Learning to Love Enough

“Why don’t you like grocery stores?” she asked.

“I think it’s a scarcity thing. Too many memories of being here with the girls without enough of…anything.”

It’s enough to make me uncomfortable just writing about those days, trying to stretch too little money into just enough food to taste almost yummy enough that my daughters would eat it; trying to get it fast enough to catch the bus in time to get home soon enough to have enough time to make the meal so they got to bed in time, and all the while knowing that I’ll feel bad for spending the little time I had with them rushing around a grocery store until I’m too tired to read them a story, much less play with them or help them with homework.

Thank goodness for Disney VHS, so that the Little Mermaid could keep them company while I made another pot of tuna mac-n-cheese…yet even as I write this, I feel the pang of guilt because I wish I’d given them more attention.

More Danger

If you look linguistically at the previous paragraphs, there’s a particular word that keeps coming up: enough. It’s always with the connotation of scarcity. There is not enough.

The problem lies in that we make the mistake in thinking that the opposite of “scarcity” is “more”. People love more: super-size this and incentivize that and would you like the Magnum Executive Overclocked version?

It’s just silly, when you give it a little thought; “more” can’t be a goal that is ever reached because it is a constantly relative term. You may have more than someone else, but you will never have more than you have – so if what you need is “more”, then by definition you will never have “enough”.

What’s the answer to scarcity, then? In retrospect, it seems kind of obvious: the opposite of “not enough” is “enough.” Plain and simple.

The author of The Soul of Money, Lynn Twist, defines it more eloquently as “sufficiency:”

By sufficiency, I don’t mean a quantity of anything. Sufficiency isn’t two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn’t a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough.”

The Slippery Slope

I lied earlier, though, when I said it was “plain and simple.” The part that Ms. Twist (and many others) leave out is that even if we are lucky enough to have that “experience” of knowing that there is enough, it’s often followed by a bill from the orthodontist or a rattle of a muffler falling off your car and the realization that “Oh, I thought I had enough…but now I have to scramble again.

That’s when the shame weasels come out with glee: You really should be better at sufficiency, especially with all the research and writing you do about it. Why should anyone read your blog or even talk to you when you can’t even handle a simple thing like ‘enough’?” And you have that to deal with, too.

Or maybe it’s just me.

What helps me is to think of that experience of sufficiency less as a destination and more as a waypoint; kind of like a ledge where you can stop and catch your breath in the middle of rock climbing. It’s not that you’re not going to continue to struggle towards the top; it’s just that once in a while you can rest for a bit, relax your muscles, and gather the resources to continue the climb. Maybe, to take the metaphor a little further, you get better at spotting those places where you can rest, figuring out how to reach them more easily.

No, I haven’t taken the metaphor far enough to be able to tell you what is at the top of that metaphorical rock climb of scarcity & sufficiency. I’m pretty sure, though, that it’s not “more money” or ”more time”.

I think rather it’s learning to love the idea of “enough” and embrace it wherever you can find it. It’s trying to find those parts of your life where you can see the enough-ness of it, and appreciating those parts.

I think maybe one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is to stop loving more and start loving enough.

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