How to Have Enough, part 1

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to have enough.

Even the concept seems dense: enough, a state whereupon one’s needs are met.

I can’t tell if this state often seems fictional because I have experienced not-enough, or because I live in a culture that tries to sell me on not-enough.

It’s confusing. I often feel mislead. I know at some point I learned not to try to have enough, and I got great at surviving. Isn’t surviving enough?

The first time I got a salaried job I was 26, and moved to NYC to start over with the assistance of landing an administrative assistant gig at an engineering department in Columbia University. I was going to be paid $32,000 a year – WEALTH beyond my comprehension, having most recently been making $310/week under the table.

This was more than anyone in my family made, and this was my way out, to enough. How soon until I bought all the tattoos and bike things and fancy vintage I’d long been eyeing and never allowing myself to want because the distance to having was impassable. How exciting to know I could finally plan ahead a little, save some money, maybe even travel.

What a slap in the face that first paycheck was, the reality of taxes having not been clear to me. The 10 hours a week I spent commuting were brooding time: is this what making it is? I thought office jobs were the way? What do people DO?!

I quit 9 months later and hustled and freelanced for a few years, much happier, making my way into a skill set that led to my next job: $25/hour temp worker for a large book publisher. I realized I could, and so paid to get my molars fixed up at a place that didn’t make you come in multiple sessions for a cleaning with teachers and students in your mouth. Healthcare at will – is this enough?

Here’s one way I’ve made it through being without enough – don’t want things you can’t have anyway. Dental work? Who cares. Shoes that don’t hurt? Pay no mind. It was easier to not want than to want and not get. This is one lesson hunger and lack can teach.

Here’s another – it shuts part of you down to deny your own need and desire. It is more alive to acknowledge the need, the desire, the want: these things in the body that crave and ache.

This gets confusing because in comes marketing, encouraging that part of us that wants, needs, desires, compares, and feels confused, to self-soothe with stuff. Why does it work? Because we all need things for our human bodies on this journey.

To resist capitalism is to resist letting external forces speak to that interior need. To embody our beings is to acknowledge that we have needs and desires, and part of autonomy is being able to act on those with a path to getting them met. Where in the middle lies enough?

Is it enough to have housing, even when it’s subpar? Is living alone in a large modern house the answer?
Is it enough to have food, even if you can’t choose it cuz it’s the food bank bag?
Is an all-local CSA the only answer?
Is it enough to have healthcare when you get bumped for surgery because you’re not paying full price?
Is sticking to an employer-paid fancy plan, even if you don’t like the employer, a great solution?
Is it enough to choose one kind of wellness but only one because that’s your budgeted spending limit?
Is blowing out a credit card in belief it will make you well the best other plan?
Is it enough when you can feed yourself but never, ever organic, worrying that the everyday food inside you causes sickness?
Is buying things that clothe you enough? Is buying things that please you enough?

This is a dichotomy — enough, and not-enough — but a relativist one to be sure. One persons’ not enough is someone elses’ plenty enough; one’s castoffs another’s riches. Expectation is baked into our classed read on our experiences, after all.

How to have enough? While what we think we need matters, It’s not just a mindset. There wouldn’t be mass movements in the US and globally around ending poverty and unequal wealth distribution if it were. Imagine just THINKING that you have enough making it so! If that worked, so many people would have successful businesses and lottery wins. Yet versions of this mindset-healing permeate: “do what you love and the money will come” etc.

I have done a LOT of what I love, and, well, some money came but when we toured around the US doing queer punk art shows we’d sing the song, “I see dollar signs, one dollar signs” and throw a bunch of ones around the van (and then clean them up and buy food) so while technically true, was it enough? It was enough to spend 2 weeks a year in a magical alternate universe, but that universe had to be carefully constructed around the realities of jobs, rent, and gas money.

I don’t want to generate a think-it-so enoughness alone. It’s important to ground each of our senses of “enough” in the things we actually want, love, and need. And it’s important to ground the actuality of us getting those things.