I recently finished reading a book entitled, “A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough” by Wayne Muller. Published eleven years ago in 2011, I bet I highlighted passages on half of the 256 pages.
Reading it now was perfect timing in the midst of having the flu for six weeks and thinking about my friend Scott’s song called “May They Be Blessed.” Our personal pendulums swing from too much to too little, and if we pass that place of “just enough” too swiftly, we miss out on how delightful it is.
Wayne Muller, the author, is a therapist, minister, and community advocate whose resume is impressive. While others in his age group were climbing the corporate ladder, Muller was dedicating his life to service to some of the most disenfranchised members of our society through community, healthcare, and educational work. I especially enjoyed the short video clips you can find here on his website.
One of the first quotes I highlighted in the book was, “So many good-hearted people I know are exhausted.” Phew, that certainly rang true. “However sweet or nourishing the fruits of their work may be for themselves or others, nothing they do ever feels like enough.” Muller goes on to explain how this feeling of “not enough” is embedded in our culture, that whether it’s earning more money, or buying a bigger home, or becoming more physically fit, or collecting graduate degrees like some competitive stamp collection, it’s simply not enough. And if you start to feel satisfied, then you have to wonder what’s wrong with you, because you might be at risk of becoming a slacker!
Even with perfectly healthy hobbies like gardening or sketching, meditation, or reading, do you ever really have enough seeds, paint brushes, quiet time, or books? “Enough books”, impossible! Would that mean I am no longer teachable, that I have run out of curiosity? No, perhaps just the opposite.
The state of Enough is rich and full of breathing room. It is that contented feeling in the belly that is not hungry or thirsty, nor is it the slightest bit overfull. As Muller states, “Beyond this point [of enough], anything more—whether real or imagined—simply creates suffering.”
Developing this in-the-moment awareness of when you have reached “enough” of whatever you are experiencing takes practice. You are fine-tuning a machine that has most likely spent decades being numbed to healthy limits because everything in our culture screams more, of anything, must be better. Even with a fever and what turned into a long-term case of the flu, my mind kept slipping into impatience to “get on with it already!” My loving friends would call and innocently say, “Aren’t you feeling better yet?” not knowing that I had been silently shouting the same thing most hours of every day that the illness lingered. But I was asking the wrong question.
What if instead I spent those same moments thinking how lucky I was to have a body that could fight such a long battle? What if instead of slandering my immune system with insults about its incompetence, I turned my thinking on its head and considered the magnitude of the challenge /infection it was fighting, and watched in awe, knowing I didn’t have to lift a finger for my body to continue to heal at a perfect, glacial pace.
What if nothing was wrong to begin with?
What if I was just having another life experience, one that actually forced me to redefine “enough”? What if this was the best gift the Universe had ever given me, the biggest “reset button” opportunity of them all?
I turned a wellness corner yesterday and can now take a deep breath without coughing afterward. That is enough for today.
Goldilocks was definitely on to something. I can recognize Too Much and I’m well aware of Too Little.
Time to befriend Just Right, otherwise known as Enough.
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Finally, thanks so much for spending some “aloft” time with me.
Amen to this, Bobbie. Gary and I were just having this very discussion yesterday. Very prescient and affirming. As my mother used to say “may you have enough”.
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