Hello and welcome to ENOUGH, the newsletter.
I have been writing in this space since July of 2019, but so much in my life has changed, so rapidly, that I thought it might be a good idea to re-introduce myself and what might appear in this space, for all those of you who are new here, and for me.
As some of you might know, I once wrote a website—and 4 books—with the title of Gluten-Free Girl. I am deeply grateful for that time in my life. After I started writing the site in 2005, I met my husband, published 4 books, gave birth to our daughter, traveled around the world, adopted our son, and met thousands and thousands of people along the way. The community that gathered around Gluten-Free Girl was always the most important part of those 12 years.
However, all things must go, eventually. Life goes on. I stopped writing Gluten-Free Girl in 2017. I have changed all my social media handles, deleted a Facebook page with over 100,000 follows, and started again. Those dozen years had taught me what I did not want, more than anything. My dear friend Tita told me something that has informed me ever since. Her Mama, a practical and loving woman, raised her kids with one edict about their futures: “Don’t worry about what you will do someday. That will take care of itself. Just don’t follow what requires you to do what you don’t want to do.”
I could have used this advice before I started a gluten-free flour business in 2014 and plunged into 2 years of setting aside sleep and writing to frantically run a business I didn’t know how to run. I did what I wasn’t good at, one that kept me awake most of the night, because I thought that if we jumped through those hoops, we would eventually have enough money that I could finally spend my days writing.
Don’t do that, folks. It’s part of the reason I had a mini stroke in 2015. The good news? That changed my life.
After that terrifying time, my doctor told me that all my medical tests had come back healthy. Good news, but baffling news, since I was left questioning what had happened to me. Since my doctor is not a typical American doctor, but more interested in understanding the entire body and life in the role of health, he asked me this: “Are you sleeping enough? Exercising enough? Spending time away from work? Spending time with friends? And if not, why do you feel like you don’t deserve this. Why do you not feel good enough?”
Those questions led me through a process that lasted for years, a process that required me to interrogate all the beliefs I had about success, a process that allowed me to drop everything that did not spark joy. (Yep, I Marie-Kondoed my life.) Over time, I began to define my own success, away from typical American culture’s set standards of consumerism, perfectionism, unattainable goals, and defining my dreams through a narrow lens. As Ava Duvernay wrote: ““If your dream only includes you, it’s too small.”
I would say it this way: If your idea of success is only defined through your personal success, then it is not big enough.
These last few years have changed me profoundly. That is why I wrote my book, ENOUGH. And that is why I am writing this newsletter.
I have to write. It’s one of my eccentricities, this need to pour forth words onto a page—or now a digital screen—to understand the world through constructing sentences. Some people need to cook or paint or create songs to feel fully themselves in the world. I need to sit with a pen or my fingers on a keyboard. A day or two without writing and I start feeling overwhelmed.
So, I will never stop writing. Will it always be for books? Nope. Instead, writing is no longer only a form of mentally clarifying my thoughts in long form, edited and presented a year after I coalesced those thoughts. It’s how I communicate with you. I’m truly glad you are here.
And so, when I began this newsletter, it was because I needed a space to write. (And, to be honest, a way to promote the book when it was published.) Now, I want to start creating community again, right here. I want to hear your stories too.
In July of 2019, I had not fully let go of Gluten-Free Girl yet. I thought I needed to offer recipes here, since that is what I had been known for before. Less than a month later, out of the blue, I was offered a full-time job at ChefSteps, writing recipes and emails about food for a living. It has been joy, this job, because I work with smart, kind people who are intensely curious and want to make great things in the world. Also, the relief of having a full-time job with a paycheck that dropped into our bank account every other Friday and major benefits for everyone in the family? WHEW. I had no idea how much of my mind was taken up by that anxiety of wondering where the money would come from next. My mind has been in grace these past almost-6 months.
However, this means that writing recipes and describing food is 8 hours of my day. I don’t feel the need to do so anymore.
I began a Facebook page for this newsletter around the same time I began at ChefSteps. We were working on a gluten-free sourdough there. And then, I began to not post there. See above for why. Also, I really don’t like Facebook. I want to spend my energy here, with you. So, soon, I will compile we did together there, plus my recipes, and put them into a Google Doc to share with you here.
So what is left, if I am not writing about food on a regular basis? Well, this newsletter is called ENOUGH because that word has so many meanings. I have enough can be about gratitude. I am enough, as I am can be a way of letting down the struggle for perfectionism and needing to be successful in other people’s eyes. I have had enough is urgent, a little bit filled with rage, and the start of fighting to change things. Not good enough is the lousy state of feeling like we are not worthy. Enough pretending is my favorite phrase right now, a way of declaring freedom from fear and calling out the pretense that layers so many actions in this culture right now. Mostly enough is my way of reminding myself that it’s great to be determined and work hard, but slowing down and appreciating the small moments of connection and joy are all I need.
So what do I write about here? That. All that.
I write here 2 or 3 times a week, with stories and recommendations of art that is moving me, with writing prompts for those of you who want to play along, and communal posts about one of those definitions of enough, where we can all compare notes.
I’m bursting with ideas for what I want to write here. Now that I am done with the most active promotion of my book—and now that I have rid myself of Facebook—I have the time to be here, after my job and time with my kids. I cannot wait to share, to spark conversations, to hear your thoughts, and to hopefully help us all drop the need to please other people and find our own definition of enough.
To order my book, ENOUGH, click here.
You will find me on Instagram at @shaunamahern.
Thanks, all. Here is to us all finding our own enough.