Life

Enough

I’ve Had Enough

That’s a tricky word, “enough.” Like certain swear words, it’s used in so many positive and negative connotations. One of the biggest is the way it’s used to feed guilt, for example. As a single Dad, undereducated and for many years part of the “working poor,” I never felt that I had enough to give my kids. Not enough food, not enough time, not enough room in the apartment, not enough gas to take them places, not enough money to pay for the places I could take them, not enough time to work to get enough money to buy enough gas to get enough food…you get the idea.

Recently I delivered what I thought was going to be some grandfatherly wisdom to my eldest daughter, herself a working Mom with two jobs and a wonderful son. She had mentioned that same feeling of not having enough time to spend with little Harvey Gray because of needing to work in order to buy him some nicer clothes, etc. I told her that I admired her dedication, but that if I had it all to do over again I would have spent less time trying to work for the money and more time with her. I don’t really miss buying her nicer jeans, but I do miss her, and the rest of my kids.

She looked at me incredulously. “What are you talking about, Dad?” she asked. “Of all my parents, I think of you as the one who spent the most time with me. You were always there when I needed you.”

I was thunderstruck. I’d been carrying around this weight of “I shoulda done better” in regards to the time spent with my children for so long, and here the eldest told me that I’d given her enough. I don’t know if the other three feel that way (kind of scared to ask them, actually), but it made me realize something: There’s a huge difference between “enough” and what you feel is “enough”.

And that applies to all of the rest of those “enoughs” up there. I doubt someone living in a third-world country would consider the WIC-based diet and second hand clothes and TV and VCR and microwave and floor and roof and heating and air conditioning to be “less than enough.” The help of my partners, my parents, my friends, the many times my village helped raise these four healthy daughters into the outstanding young women they are now. It was enough, I just never realized it.

I’ve Done Enough

“There’s a difference between just going in for the eight-and-skate,” she said, “and the knowing you need to put in eleven hours to get the things done for your team to stay on schedule.” I was having a discussion about this idea of enough, and Jenna, a former Toyota employee, was talking about the people who “just get by.” You could hear from the tone in her voice which kind of person she was; the kind I call “project based” rather than “time based.” It’s a very Marine Corps kind of attitude: Accomplish the mission at all costs. There are some times when that’s definitely an asset, and it’s usually held out as the standard to aspire to.

I won’t dispute that; it occurred to me, though, that really both the 8-n-sk8er and the Overachiever are both doing enough. It’s just that they have different goals. One person has the goal of not getting fired, and will do just enough to make sure that happens. The other person has a goal of the success of the team, and so does what is needed to achieve that goal.

The thing is, both have their positive and bad sides. Let’s broaden the frame: both workers are single parents with four children. The cost of childcare beyond the eight-hour mark means they are losing money, besides not being able to eat with their kids, help with homework, put them to bed. In that scenario, is it really more valuable for them to put in the extra three hours for the team? Or would it be better, in the long run, for the team to adjust the schedule for the well-being of the team member? Does the responsibility go both ways?

Not sure I know the answer to that question – I just know the question is more complex than a time card. I also know that how much is enough is entirely dependent on the goal. Look at it in terms of distance: if I want to go to Madison, WI from Seattle, I need to travel 1,925 miles. If I travel 2,852 miles, that will put me in New York City, which is great if I want to visit my friend Arden, but not so good if I want a hug from my youngest grandson Victor.

Enough is when you reach your goal; “too much” is not enough.

I’ve Seen Enough

Lay on, Macduff, and damned be him who first cries ‘Hold! Enough! – Macbeth

Except that “too much” is sometimes synonymous with “enough.” That’s when you are in some situation that needs to end, and you realize: “That’s enough,” “I’ve had enough,” “Enough is enough!” Those phrases aren’t really saying that you’ve had enough, they’re saying that you’ve crossed the line of “enough” into “too much” – too much wine in the cup, too much loud noise in the back seat of the car, that kind of thing. Sometimes it’s simply the matter of too much time and effort spent trying to do something that doesn’t seem to be improving – writing daily haikus, trying to like yoga, or something deeper, like a relationship or job that just isn’t working out.

The hard part of this kind of “enough” is that since it’s really “too much” you already know the answer to that niggling question Could I have done more? The answer is yes, you could have. You can always do more. The question is: would more really have helped? Remember the definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Getting past that feeling that you should have done more, that’s the hard part. Maybe examining that difference between what you thought was enough and what actually was enough can help with that. Maybe trying to take an objective view and trying to imagine what you would tell a friend in your circumstance can help. Maybe you just need to be able to forgive yourself, give yourself credit for what you’ve been trying.

Maybe none of that will work, either, but I think I’ve said enough about it.

Enough is Enough

The quality of “enough” that I strive to cultivate in my life is actually closely related to dancing. In most forms of partner dance where there is a lead and a follow, there are two mistakes that inexperienced (or clueless) leads make. One is to think that their partner is a mind reader, and will know automatically when a turn or a spin or a direction change is about to happen. These leads will have “spaghetti arms” and not give any real communication when they’re about to do something, and at best it leaves the follow trying to catch up all the time.

The other mistake is the flip side of it: the lead who thinks their job is to push, pull, and maneuver their follow in various directions and places, “spinning” them by brute force and pulling them around the dance floor. It’s much like having a conversation with someone who is constantly shouting and never actually pausing to listen or even let you react. Not fun.

I’ve been guilty of both of these, and in some forms of dance I still am. At a blues dance lesson we spent about 1/2 hour trying to find that level of muscle tension and energized frame that would let the partner know that a change was coming andinvite them to take part in it. It’s still leading, but it’s leading by persuasion, by creating an environment in which the change you want will occur.

Finding that precise amount of relaxed effort is tricky. In fact, I got frustrated with my tendency to over-muscle it, and the instructor gave me a tip:Imagine the movement, the energy, isn’t coming from the arm. Start it in your center, in your core. Your arm will know, and then your partner will, too. He was right; not that I mastered it, but it definitely improved.

Start from the center. Good advice, that.

I think, maybe, that’s enough.

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