I had a shaky first semester during my sophomore year at college. I left midway through, after a bout of mono put me too far behind to catch up. My anatomy teacher told me with her trademarked brutal frankness that she gave me a “withdraw passing” as an act of kindness.
So, I went home for the rest of the year, and got a job as a waitress in a family restaurant. My father was furious to lose a year’s tuition; he was furious that I had given up and given in. I was the focal point of that anger for months and it hollowed me out.
Not surprisingly, I was full of anxiety when I resumed college the next fall. Would I know enough? Would I be enough? I prepared for the first anatomy exam feverishly, to the point of exhaustion and a bit of resurrected-teenage-hysteria. My friend Laura finally took my books away from me and told me to go to bed. That little bit of hysteria quickly blew through me full force. I was desperate to get my books back.
“Margie,” Laura said in her calm voice. “You have done enough. You know enough. Go to bed.” I finally calmed down and did just that.
Of course, Laura was right. I aced the exam the next day, as I did on every practical and test that professor gave us during the rest of the year.
I think it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what is “enough” in this time when excess is so readily available. So much keeps getting bigger: houses, SUVs, portion sizes at restaurants. Credit card debt for a lot of us. Our cultural craving for bigger, better, faster, richer. Many of us don’t feel that it is all too much, that perhaps this is a society spinning a bit towards entropy.
I know about that out-of-control spin because that was my lifelong approach to eating. In my mind, there was never too much of a good thing if it sat on a plate in front of me. I ate too quickly to savor or enjoy. I believed that if a little butter was good, more was better; I drowned meat in sauces. I had no concept of “enough.”
Learning how to find that elusive“enough” took some discipline, but it also took some thought. I learned to eat my food more slowly, to put my fork down between bites, to pay attention to the signals my stomach was sending me. Finishing a meal no longer involved a clean plate, but instead focused on when I felt satisfied.
One of my past pet peeves regarding exercise was my complete belief that you could never do enough to satisfy a personal trainer. Start with six exercises and they would rapidly increase it to ten. Agree to a half hour of exercise three days a week and they would encourage you to do an hour. I believed that if I didn’t put a stop to it, they would have me exercising during every minute when I wasn’t asleep or at work.
I remember the first time I talked with my trainer Jess about my need to cut down on my exercise time. It was taking me over an hour to get through my routine. Jess took a look at everything I was doing and split it into two routines that would alternate. She didn’t look astonished or disappointed in me. She knew I was serious about what I was doing and she knew it was up to me to decide how much time to devote to it. She knew I was the one in control, I just didn’t know it until that moment! Since then, if I am given a new exercise to fit into my routine, I take something else away, or just mix them up a bit. I don’t do enough exercise to become a body builder or a professional athlete, but I do enough for me. Enough to be able to place possibilities in my life rather than limits.
I am finding that being thoughtful about getting and doing enough is helpful in every aspect of my life. It allows me to appreciate what I have, to savor without the guilt of over-indulgence.
What is too much for you in your life? What are the “enoughs” you need to discover? It is a worthwhile thought-journey!