E is for Enough

E is for Enough

I had been working on this material for a number months and could not seem to get it quite right.  Then I was introduced to the Brene Brown giving two Ted Talks on Vulnerability and Shame – which I highly recommend – and I realized that I was being held hostage by some notion of “perfect”.  And if I couldn’t do this perfectly then I wasn’t going to expose myself.  Even now as I write I feel self-conscious and exposed and narcissistic.  In other words, vulnerable.

What are our experiences of enough?  What’s your first response if someone asks you, “Did you get enough? Do you have enough?”  One thought is that enough implies a limit, a settling, a compromise.  Do you have enough time, energy, sleep, money, sex?   Haven’t we all been taught to want, expect, and demand “more”?

Then there’s the always fun question: Am I enough? That one can easily activate my internal Greek Chorus of, “No, not really.”  And the list of areas and characteristics and action and in-actions that have been tried and found wanting is instantly available for reference.  My internal critic makes the Internet Cloud look like an amateur.

And, enough by what standards?  By whose criterion? Parents? Teachers? Priests, Preachers, and Rabbis?  God? The right group in school?  I’ve observed over the years that there is a stated or implied guideline/rule for every human action and inaction.  A deeply imbedded – notice I didn’t say inherent – sense of what is right or correct.  In other words there’s always a standard that I’m failing to meet or live up to.  Basically we’re up against endless variations and permutations of perfect.  As far as I can tell it goes like this in one form or another: “If you/I could only do/not-do X, Y, Z then… we’d be OK/perfect.”  I’m pretty sure the game is rigged and not in our favor.  So, why do we keep playing?  My theory on this is that we have a secret belief that maybe we can actually pull it off and beat the system.  If we just worked a little harder, were a little more courageous and creative we could pull it off.

So let’s separate perfect from enough and see what happens. When is the last time you had an experience of enough?   It comes up around any of our rituals of giving and receiving as on birthdays or Christmas. The overwhelming obligation to figure out what to get people.  The anticipation as people open the gift we have given them hoping that their faces will tell us we did it right.  What is it we’re hoping to experience on either side of these rituals of giving and receiving?  What “click” are we hoping to hear or see that makes the world ok – for the moment at least.  Is it enough? Or, was more wanted, expected, demanded?  In the face of all this the idea of enough just doesn’t seem to cut it.  Enough seems like settling.  We often end up pretending we really were dying for the socks and underwear when deep down we wanted…What?  And the real killer is that even when we do get “the thing” we wanted we soon want more.

Here are some things I know about enough:

Enough is not settling, it is completion.

Enough is affirmative rather than defensive.

Enough is often not fancy.

The war of perfection is over – we won.

Enough is what is.

There’s a relatedness/balance/click to the “enough” that knows.

Enough brings a smile, a release of tension, a harmony.

Enough, unlike perfection, is available.

This post isn’t perfect, but it will have to be enough.

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15 Comments on “E is for Enough”


  1. And it IS good enough! I also like the photo, especially the perfect (gotcha!) irregularity of the edges.

  2. alejandra Says:

    And Enough is exactly what I needed to know when looking for more.

  3. Laura Y Says:

    so, after reading your post, i was curious about the word “enough” which dictionary.com defines as: “adequate for the want or need; sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire”. I was reflecting on times when I felt the magic “enough” — not the hands up in frustration ENOUGH!, but the quiet peace and assurance of satisfaction. The end of the definition “satisfy desire”…is the underlying condition one of the Buddhist’s “hungry ghosts”? Why has our capacity to be filled up been blunted? Looking at food, why do so many people not even know when their body has had enough? Are we not nourished by what we consume? And — if we circle that idea back to the kind of “enough” that you describe — are we somehow not truly taking in the satisfaction available to us? Or perhaps our unique peculiar culture has programmed us to feel “never enough” in an effort to keep us buying more, bigger, better. Enough doesn’t stand a chance. Which is a real shame, because enough is subtle and sublime…and necessarily temporary. (<3 U, AK)

  4. Radish Leaf Says:

    E is also for Elegance. Your blog entry expresses Enough with elegance and insight. And, in itself, it is… Enough.


  5. Enough is contentment.

  6. Jerry DiPego Says:

    I really embrace this, Alan. ‘a smile, a release of tension, a harmony.’ With that bell ringing in our minds we really know what enough is and how it feels. Love your last line, too. Thanks. Jerry

  7. Robyn Says:

    Enough, right now with this blog, is perfection! It’s just what I have been thinking about too, and leave it to you to put it exactly into words…that make sense! You are the best, Allen.

  8. keg125@aol.com Says:

    ‘I’m pretty sure the game is rigged and not in our favor.”

    Thank the gods and all creation it isn’t!!

  9. Sierra Says:

    I notice that when i think of “enough”, what’s conjured in my mind is fear because it used to be my inner critic who used the word most frequently like “thats not enough!”. I’ve been trying to remind myself of Winnicott’s “good enough” to neutralize my negatively charged and inappropriate usage and appreciation of the word. I love “enough” means “a smile, a release of tension, and a harmony”. BTW, Allen I miss you!!! :)

    • allenkoehn Says:

      Thanks for the response. Yes, yeah for Winnicott. So, when are you going to lock the kids in the basement and come do a doctorate? Ha Ha.

  10. Deb Keller Says:

    I’d printed out the blog with the intention to read it when I had “enough” time… I found myself this morning feeling like the LIST of all the things I had to do WITHOUT enough time was daunting and haunting me calling me to action. I happpened to be at the home of a colleague, having stayed the night to be a companion to their two retrievers. Lovely home with beautiful views from the windows and I thought this would be a good time to read. Then I wondered if I should be reading some other documents as this was not “important enough” because it was something that was for me, but not work or for someone else. I stopped, chose a chair near the big window, both dogs settled near me and I read your blog out loud – slowly… “Enough is often not fancy… Enough brings a smile, a release of tension, a harmony…Enough, unlike perfection, is available.” It was as if I got my breath back. I sighed, put my head back on the chair and closed my eyes. Enough is available – right now, each moment. It is. Turned my day around. Gave me a moment to pause, breathe, see, allow. Enough is a bit of Grace in real time. Thank you Allen :)


  11. I noticed recently that friends (including me) who are often told “oh, you are too much,” are the same ones who feel they will never be enough. And that said the Cat in the Hat is that.


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