I loved Valentines’ Day when I was a little girl. First thing in the morning I ran into my parents’ bedroom, where there was always a big box of chocolates waiting for my mother and a little red heart-shaped box with four chocolates waiting for me. I matched each of the chocolates up to the picture on the inside lid so that I could guess its filling, then I slowly savored each one. I loved those chocolates—no so much for the candy itself, but because I felt grown up and special, just like my mother, when my dad gave them to me.
Later in the day I would proudly march into school with my bag full of paper Valentines—one for each classmate. Carefully inserted into each miniature paper envelope was a single candy conversation heart. I spent hours carefully matching the message on each heart to its recipient. If I was lucky, a few of the Valentines that were given to me would also have a candy heart tucked inside or taped to the back.
My, how times have changed. This year my parents mailed a Valentine box to my daughters. It included videos, a t-shirt, and four large boxes of candy for each child. “How can they possibly savor any of it when there is so much?” I wondered. “And what is there left for their own daddy to give them?”
I didn’t want the girls to have all that candy. Oh how I didn’t want them to have all that candy! In fact, I actually pilfered one box of candy from each of them and threw it in the trash before giving them the gifts—I was just so dismayed by the sugar load. Still, my 5 year old wolfed her portion between gulps of milk, “It’s too sweet,” she explained, between greedy mouthfuls.
Then their friends arrived with Valentines. Besides the cards, each of them brought a little heart printed bag stuffed with (I counted) one mini pack of Skittles, two mini packs of M&M’s, a pack of Bottlecaps, a heart shaped sucker, and a whole box of conversation hearts.
I gotta tell you, I feel lost sometimes. So many voices constantly remind me that more is better—billboards, advertisements, supermarket displays, and even my own friends. And though I try to swim upstream, I often end up feeling strange, out of synch, and even a little guilty for my differences. But despite that I’m still not so sure that the voices are right.
I have enough little girl outfits in my house to clothe the children of an entire Cambodian village. Interestingly enough, I haven’t purchased clothes for any of my five daughters in years. We receive many, many gifts, for which I am wonderfully thankful. But because the clothes are gifts from Grandma, Auntie, or whomever, I feel obligated to keep and treasure them forever. Meanwhile, the piles keep growing.
We also have boxes and boxes full of toys at our house. I try to keep them organized so that we can make good use of their educational value, but the truth is, it’s an overwhelming task. Don and I were watching one of our daughters look for a doll to play with the other night. She tossed through piles of dolls—throwing a naked body here, a broken arm there—before finally finding something. I seem to always be giving toys away. But still, there is much to clean, arrange, order and remember to appreciate that there seems to be no time left to treasure anything.
I have my grandmother’s china, which I never use but cannot discard. I have furniture that doesn’t suit our lifestyle, but that I feel obligated to keep because it has been passed down. I have more games, music, and videos than I have time to enjoy, and I have more information than I can absorb, courtesy of the internet. Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in my own abundance.
And still, the relentless voices of the media and of people around me tell me that it is not enough. Just last week I attended an enrichment night in which we were encouraged to redecorate our house for every season—swapping out pictures, knick knacks, rugs, and slipcovers every few months. The first thought that came to my mind, “Where on earth would I put all the off season decorations?”
It is easy to be distracted by the churning speed of modern life. The mounting pressures to do, be, and buy more combine to convince us that the simple and the human are inadequate. Is it any coincidence that many women wonder if they themselves are enough? I was pondering that question this week, and my thoughts turned to Felicia’s Hanosek’s essay “How Much is Enough?” I love her candid look at the difficulty in balancing the many demands and she faces and roles she fulfills. I also like her acknowledgment that at its core the question of being enough is deeply spiritual, more a question of connection to the spirit than of organization, lists, and efficiency.
“Enough is as good as a feast,” says Mary Poppins. I think she’s wrong. Enough is better.
What about you? What have you had enough of? Do you feel like you are enough? And how do you maintain your center on days when the world seems to be asking for more than you can give? What is your favorite part of Felica’s essay?