this article and maybe they aren’t linked in any other way than I read them both, but I think you should read this if you haven’t.

    That’s my incoherent Wednesday thought. Hopefully Thursday I can give you coherent thoughts! Cheers.

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