Enough

In 2016, the Danish concept of hygge took the internet by storm.

I’m fervently hoping that 2018’s buzzword will be lagom.

According to Anna Brones, the author of Live Lagomlagom means “just right” or “enough”.

IMHO enough is a concept the planet is in desperate need of…

For me, enough means being attuned to the concepts of equity and justice and humility.

Equity: I shouldn’t take more than my fair share.

Justice: I recognize that suffering occurs when some take more than their fair share.

Humility: I understand I am merely one person in amongst 7.6 billion; Who-the-hell-do-I-think-I-am imagining I somehow deserve more than my fair share?

How does this translate to real life?

It means I try my best to cultivate a simple and minimalistic life.

It means I focus on what’s important: family, health, friends.

It means I take responsibility for my actions.

It means I say No to thoughtless consumerism.

It means quality takes precedence over quantity.

It means recognizing that my need for self-expression or fun or convenience should not come at the expense of other inhabitants of this planet.

Enough: it’s what 2018 needs.

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12 thoughts on “Enough

  1. This is a bit convicting today as I sit on a warm island with my husband and children and MIL and FIL, getting progress pictures from our remodel. My natural instinct is pushing back a bit, despite believing that your statements are true and just. It makes me wonder though…who decides what enough looks like? What a fair share looks like? Things I’m pondering…

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    1. I knew this post would elicit some push-back…
      I don’t have concrete answers, Kate, but I do think this is a really important discussion to be having and I’m grateful to you for wading into it with me.
      Who decides what enough looks like? Right now, that’s a decision we each get to make on our own. If we can afford to (or if we can go into debt to finance it) we’re completely free to do whatever (lawful) things we please, to live our lives as maximalist consumers who don’t have a care in the world. It’s got to be admitted that this is the way things have pretty much ALWAYS been: there have always been haves and have-nots and life has never been fair. I think the difference today, though, is two-fold: a maximalist now has much greater scope to affect the environment (sailing ships vs. airplanes; “once in a lifetime trips” vs multiple trips a year; products that stood the test of time vs plastic and disposable everything) PLUS there are just SO MANY MORE people, so the effect is magnified.
      I sometimes think about the way that most children instinctively *get* the concept of fairness, and seem motivated to work towards that ideal, and it’s only when they become adults that that belief system goes out the window. And I suppose we could all just shrug and say, Well, that’s just the way the world is; grow up!, were it not for the fact that our way-of-living (in varying degrees of maximalism and never-enough; even a minimalist who lives in Western society is likely to come off as privileged to the poorest of the poor) is using up four-ish planets’ worth of resources. I think if we don’t collectively recognize the un-sustainability of this, a very painful conviction is going to come within a decade or two, and it’ll come from our children. And at that point, I fear we won’t be the ones deciding what enough looks like.
      On a positive note: there are so many benefits to living a simpler and more minimalistic life of enough. There’s less stress, less time wasted looking after stuff, less money required, and more of the things that actually do matter, like family, friends and health. Studies have shown that MORE does not equal happy, but that enough *does*. So if all of our excess isn’t even making us happy, and is killing the planet to boot, then surely we should be having a serious re-think into how we live our lives…
      /painfully earnest idealist steps off soapbox/

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  2. I think my internal push back comes from it’s an either/or mentality. I don’t think one is either a minimalist or a maximalist to some degree. Having one bowl and one spoon and one knife and a capsule wardrobe and taking a once in a lifetime trip instead of taking smaller adventures may work for some but not everyone. And some of those things may work for some people more easily than others. And while I agree that children often have an innate sense of fairness, I also think they *do* tend to see things with a sense of simplicity in a world that is far less black and white.

    As always, I appreciate your posts and your thoughts and know that if something you wrote is sticking with me or I’m feeling a little reactive, it’s obviously something I need to spend time thinking on and considering.

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    1. The thing with minimalism is that it’s not a one-size fits all, here-are-the-rules-you-must-follow type thing. “The Minimalists” (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus) look very different than Joshua Becker (becomingminimalist.com). But what they have in common is the notion that the things/activities/people you have in your life should be there for a reason, and should be worthwhile. It’s not about the numbers of items you have; it’s about examining your life and deciding what is important and what is not. I would argue that while that’s something that has ALWAYS been important, it’s now crucial. Carbon levels are now at 408 ppm and we’re still shipping complete crap halfway around the world so our kids can have a half-hour of fun? /simmering with anger/

      To clarify: when I contrasted a once-in-a-lifetime trip versus many trips a year, I wasn’t saying that minimalists must only take one trip in their lifetime. Rather, I was giving a historical perspective: before the advent of airplanes, people didn’t travel much, because it just wasn’t possible, and when they did, their modes of transportation were mostly less harmful to the environment (horse and buggy, sailing ships, trains (I don’t know how trains would compare from an environmental perspective)). Nowadays, flights are dirt cheap and going on several vacations a year has pretty much become the norm in Canadian middle/upper-middle class society, the thing one is now “expected” to do. Everything, it seems, has gone the way of MORE; I’m simply suggesting that ENOUGH is a more ethical way to live.

