There Is Enough

Here’s something to add to your list of things not to do: spend a week talking about God and art, fly home, go directly to the outlet mall. Not sanity inducing.

I spent last week at the Glen West Workshop in Santa Fe. I feel as if it reversed the spin of my subatomic particles—in a good way.

While searching for what might have shifted my perceptions, I realized that I spent so little time last week wanting things: wanting people to be different from who they are, wanting my life—or at least my income source and the state of my bathroom floor—to be different from what it is, wanting more dessert (OK, so there were eight flavors of self-serve ice cream, two of them chocolate, which was pretty magical).

We talked so little about discontent. We talked about poetry and writing habits and how to construct a play and where we were from and whether the worship service had gotten us to a prayerful place. And when we discussed difficult things, we focused on our experiences and what we might do next rather than assigning blame.

I do not think this happened because we were a gathering of saints who never speak ill of others in our daily lives. I think it happened because the Glen somehow managed to create an environment that says, there is enough: enough time, enough opportunity, enough talent, enough people who care, enough love. An environment that is the opposite of the one I found at the outlet malls.

Granted, it is easier to believe this when someone else is cooking your food and doing the dishes to boot, but I’m convinced that our everyday existence could be filled with so much more enoughness than it tends to be.

I don’t know how yet, but I intend to find out.

What We Need

You have everything you need was the theme of our church retreat this week. Apparently it’s going to take me more than one day to master that concept.

To find out how truly bad you are at knowing what you need, go to a buffet. I went to two very good ones in one fabulous day this week.

In case you’ve forgotten, at a buffet, all the food is infinitely replenished. You cannot run out. The person in front of you cannot take the last piece of Tandoori chicken because the kitchen will bring more. Because it is a buffet.

Is my reaction to this state of abundance relief, peace, and contentment? Do I think, wow, there is more food here than I and everyone else in the room could ever eat in one sitting, what a wonderful, relaxing, rare, and magical situation in which to find myself?

If you guessed that the answer to the above questions is yes, thank you. You must be new to reading the blog. Alas, you are also mistaken.

My first instinct is to load up my plate to ensure that I get my fair share. I worry that I won’t get enough when too much is guaranteed. I avoid painful overeating only by holding myself strictly in check, like Dr. Strangelove fighting down his arm as it tries to salute. (If you haven’t seen Dr. Strangelove, you’re leading a deprived life. You can find out how deprived by watching this clip.)

So my judgment of what I need may be a tiny bit off, say three or four stomach’s worth. I might try remembering the buffet problem when my mind is working to convince me I can’t live without the latest whizbang whoozewutsit.

Of course if it’s a chocolate whoozewutsit, bring on the buffet.

Morning Matters

The other night I stayed up past my bedtime, which happens often and generally leads me to resent having to brush my teeth. Sometimes, though, when I’m too tired to be useful, small epiphanies arrive. On this particular night, a peaceful feeling bubbled up and with it a thought: maybe the little things we do in the morning are enough.

Morning isn’t really complicated. Many of you may have figured this out already. Tasks tend to repeat on a daily basis: shower, brush teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast. Remarkable.

The thing is, I have a little reality problem. In the evening, I arrive home around six. My evening to-do list generally reads something like the following:

  • Exercise
  • Sell novel
  • Clean entire house
  • Cook dinner
  • Play with cat
  • Answer all emails
  • Go to bed by 9:30

This list produces mostly guilt and a doomed attempt to stuff the unfinished items into the following morning. My vanmates can attest to the success of this approach.

I did not invent the possibility that getting dressed and eating breakfast is enough. Wise people have been telling the rest of us that for a large chunk of human history (most notably for me Paula D’Arcy, Kathleen Norris, and William Stafford). But despite hearing them say it, I’ve practiced it precious little.

The word “enough” often connotes just the opposite for us Americans. “Enough” in this case means “holy,” not “only.” Which inevitably raises the specter of the G word: God.

About God: I do not claim to know how you should call that power or connection or love, how you should interact with it, or even whether you should believe in it. The previous admissions make clear my lack of qualifications for that judgment. I will write only about my sense of and experience with God. Please translate freely into any language or frame of reference that helps you.

In my way of relating to this existence, God gave me a tiny taste of what it would feel like to honor daily tasks, an enticement, a temptation. If I could welcome the morning instead of launching myself against it, that peaceful feeling might seep into the rest of the day and, one can hope, outward to those I meet.