On Being Good Enough

I had a dream that I wasn’t good enough. That the world was mocking my confidence with stunned silence. I was an amateur juggler in a room full of octopi. Anyone could do what I do.

I had a dream that I was chained to a mountain, and trying to pull. Not to break free, but to drag the mountain. I would stretch, dig, and strain. I could catch my breath, getting a running start, and feel the end of my leash yank against my ankles. Shackled to a sinking feeling.

I woke like a coal miner pulled from a pile of rubble. Light stung my cheeks and shot blood into my eyes. There were no cheering crowds. No anxious reporters to hear my tale. No one noticed I had survived. My ears rang from the emptiness of the room.

Somewhere deep in my stomach lies another cave. Deep in that cave is another me. Trapped in a hollow shaft, and scraping against the walls to find a way out. Every shift of the earth around sends a sharp panic. Searching for a beam of light — proof that hope is not an illusion.
Somewhere in my chest a soldier waits. Malnourished, dehydrated, and scared. The training didn’t prepare him for the boredom. After the gauntlet of preparation, the battles seem like a game. Bombs sound like fireworks. He didn’t come here to wrestle, and maybe that is exactly the problem.

Somewhere in my throat is a singer. Hungover, abusive, and alone. He stands on a stage in a room full of empty seats, and warms up with a glass of bourbon and a smoke. Stage lights burn as hot as ever. A rubber cable might as well be a tree root under his feet. He shifts, feeling for flat ground, keeping eyes on the back of the room like a pro.

Somewhere in my head is a scientist. Buried beneath my inner ear. His lab is a steel bunker adorned with fear, guilt, and doubt. Beakers boil over with synthetic evidence of failure, as if the real thing is too diluted to measure.

My habits betray my urgency. My hope is gagged and hog-tied beneath the table. There is a nagging suspicion that the best is behind me, and that all that I have left is watching the credits roll.

I had a dream that I wasn’t good enough. Then a voice broke through the noise. As the ringing in my ears pulse out like an emergency warning system, a single chirp soars over the tone. Melody trumps monotony. A three-note symphony of joy.

“So now what?” goes the song. “To die, or to run?”

The question is another form of mockery. A sarcastic response to desperation. “Good enough for what?”

As the soldier cleans his rifle, a roach is murdered by his shoe. “Not even close” he grunts.

As the singer belts a bar of blues, the sound man hits record. “Never gonna get this raw in a room full of chatty Cathy’s…”

As the scientist pours himself another bottle of bathroom gin, a culture evolves in a dish behind him. “Child’s play. Paper volcanoes on a folding table.”

I had a dream I wasn’t good enough. Then I looked down in my hand and saw a number. I am no longer last in line. Not yet called, but so ready, I’m bored.

I am a miner. Spending my last remaining molecules of oxygen moving one more rock — after another. I remember what light feels like. It’s warm against my skin. I can smell open air. I can hear the chirp of freedom.
There are mountains yet to drag. And if not me, then who? Every stone knocked loose is one less to carry. Every step another proof that my strength isn’t gone.

Life is not a marathon, nor a sprint. It’s a calculated count down to a feeling that you’re too late. I, for one, refuse to be.