When my friend Brooklyn Middleton shared Delia Ephron's New York Times article on Facebook a little over a week ago entitled "You Can't Have It All, But You Can Have Cake" -- we both rejoiced that finally, someone was rejecting the "Lean In," "Having It All" propaganda and spelling out exactly what "having it all" means.
To paraphrase: it means moments of joy, content and simple pleasures. It is impossible to reach perfection and even in moments of perfection, they aren't static. If they were, we wouldn't have anything to compare them to.
My immediate response to my friend was this: The problem of "having it all" is that not only is it an impossible ideal to achieve and maintain, but that we allow such an impossible thing to perpetually be our guide and how we are constantly made to feel that we fail to measure up. Leaning In, by definition, perpetuates the scarcity myth that we, as women, aren't doing enough already.
Is it me, or does the whole "having it all" notion smell like scarcity packaged as perfectionism while preying on our deepest fears?
Maybe it's because I've been a tad Brene Brown obsessed lately, but I think "having it all" sounds a LOT like perfectionism. Brene writes in her book, Daring Greatly: "[Perfectionism] is the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame."
Cue my Girls Hannah moment of "I want all the things":
Well yes, I do want all the things! But my "all," like Ephron points out, has changed. It's diminished dramatically from what it used to be: an impossible, self-imposed need to be the "every woman" for every person in my life. The crushing weight of that reality led to a major depression and quarter-life existential crisis also known here as my year of celibacy.
So, what does "having it all" mean to me now?
Like Ephron, for me, it's the little things. It was the first day I got out of bed and didn't want to hide under the covers until the world stopped existing after a major six-month depression. It was the day I chose to live.
It was the first time I felt butterflies from a tall handsome stranger that stirred feelings with an intensity I had never experienced and other feelings I thought I'd never feel again. It was also the moment in which I let down my walls enough to let him in and didn't regret it.
"All" is when my niece wants to spend the night, but refuses to go home the next day so she has to stay another night to make sure I have enough of her hand-drawn pictures to last me until her next visit.
"All" is when my sister makes me laugh and snaps a candid photo of it to remind me that its OK to let my guard down sometimes.
(Photo courtesy of Audrey Bellis' Instagram @audreybellis)
It's also the first deep breath when I step onto my mat in yoga as I silently thank myself for carving out time for my practice. When I feel my ribs expand and I know I'm filling the space with a calm gratitude for life.
Finally, moments of "having it all" occur for me when I can catch myself slipping into old habits of people-pleasing and choosing to honor myself instead by maintaining my boundaries.
They don't all happen every day. Sometimes the moments are fleeting while others last a bit longer, but they make it all worthwhile for the periods of time in which all existed in equilibrium.