So I’m editing this novel that is basically more Finnish than anything I’ve ever written before. A few weeks ago I realized that was one of the reasons that I was having such a hard time editing this book; I was worried that it wasn’t Finnish enough. Or perhaps that it was Finnish in the wrong way. In any case, that was quite some discovery. One I could have done without, to be honest. But that also got me thinking about the idea of not being enough just in general.
I think it was in the book How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg where I found out about the origin of the US housewife expectations. You know the ones; perfectly put together mother of 2,5 kids, meeting her husband at the door with a perfectly mixed drink and a five course dinner waiting for him on top of it. And if the boss shows up as another mouth to feed, well, the perfect housewife feeds him as well. Turns out, those requirements started coming out of the popularization of household machinery. You’ve got a dishwasher? That’s great! Now that you don’t have that pile of dishes to do, you can learn another way to serve your family! And thus the requirements just keep on piling up. Not that anyone really names them as requirements, until they’re not met.
And that, I think, is largely what is behind the expanding feeling of “not enough”. “I’m not mother enough”, “not woman enough”, “not writer enough”, just not good enough on all the fronts. Some of it is definitely external, expectations that others are setting on you, based on whatever. But a lot of it is also expectations that you put on yourself, based on all kinds of things. Someone’s perfect staged Instagram photos. The amazing, perfect comic remixes of Finnish culture. (Stand Still, Stay Silent; The Witch Door; and Riverbound as shining examples btw)
When it’s an internal expectation, there’s absolutely no one that can do the things that you do like you do them. The three webcomics I mentioned above, not one of them presents Finnishness in exactly the same ways. Yet they’re all excessively, indubitably Finnish every one. And the novel that I’ve written is very much Finnish in its own way.
I don’t honestly know how to make that feeling go away. And I don’t really know how to deal with it when the expectation is coming from. But somehow we just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other in order to make anything at all happen. And sometimes we fall short of expectations and sometimes we exceed them. The trick is to celebrate the one without getting too discouraged by the other. I don’t know about you, but it’s a trick that I’m still learning.