      I completely agree that the world is not black and white, and that children see things in a more simplistic manner. I think the thing I was trying to get at (and I don’t think I succeeded) is that children not only want fairness, but they also recognize when something is simply wrong. Perhaps my stance IS actually child-like, but this, for me, has become an issue of black-and-white, right-and-wrong morality. (I do still see all the greys, but I won’t be swayed by them.) As Margaret Atwood said in The Handmaid’s Tale: Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it. Children, it seems to me, have the luxury of claiming ignorance; adults, on the other hand, are working hard at ignoring. (I’m not saying that you, Kate, personally, are working hard at ignoring; but I am saying that plenty of adults are.)

      (And I apologize, in advance, if I’ve come off tetchy in these comments to you, Kate. I’m reeling from profound disappointment and disgust at the lack of principles displayed by someone who should have been the model of principled behaviour. I probably should not have even attempted to write a blog post while feeling this way…)

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  3. Your thoughts and comments are well intentioned and well received and I hope you know mine are as well. I love your passion. I just won’t always agree with you. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for this, Kate. I’m grateful for your friendship and for your willingness to (virtually) walk alongside me and to take part in these kinds of discussions, even when we end up having to agree to disagree.
      xo Marian

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  4. I read this at the end of a second long day of getting my house ready to put on the market. It has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms and over 2,000 square feet, and I live here alone. It has and is too much, in every way possible: Too much space, too much maintenance, too much money, too many painful memories. This week, we will finally have finished the last of the big projects: The kitchen remodel, begun just over a year ago. When it is done, every room in the house will have been improved, as well as the exterior. It will, in some ways, be very hard to leave it. It is lovely, and much of the renovation was a labor and act of love.

    Over the course of the past two years, I have become painfully aware of how unfair life has been for so many people in my country. I know I have such a home in part because of deep, systemic injustice. I think back to the days when we bought this house and I devoted so much of my time and creative energy to questions of home and design. That I could occupy myself that way is also due, in part, to deep, systemic injustice.

    I still love questions of home and I will always enjoy design and pleasing environments, but I cannot unsee the things I’ve seen in the past two years, about so many different kinds of injustice and pain. My quest now is to sell this house and buy a smaller one. I want less house so that I can spend more of my life on things that matter more than Pantone’s color of the year. I want to consume less and preserve more. I want less time cleaning house and more time talking with friends. I want to live within my means (and my means aren’t what they were a year ago).

    I think “enough” captures all of this perfectly. I love the simplicity of this post; you used just enough words to make your meaning perfectly clear.

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    1. Sending you a hug, Rita, for everything you’ve gone through and are going through. I wish I had words to help you get through this.

      “I cannot unsee the things I’ve seen”. You and me both, Rita. (The inability to unsee is the subject of a post I’ve been working on for a month; I don’t know if I’ll ever get it right enough to hit publish.)

      I can completely empathize with your mixed feelings about your house. We were renovating during the exact time period you were, and because I was already “seeing” everything, I found it very difficult. Not only did I resent the time and mental energy spent on the tasks, but I also felt the weight of privilege in being in a position to be able to do the things we did when I knew full-well that others did/do not. FWIW, your home (and your blog) always struck me as authentic and down-to-earth. If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have stuck around and we wouldn’t be here, having this conversation. I know that it’s a really fine line, and it’s easy to get carried away, to start trawling the internet for all the pretty pictures and to let one thing snowball into the next, but I do still believe it’s possible to walk that line. And the fact is, it’s important to take care of one’s home, because home is — to some small degree — an extension of oneself. I don’t mean this in an ostentatious way, and I’m not at all suggesting that we are defined by whether we have hardwood or linoleum. Honestly, I think you had a point with your tagline — how we do home is how we do life. Because although peeling 80s wallpaper is technically not hurting anyone…it kinda sorta somehow still IS, and we all-seeing hamster-wheelers should maybe, just maybe, cut ourselves a little bit of slack over it. I hope when you manage to find a smaller house that you’re able to allow yourself to do “enough”, to take care of it in the ways you need in order to turn it into a comfortable home. There’s something in that which can be both meditative and restorative, and let’s face it, we’re no good to anyone if we’re frozen with guilt. (I’m projecting here; I really hope you’re not actually frozen with guilt.)

      It’s weird, and I didn’t realize it until I published this post, but it’s not just the planet that needs the word enough; I’m personally in need of it, too. Enough procrastinating about a course I want to take. Enough (metaphorical) beating my head against a brick wall in trying to make the it’s-all-fun-and-games people see reason. Enough hours spent working for free at the expense of my mental health. Enough trying to deal with serious, serious issues all on my own. Enough staying quiet when words are needed. I’ve never before purposefully set out to do that defining-word-of-the-year blogger thing, but it certainly seems that I’ve stumbled into it with this post.

