Autumn work permeates these drizzling days. Grey skies, browned fields, yellowing leaves and the new chore of bringing in wood and lighting the wood stove every morning. There is still so much work to be done to be ready for winter — cutting and storing wood, harvesting the last of the Kale, cabbage and cauliflower, putting food by in jars, in the freezer and through the dehydrator. Jams and chutneys still need making. Green tomatoes ripening that need to be dried. The bounty even in a cold, damp year is overwhelming. And the generosity of friends overwhelms us even more. 3 boxes of winter squash, some saved from the compost pile, are sitting on my dining room table — gifts from generous gardening friends, who know we can’t grow squash.
I wake up with a perpetual to-do list buzzing in my brain. No time to go for a walk and enjoy the autumn drizzles, knowing that within a few weeks snow will take the place of rain. What? How can I live on 140 acres of wilderness paradise and not have time to enjoy it? Its the plague of the shoulds and musts that hound me and rob me of the joy of satisfaction. I don’t know when to say, “Enough”.
Is your dissatisfaction a motivator or a slave-driver?
Dissatisfaction is a motivator to get things done, to accomplish goals, to make a difference in the world. Nonconformists thrive with dissatisfaction. Yet this same dissatisfaction can act as a perpetual task master robbing you of your every day joy, contentment and inner peace. I read in the Bible yesterday that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” and that those who are constantly striving for money have “pierced themselves with many pains.” (Timothy 6)
The constant striving for other things, too, like weight-loss, esteem, love, fitness, business success, fame, can also cause us to “pierce ourselves with many pains”. Buddism teaches that our striving and expectations are a hindrance. That we need to let them go. To just release them and let them dissolve into the universe of nothingness, to be present in the moment. But the problem is that the expectations are still there. But we deny them so they go into the subterranean part of our mind — still motivating our behaviour but now influencing our relationships with other people, too. Don’t believe me? Think of the last time you had a conversation with a family member of their expectations for you where they responded with “I have no expectations”. There was no room for dialogue and the sting of their attitude toward you left you blaming yourself. “Enough,” I say.
Getting to the core issue: Contentment
The core issue is satisfaction and contentment. What does ‘enough’ look like to you? Deciding what constitutes contentment, satisfaction and enough-ness is what lies at the core of all the shoulds, have-tos and damning comparisons that exhaust you, prevent you from sleeping, and keep you blaming yourself. These are the phrases that go through your head that prevent you from doing your great work. The thing that you were created for.
The true measure of your self-worth
It can be compelling on the homestead to look at all the work that keeps piling up season after season, like manure in the sheep barn, stinking up our lives, stealing our joy and contentment. Every job takes longer than we think it will. Every season comes with another long lists of to-dos while we are still working on last season’s list. The jobs will always be there. Don’t measure your worth by the crossed out jobs on your to-do list. You have worth because you are. Period. End of story. You are beautiful because you are. Period. End of story.
Will you be more beautiful or have more worth if you lose weight? If you buy more beautiful clothes? If you have more success at work? If you have a bigger home? If you are more organized? If you could just make your husband (boyfriend, mother) accept you or love you more. If you could stop eating _________ or doing __________. No. Enough. You have worth and you are beautiful right now, as you are. There are theological reasons why this is true. There are scientific reasons why this is true. There are social reasons why this is true. You are beautiful and you have worth right now, without changing a thing about you. And the paradox is that if you can take hold of this truth, it will help you change the one thing you want to change because you love yourself.
The true measure of security and contentment:
Will you have more security if you finish your to-do list? Maybe if that is about bringing in food for the winter and putting food by. Maybe if that is about having enough wood to stay warm and cook with this winter. Maybe if that is about having warm clothes to wear in the winter for you and your family. If its about losing 100 lbs. or getting the latest IPad probably not. Those things tend to decrease security and prevent you from embracing “enough-ness”. Looking back at the Bible again, I read in Timothy “but if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.(I Timothy 6:8)” This is my measure of ‘enough’.
What constitutes ‘enough’ in every situation is up to you. You decide for yourself how much wood you need to get through the winter, how much food you need in storage this winter to feel secure and feed your family, how many warm sweaters, mittens and pairs of socks your family needs to get by. You decide how many bales of hay you need in the barn for your animals. You decide how much volunteer work you are able to give in your community, your church or synagogue. You decide whether to write a blog post or go for a walk this morning. Learn to define your own, “Enoughs” and you will find satisfaction. Can there ever be enough contentment?
Have you accepted other people’s expectations and then felt badly when you couldn’t live up to their idea of excellence? What would constitute ‘enough’ in that situation? In what area do you need to define ‘enough’ for your own contentment and peace of mind. Leave a comment.