Be like a bird, who halting in her flight on a limb too slight feels it give you beneath her, yet sings (sings!) knowing she has wings. – Libana (from poem by Victor Hugo)
Today begins a Year of Enough. On this Winter Solstice, I devote myself to exploring Enough. Being enough, doing enough, having enough. And publishing consistently about the experience.
Where this work leads is uncertain. The value is clear. I have always believed that I am not enough. I never feel like I do enough. (I do a lot). I struggle to enjoy my daily life because I am busy trying to create an enjoyable daily life. Its a mindless, endless ouroboros. I’m not alone. As a matter of fact, I don’t personally know anyone who isn’t chasing their tail in this way.
I choose to stop. To explore what it means to “arrive”. I have enough. Oddly, I feel ashamed to admit this: I have arrived in the life I hoped to create. I own much of my time, energy and attention. I am not necessarily “financially secure” but I am not drowning in … anything. I can breathe.
Yet, I hold my breath, afraid that nothing will continue to be enough. I strive. I search for the next thing I need. If I don’t settle in, enjoy this day and my work and this space I’ve created, I fear I will die before ever feeling satisfied.
Before I begin, I want to be absolutely clear about one thing:
You can’t fake this. I am publishing a Year of Enough because at the moment, I have enough. I’ve worked very hard to arrive here. But many people work very hard and are struggling against forces they can not control. When I was poor, there was never “enough”. When I was in abusive situations, there was not enough safety. Changing my own mindset in some situations would be denial and dumb (at best).
Measure your success by what you had to give up to get it. – Dalai Llama
Even when there is enough, landing in the middle of our messy mind and conditioned experience is painful. We’ll talk about that pain. There is a space inside we can occupy, where we craft our best life. Where we come home. But that journey requires more letting go, more painful self awareness, more seemingly “wasted” work than we’re probably signed up to do. This isn’t a three-steps-to-happiness program. This is facing every demon you are running from while chasing enough.
Our demons are ingrained in our mind and body and when we change, they hurt us. We don’t want to hurt them back; we love them. They give us a false sense of security with their promises. ‘Cause we all just wanna be big rock stars and live in hilltop houses. I live in a hilltop house, surrounded by four acres. I love my house. And it’s so much work. Most days, I feel crushed by all I don’t do. I fear I will lose the house if I don’t have money. So I work harder in my career, which means less time for housework. Then I feel crushed by both. I imagine I’m working towards a lovely, self-sufficient homestead. But you know what? That’ll just be more daily work.
Everything is work
A Year of Enough is one thing above all else: transferring more time, energy and attention into meaningful, valuable work. Redefining what we mean by “work”. Stop chasing more of whatever we don’t need and come home to what we do.
What about ambition?! Bettering yourself! Oh yes, I’ve done so much of that. In my 30s, someone said to me “you know, the bookstore has other sections beside self help.” I believed I was broken. I was broken. But if you glue the handle back on your teapot, satisfied you fixed it, then never make tea …
I’ve discovered this: When you settle into enough, you get more done. This is a nascent experience for me, one I’m committed to exploring. I already see that I make better choices when I feel enough. Not enough makes me constantly feel like I’ve chosen the wrong things or not enough of the right things. When I choose, the next step is to choose more. Choose again. Choose choose choosechoosechoose. We don’t need to hoard so many choices.
Some choices are essential though. Four foundational choices sustain my daily practice:
Eat real food
Food choices are a microcosm of all our other choices. I choose real food primarily grown by my neighbors. This change, away from marketed food, has taken decades. I eat very few manufactured products. Without paying attention to what we eat, I think finding “enough” is incredibly difficult. Especially for those relying on some type of drug to sustain them. (Sugar is a drug.) If you haven’t explored quality nourishment, that practice is a good place to begin.
Daily self awareness practice
I write in a journal every morning for an hour. This mind-relationship practice has become sacred to me. I rarely miss and if I do, it’s for a reason I don’t regret. My practice began with twenty mins of writing while drinking coffee, tracking the consecutive days in the top right-hand corner of the page. Then I increased to thirty minutes. Then, after a year of wishing I could write longer, I realized I could just write longer.
If you don’t have a daily for-you practice, creating one is another a good place to begin. I think it can be many things: yoga, painting, reading, walking, gardening, knitting, chopping wood, meditation. Anything that invites you to become aware of your own mind.
Give up on doing enough
I have been a writer and reader all of my life. This central truth has been buried under a monumental pile of Everything Else That Must Get Done First OMG.
You know what? I failed. I failed to get it all done, despite decades of sustained effort. I move everything that falls down on top of me, meet expectations and demands on my time, energy and attention. The next day, they fall back down on me. I have raised a child, built a career in a challenging profession, learned more about relationships than anyone should ever need to know. I have gotten free from harm only to end up back in harms way.
You never, ever arrive at enough by pushing more rocks up more hills. Thinking maybe tomorrow you’ll have more time. You won’t. And you are probably, partly, to blame. When you put yourself in the center of your life … you’ll discover the pain you are avoiding by staying busy elsewhere. There is no easy path. Only harder paths with greater rewards.
Do enough for you
This year, I don’t know what will happen. (whispers I am terrified and fear I will die.) I feel safer when taking care of everything and everyone else, striving, seeking, hoping, efforting to be enough, have enough, do enough of the right things. I have chosen relationships and situations that gave back so little compared to what they took. And in the end, blamed me for not satisfying.
Don’t be me. The hamster wheel is exhausting. Don’t pour yourself into other people hoping your effort will enable and empower them. Enable and empower yourself. Here’s the nonintuitive truth: You enable and empower others when you are authentic and caring.
Mind the empty bottle with the holes along the bottom. – Alannis Morrisette
If you aren’t in a situation that nourishes you, perhaps it won’t grow, no matter how much harder you try. Accept and allow others to be as they are. Let them own it. Create your own path forward.
This is stupidly hard for many
If you are a woman, you know others will rarely “own it” when you speak truth and create your own path. If you are gay or black or an immigrant … “let them own it” might mean no economic security or legal rights or even surviving an encounter with “authority”. I do not, in any way, minimize that struggle. I still face it myself sometimes.
Please, do not mistake me. This is no fluffy kumbaya journey of ease and safety. Sometimes, enough is taken from us and we are crushed by systemic power or cruelty. I’ve made some excruciating choices. This year is not a Disney ride. It’s a moon landing. Perhaps you are ready. If so, I’m glad we are going together.
There is much more to do on this website. I’m not done! Yet, here I go, pressing publish.
And so it begins.