You Are Enough

grad

Best graduation photo ever! I had just graduated from Wellesley in 1990 and the rebel in me, reacting to the media frenzy that surrounded our graduation, wore a sign on my back proclaiming that I was among those the press had labeled “just a pack of whining, unshaven, radical feminist spinster tartlets.” This small group of women graduating from Wellesley in 1990 had started the “Mommy Wars” (according to the international press, anyway).

Aside from the internal politics of how our commencement speaker was chosen, the issue being raised was not, as the media would have you believe, that we opposed Barbara Bush’s decision to drop out of college, marry and raise a family. The issue of concern was the question of how many women graduating from college (even Wellesley) in 1990 would have the economic stability to be able to choose to abandon their education, give up a career, stay home to raise a family without a job outside the home and still maintain that level of security.

In any case, Barbara invited her friend, Raisa Gorbachev to speak as well, and while the president of the college invited Hilary Clinton to speak two years later, still (after playing on both sides of the political fence) she wasn’t chosen for the coveted position of Secretary of Education. Our graduation was a media circus but we had a glorious day nonetheless.

And this is my graduation picture. This picture depicts a very special moment that day. One of my dearest friends, Maryann, had just given me a monogrammed pendant as a graduation gift. Engraved on the back were the words “You are enough.” along with the date. These words came from a poem entitled “You Are Enough!: A Woman Seminarian’s Story” by Nancy Ore that was published in Rosemary Radford Ruether’s book Womanguides. It is a poem about women being told throughout our lives that we are not enough, that whatever we do is not enough. From our parents to our spouses to our children, there is an underlying message that simply being who we are is not enough. And then there are the pastors who tell us that all of our work in the church is not enough unless we internalize all the guilt of humanity over the starving of children in the world. And the counselors who tell us that our only hope for sanity is to struggle with our demons, integrate our childhood traumas, stop crying, “clarify our poetic symbols” and not feel that we are not enough. While all those around us tell us we are not enough, we are also being told that we truly are not enough if we accept this. What hope is there?

The woman in the poem gives up and waits for death. When it comes, she finds herself “locked in deep blue pocket tomb.” But then, the  voice comes to her saying “YOU ARE ENOUGH … naked, crying, bleeding, nameless, starving, sinful, YOU ARE ENOUGH.”

The poem ends with a resurrection image but for Maryann and for me and I suspect for countless other women who struggle with these messages everyday, it is this voice telling us that we are enough, no matter what, that helps us not give up. No matter if you are naked, if you are crying, if you are bleeding, if you are nameless, if you are starving, if you are sinful – YOU ARE ENOUGH!

My friends, YOU ARE ENOUGH! Listen to the voice.

P.S. — As each of Maryann’s sisters turned 50, she gave each of them a similar monogrammed pendant with the same words engraved on the back. And three years later, as Maryann was graduating, her sisters invited me to participate in presenting one to her as well. Unfortunately, one sister (the one who may have been deemed the most successful according to the world’s standards) did not survive long, she heard the words but still felt she could never be enough and she gave up. I must believe that for Sue Ellen:

And the third day

she sat up

asked for milk and crackers

took ritual bath with angels

dressed herself with wings

and flew away.

And again the voice came to her to reassure her of what she hadn’t been able to understand before — “YOU ARE ENOUGH!”

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About pathawkins

Do you need to know who I am to appreciate this blog? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. Knowing who I am may encourage you to read my posts, or it may encourage you not to bother - but that will say more about you than it says about me! So, just in case it matters, I can tell you that I am a progressive, white, middle-class, middle-aged, pro-choice, married, lesbian, American, Episcopalian woman who has studied psychology, theology and liturgy. I work in a church as well as being a reverse mortgage counselor. I am well educated and fairly well-spoken. But, I'm neither pretentious enough nor arrogant enough to think that my words will change attitudes, much less lives. On the other hand, if my words or images can open a window to another way of looking at something or if they can provide comfort or joy, I know I will be blessed in return.

4 responses to “You Are Enough”

  1. Stacey Nicholas says :

    Thank you for this powerful reminder. When I was earning my MTS, pastoring a congregation full-time, working as a volunteer firefighter, and a mother and a wife, I became very disappointed in myself when I was only getting B+s on my work. My thesis advisor is a religiuos sister. She gently sat me down and said “Repeat after me, It is good enough. I am good enough.” I earned my MTS. But I learned so much more. It is good enough. I am good enough.

    Like

    • pathawkins says :

      Thank you Stacey. Yes, you are enough! And you always will be. I especially liked the part where the poet says you are enough “naked, crying, bleeding, …” Even when we think we are most unlovable, we are still enough. Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. Peace.

      Like

  2. Vanessa Pinto '90 says :

    Hi Pat! FYI we just reposted this to the class of 1990 website. Great post!

    Like

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