July marks five years and one month that we have lived in our current house. The one extra month is significant because it means that this is the longest I have lived anywhere since I departed from my childhood home at 18. I’ve been withdrawn from my writing and my thoughts lately because my internal change mechanism is on high alert. It knows that the timer has surpassed five years and it’s hollering from the inside that it’s time to shake things up. The problem is, if I shake things up, I have the potential to cause an earthquake with the downstream effects to those who depend on me for stability. For the first time in my life, I am putting down roots and finding ways to cultivate a more subdued approach to my change-seeking obsession.
I’ve always been careful to walk a fine line with my enthusiasm for change. What I seek is experiential, not necessarily material. I don’t need MORE. I don’t want more THINGS. I don’t feel that I need to be more SUCCESSFUL. But I crave experiences like no other. I want to have this user-friendly life where we are rounding bends, turning on end, collecting new knowledge, meeting new people and accumulating a bank of experiences that in the end show that this was a life well-lived. A user-friendly life that doesn’t sit on the shelf collecting dust, or stand frozen behind spotless museum glass, but is tested and dented, and creates a trail blazed from kindness and memorable encounters. I really want that.
Lately, my attention has diverted and I have been distracted by more material than experiential things. Generally speaking, my disinterest in “things” can border on carelessness. My friend and I were just in a conversation about our inability to maintain anything nice. My car has scratches on the sides from bike pedals and handles coming in and out of the garage 10 times a day. The dining room chairs that I recovered were stained the very first day from scrambled eggs that landed in the only open spot my seven-year-old’s little legs didn’t cover. The shingles by our front door still have blue stamps on them from curious little guys trying out goody bag swag. The only real jewelry I own – my engagement ring /wedding band set – has made it’s way down from three pieces to one over the years. I lost one piece in a move and my wedding band recently while traveling. None of this bothers me. Like at all.
The fact that I’m not bothered by this has been bothering me. I’ve been wondering if I should care more. If I should try harder to want nice things and take care of them. If I should separate my kids’ laundry into colors and actually try to keep their socks white. If I should knock down a wall in my kitchen and add on to the house so we can have more room. If I should buy a nice purse – like the kind that costs more than $50. If I should learn how to keep my shoes nice and not wear my heels to the nails. And while many of these things are perfectly reasonable to incorporate into one’s life, they are just not things that I take an interest in.
In my mind, none of these things are affecting my life. Sure, my wallet is disintegrating, but it still holds my money and no one but me needs to deal with it. I feel best when I’m sending my energy out into the world instead of looping it inward thinking about all the things I “need” (truth be told, I do need a wallet. It’s pretty ridiculous). Needs and wants – it’s the dance of human nature, trying to strike a balance between fulfillment and excess. That balance is different for every single person, and I’ve been trying to navigate what the right one is for me.
“Enough” is what I keep coming back to. I like that word because it’s both a state of being and a directive. The question of if one needs something or wants something misses the point. It’s more powerful for me to ask myself if I have enough. Because every time I ask myself that, the answer is yes.
As a directive, a firm “enough” said gently to myself helps me refocus and reign my attention back to where it belongs. I say it to my kids all the time, so why not myself? Enough! As in, calm down and be at peace with what you have and where you are in your life. Enough. You’re ok right where you are at.
The past year or so has brought more attention to smaller living and a life of simplicity. The tiny house craze is one example of how society seems to be agreeing with me that having enough rather than having it all is where it’s at. I read a New York Times Op Ed by David Brooks a couple of months ago. In his piece, The Small, Happy Life, he explored with readers how they found purpose in their lives. He found that a majority of responses suggested that a smaller life led to more happiness. A small life, in that we are content being the person we are and not feeling like our purpose needs to be big and dramatic. His piece spoke to me because I tend to be the one who is waiting for the lights to start flashing, telling me that I have found my purpose. Always looking ahead and wondering what it is I’m going to do that’s going to affect the world in some big way. With my sights set on the horizon, I’ve missed everything in between and am just now realizing that a smaller life fills me up in a much bigger way.
Enough is my new abundance. When I have enough, I can give the excess bandwidth in my life to others, helping and extending kindness. People always ask me how I find the time to bake for other people. What they don’t realize is that I don’t FIND the time. I HAVE the time. I have the time because my life is simple by design. My small, happy life has room in it for anyone who wants invited in. I have enough. But it’s you, my friends, that provide me with abundance; allowing me to bring you into my life with exchanges of kindness, conversations, and sharing of thoughts and ideas. My hope is that I might always have just enough so I can always have room for you.