When is it enough?
I made the tragic mistake of entering Super Target today with my 3 kids in tow. I’m grateful to have made it back out without losing any of my offspring or my purse (though one of MacLean’s shoes is missing and we’re still not sure how.) I’m not complaining about the hustle and bustle of last-minute holiday shoppers. Usually, I’m one myself.
This year is different–The Todd and I were fired this summer (for the first time in our 25+ year career in radio!) and we’re still looking. In the meantime, we’ve worked on fundraisers (Erin’s Night In) and events for the special-needs community (Quiet Santa) while nagging various management types to hire us. As you can image, both parents losing their jobs makes for an extremely lean holiday. The checks I used to write without a thought are gone, and I’m back to stealthily adding up purchases at the grocery store on my calculator to make sure I have enough money when I get to the checkstand.
Here’s what’s interesting: I just don’t care.
Our sons have autism, so where other 13 year olds are screaming for an XBox or a laptop, my boys will be psyched by our refurbished iPad with new autism apps and the homemade fountain (MacLean looooves water) I’m making for the tiled family room. Zoe is 2, so she doesn’t know about all the stuff she’s “missing out” on. For The Todd, I found all the little bags of sand and shells we’d collected from vacation spots over the years and I’ve put them into jars from the Dollar Store and added labels and photos.
And we’re done. No gifts for neighbors (who I LOVE) or extended family. I tried to write as many letters of appreciation and good memories as I could and included photos when I found them.
This really isn’t an essay about who has more or how we should be grateful that WE have more than others–I never thought that theory was very good. It seemed like one-upmanship again. (“Yeah, we’re not the Smiths but at least we’re not the Browns!”) It’s about this: when it is enough?
Really. How much do we need? When did it get to this point that the kids didn’t stop opening gifts until they’d lost too much blood due to all the paper cuts from the wrapping and ribbons? The $500.00 trees? The $800.00 electrical bill? Mind you, I appreciate a well-lit home as much as the next mom, especially since we’ve spent a lot of time enjoying everyone else’s lights this season. But the man I love feels grief because he doesn’t feel like he’s “provided” for his family. I hate this, because we have enough.
We’re together. We have family and friends who love us. We’re alive. And where’s there’s life, there’s hope. We’ll likely be employed early in the New Year. We’re not afraid of hard work and we know we can repair our credit rating and bank balance. But I don’t ever think I’ll spend that way again. Because it never stops. It never seems to be enough. And through losing so much this year, I discovered the lesson I should have learned a long time ago. We have more than enough.
This is not an attempt to make anyone celebrate less, or share less, or give less. One of my favorite friends is from a Thai immigrant family who had one thin blanket and limited heat as a child. He buys cases of Girl Scout cookies, not boxes. He buys an entire aisle of toys, not just a cart load. I know why–he’s celebrating that he can. And he also shares generously with everyone. He gets great pleasure from helping pretty much everyone from extended family to the homeless shelter. But he’s also at peace. It’s a lot, but it’s enough. It’s the ache and the shame that you’re “less than” someone else because they have more that I hate.
Whether you have lots and lots, or just a little, I hope that it’s enough for you to share happiness with the people you love. And I hope we can all find that setpoint for ourselves where we can smile and say, “this is enough.”