Defining "Enough"

A fistful of four-leaf clovers plucked from the alfalfa field last summer
In the past few years, I've worked really hard to realign my priorities, but old habits die hard, as the saying goes. My intention has been to focus on meaning, creativity, and everyday happiness. My energy has been redirected away from the pursuit of fabricated ideals towards building a life that works for me. And overall,  I've done a lot of good work in this regard.

But then along came income tax season. I was forced to face the financial realities of this new life path I've chosen. All of a sudden, my joyful day-to-day existence no longer felt like "enough."

Let me start off by saying that money has always been the big scary monster under my proverbial bed. As much as I love words, I have equal disdain for numbers. They make my head hurt. I used to solve this problem by striving to earn a lot of money. Then surely, one day, I'd have enough. Enough to pay the bills, enough to cover any "rainy day" scenarios, and most importantly, enough to generally ignore my finances altogether. It was a false sense of security, but I clung to it nonetheless.

Now I spend much more time doing things that make me feel fulfilled...digging in the dirt, cooking wholesome meals, writing in my journal, enjoying the company of a loving partner, and surrounding myself with plants and animals...

Good bye ergonomic desk injuries! Adios, petty power struggles with coworkers! No room for you here.

If happiness is the ultimate currency, just call me Suze Ormann. So why did an unexpected debt (manageable, but unpleasant nonetheless) to good old Uncle Sam leave me questioning all that?

I've given it a lot of thought, and here's what I've come up with: as soon as I felt financially insecure, I reverted back to that old mentality..."must earn more!" But honestly, earning more has nothing to do with me feeling secure financially. Even when I did earn a lot more, I felt financially insecure. If I had been more organized about my finances in the past year, I would have seen this tax-time expense coming.

Which leads me back to the notion of "enough." I've been thinking a lot about that word this week. I even looked it up. To have "enough" means to meet your needs, demands, and expectations. Therefore, until we define our needs, we will never have "enough." On the emotional front, I learned this lesson a while ago. But it's taken me 32 years to connect the dots with money.

Which is why I've gotten serious about budgeting lately. Embarrassing as it is, I have been a slacker for far too long. Fortunately, for those of us with special needs, there are all sorts of web resources available. Right now, I am loving  All of a sudden, I feel like I've got my shit together.

Thin enough, rich enough, smart enough, successful enough. It's all relative. What do you need to feel like you have enough? Once you know, you can make it happen. I'm finding all it takes is some planning and perspective.

Tasha Lehman (March 29, 2011 at 4:17 PM)  

I really enjoyed this and I agree so much! We've definitely simplified our lives since moving to Vermont and trying so very hard to focus on contentment. There's nothing like a beautiful view of the mountains to make you feel small and think past shallow things like nice cars and fancy houses!

Stacie (March 30, 2011 at 9:54 AM)  

I have a very similar outlook as you! No matter how much I have coming in or saved I always feel like it's never enough. This post gave me a better perspective and I'm really thankful to you for posting it.

Alison (March 30, 2011 at 10:04 AM)  

Tasha & Stacie:
Thanks for your comments! We need to keep reminding each other not to panic about money and to enjoy ourselves! It's not easy, though. It's a deep-rooted anxiety.

I made beans and rice for dinner last night. My grocery bills have been ridiculous, and part of turning over this new leaf with budgeting involves trimming some supermarket expenses. Not really my most exciting meal, but it only cost $6 for both of us and it was tasty, nonetheless.

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