How much is enough?

It is 8 o’clock on a Friday night, and there are a million things I could be doing at this very moment. I could be learning that new language I’ve been putting off for years. I could be getting ahead on my work for next week which I will undoubtedly let pile up, leaving me stressed and angry at myself for not doing it sooner. I could be pushing the quality of my work further, doing more, not resting on my laurels, as it is so easy to do, excelling and impressing those around me. I could be going to a party, livin’ it up like they tell me I should be doing. I could be at a yoga class, making my body more flexible and strong. I could be learning about classical music like I always wanted to, talking to new people, reading up on the state of the union, educating myself, educating those around me, moisturizing my dry skin, organizing my cupboards. There are a million things I could be doing. And that, precisely, is the problem. With too many options and a window of free time, I spin out and fall down a black hole of my own creation.

I check my phone incessantly. I buy things I don’t need. I do the dishes in an attempt to at least put my immediate surroundings in some sort of tangible order. I open a million web pages and shuffle back and forth between them all. I loop around in an endless cycle of distraction until I put my hands up and say enough and go to bed tired and disappointed with myself. And, as I do this, I know I have no right. I know I’m lucky that I have time to fuck around with. I know I should be making the most of it. And I know when I say this it is a pleading of a privileged woman, but I say it just the same, because really: how much is enough?

When are we allowed to do nothing?  When can we just be?

These questions are insignificant and banal just as they are specific and powerful. Because so many of us wonder this. When can we relax and feel good about what we have and haven’t done? When can we take a breath and not judge ourselves so much about the actions we’ve literally or figuratively crossed off in a day?  It’s tricky, because, of course, we are the only ones who can answer these questions for ourselves. We are the only ones who can feel good about what we’ve done. We are the only ones who can put our minds at ease.

Yet still — I think a little reframing is in order. Because, yes, we know when we are simply being lazy and shirking responsibilities, and that’s one thing. But we also need to look at this whole concept of self-worth as tied to productivity. Because when so many of us ask: “how much is enough?” I think the question one step deeper is “when will we finally be enough?” And these are not the same things.

Because let’s repeat: Worth is subjective. We are inherently worthy.

And if we know this, then we should be able to see through the endless layers of doing straight through to what’s below. What is begging to be seen. That intangible gracious thing. That thing we forget until it smacks us in the face with its beauty — our humanity. It’s true that we are wretched creatures who, nine times out of ten, wind up acting in self interest and choose to take the easy way out, but there is also a very real and insidious pressure existing in the wider culture to constantly produce and not only that but to share what we produce and to let the response to what we share be the measure of our being. To let that validation be the answer, to let that replace our most intimate self-knowledge and acceptance.

But it won’t. The when oh when can we just bes? will still be pleading. And we will still be twisting ourselves in two.

So what to do?

Simply, we search.

And we embrace our own ways of searching. For me, this searching is most often expressed through writing. Maybe for you it’s through dance or photography or wood working or some other form of creation. But as we do what we do, as we release our exhaust and spin it into something that didn’t exist before, we strive to understand our despicable selves. The parts we hate and the parts we kinda like. The parts we all share and those that are only our strange anomalies to hold dear.

As I write, I make space. As I write, I quiet the voices and answer my own questions. The questions that gnaw at me until I bleed. The questions that will come out no matter if I want them to or not. The ones that, if I push them down long enough, are bound to force themselves out as toxic expressions of insecurity.

They’re the questions we all strive to silence. We drown them out to avoid them. We cross them off as conquered and get on with our days.

They are the questions tied to that bit deep down. And when we ask them, we are awakening. We rouse the knowledge that lies buried under the dust and cobwebs. By asking, we look ourselves in the eye and get real with what we see. We know when laziness has taken the reins, but we also know that that doesn’t mean we are that laziness. We know when we could have done more, but that doesn’t mean by not doing we have run out of chances. And, hey, maybe we needed the rest. Maybe we needed a day, or seven, of doing fuck all. Maybe we should stop beating ourselves up for not producing, for allowing ourselves to languish in the options for a bit. And by facing ourselves, we know that the only thing stopping us from just being is our desire to control it.

This control is our amnesia or our dismissal of the fact that simply existing means we are enough. The fact that being alive counts for something, something important and vital. And when we ask when is it enough? We have to know that there is no answer. Instead, we have to get comfortable leaning back in the many that abound.

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  1. Ana V. Martins February 10, 2017 at 10:54 am

    This piece really touched me.

    I have the feeling I could have written this: ” (…) what to do? Simply, we search. And we embrace our own ways of searching. For me, this searching is most often expressed through writing. (…) As I write, I make space. As I write, I quiet the voices and answer my own questions. The questions that gnaw at me until I bleed.”

    Thank you so much for sharing the meanders of your soul searching because, pardon my French, but this is fucking beautiful.

    1. February 10, 2017 at 10:17 pm

      Ahh, Ana! You have no idea how much this comment means to me. Thank you! I’m so glad this resonated with you and that you connect with my meanderings. It’s comforting to know that I’m not just shouting into the void. Thank you for reading. <3

  2. Sytze February 22, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    WOW! Amazing piece of writing, right into my heart, filled now with the comfort of not being alone in this, and ways to cope with it :) Thank you!

    1. February 23, 2017 at 9:23 am

      This makes me so happy to read, Sytze! So glad you related to this and got something out of it. :) Thank you for reading!!


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