      May your house sell quickly, Rita, and all my best wishes in your search for another.

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  5. So much in your words here that resonate with me, Marian. For quite a while our old tagline seemed to be mocking me, but I’m coming back around to it. In fact, I think it’s partly why I finally realized that selling and getting into something smaller was the right thing to do. For me, it’s all connected to another idea that’s been kicking around in my head a lot over the past few years: Saying no to one thing allows us to say yes to another. I don’t like to think of life as a zero sum game, but in some ways, in some things, I think it is. Love never is, but time (maybe?) always is. Money for sure is. Both of those things have absolute limits, and both have such an impact on what our life is. I’ve been finding it really useful to think hard about what it is I need and want in a home. My “need” list is full of practical things–energy efficient, safe, affordable–but I also put on my need list that there must be at least one thing in the home that I just love–a big window in the front room or original cabinets in the kitchen or a clawfoot tub or a beautiful small garden or some such thing. I know that listing that as a need is (again) a sign of privilege. But I think that to be healthy, we all need some kind of beauty or comfort or art or creativity in our lives. Something that makes us feel good. For some people that comes through food or music or words. For me, it’s in my surroundings. To feel my best, I need a little bit of charm in them. Not a whole house full of it (though I wouldn’t turn that down if all the need things were there), but just enough to make my soul feel good.

    But it’s your last paragraph that really hits home for me. Perhaps it is just a stage of life thing (and you and I are in mostly the same one), but I no longer have a sense of infinite time. I’ll never stop wanting to be a good person and do some good in the world, but I’ve done enough there, too. I’ve taught (or impacted the education of) thousands of children and raised my own and fought a lot of good fights in my own little sphere of influence. I’ll keep doing those things as I can, but allowing that I’ve already done enough there will give me the freedom to think about all those kinds of things you’ve listed: classes, and health, and speaking (or not speaking) as I wish. Seeing what’s happening with the youth in my country is helping me to see that, in significant ways, my time is passing. And it’s OK. In fact, it’s kind of great. Don’t get me wrong–I wrestle mightily with seeing all the ways in which my generation and the ones before and after mine have failed them–but they give me great hope. And I remind myself that, perhaps, we also have something to do with the ways in which they are strong.

    I am so heartened to read these words from you, Marian. Here’s to both of us finding just exactly what is enough for us. I’m pretty sure it’s the key to being able to give in ways we’ve always wanted but struggled to do.

    Hugging you back–

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    1. I love what you’ve written here, Rita — it’s a mix of quiet positivity and matter-of-fact acceptance that feels just right.

      I absolutely see time as a zero sum game. (Strangely, I have ALWAYS felt the pressure of time passing; even as a young child I needed to do things I deemed “worthwhile”.) What I’ve come to really understand over the last few months is that the time spent on certain tasks can spill over and affect other tasks if we bring along emotional baggage from the first task, so that even if the actual time allotted to task #1 is small, it can rob from subsequent tasks. I feel like this is something that should have been obvious, but unfortunately it’s something I’m just now getting. This makes it all the more necessary to choose tasks wisely when going forward. I’ve been listening to The Minimalists podcasts lately, and at the end of their latest one they talked about the fact that any anchor that you’ve picked up, you can also set down. This has been such a hard thing for me to process, the laying down of (metaphorical) anchors: how do you discern the difference between choosing to set something down as a positive action (because it’s not fitting you or serving you or is actually harming you) versus setting something down in a negative way (because you’re quitting or you’re weak or you’ve simply given up)? This is not a question that you have to attempt to answer (I doubt there IS a cut-and-dry answer), but this sort of questioning definitely colours the way I look at time and makes decisions around the matter of time and tasks damned hard to come by.

      “I think that to be healthy, we all need some kind of beauty or comfort or art or creativity in our lives.” Yes, yes, yes. Last week, I made my son’s 13th birthday card. I was having a really, really, really bad week. But as I worked on his card, as I concentrated on getting the lettering right (I found an elven font online; he’s a big LOTR fan), I could feel my anxiety falling off my shoulders. It was like meditation, and I came out of that hour and a half (ish) feeling as though a weight had been shifted, like I could breathe properly again. And it hit me, how much I NEED some sort of physical creative outlet in my life, some tangible thing that has flowed from my hands. Words are good, but words, I’m coming to realize, are (for me) a double-edged sword. They can sort and soothe, but they can also stoke.

      “I remind myself that, perhaps, we also have something to do with the ways in which [youth] are strong.” This is something I keep hanging onto, Rita, the hope that this is indeed the case. I’ve only (I think) influenced my own three, but I do hope I managed to do this well (or at least, as well as could be expected given the resources I had at the time). I *do* envy teachers; I think it would be lovely to know that you’ve positively influenced so many young lives.

      I’m SO glad to hear you have a list that includes the need for at least one thing you LOVE in your future house 🙂 . I’m like you — my soul needs *something* charming in its physical surroundings. I’m actually starting to get quite excited for you, and I dearly hope you find what you’re looking for…

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