Author’s Note: this post on scarcity is brought to you from my internal monologue, which has been very negative and not that helpful in the past. Moving from an attitude of “I’ve About Had Enough” to “I Have Enough” has been a game changer in terms of how I see my life and those in it. 🙂
In the past, whenever I had struggles in my life, I would find myself saying things like, I think I’ve about had enough. At what point, I wondered, would I finally be able to admit that I’d had enough and that this life I tried to make for myself wasn’t working after all? What would finally be the sign that I should cut and run, quit my job, move away, start over? When would it finally be time to “go nuclear,” as my friend Campfire calls it?
This mindset of “I’ve about had enough and every day that I’m here is just delaying the inevitable” may seem harmless, but over the past year or so, I discovered that it’s actually quite toxic. For example:
- Work life – When good things happen in my life such as raises or promotions, I automatically experience fear, because it means I’m that much more enmeshed with my current situation and it will be more painful to leave when I finally need to. Result: 🙁
- Home life – I rent, and I’m happiest when I’m on a month-to-month lease (as I currently am) so I can literally pack up and leave in 30 days–not that I ever have, but, you know, just in case. This results in feeling rootless and like I don’t have a real home. Result: 🙁
- Friends – I don’t like making plans too far in the future. If someone asks me, “Want to do [something I’d love] in four months?”, my first response is hesitation–because what if I’ve left town by then? Not that I say it out loud, but I don’t want to make promises I’m not 100% sure I can keep. This makes me look wishy-washy to people I care about, and I also feel sad when they talk about fun things they might do without me if I’ve left by then (which I never have by the time the fun event rolls around). Result: 🙁
- Hobbies – I’ve quit writing my novels and instead write exclusively here on my blog–because I can’t just commit to a single project that takes up so much time and might not “go anywhere” anyway. Result: neutral, at leas I enjoy blogging as an alternative. 😐
What did all of these have in common? They all stem from the mindset that you’re probably not okay right now and you will be really not okay soon, so I should be ready to jet at all times. Don’t get connected, don’t get comfortable. Because you’re going to lose it all soon anyway.
Enough was Enough
The problem (for me) is that I’ve “gone nuclear” before, and it actually worked out pretty well. After college, I landed in a dead-end job that paid $11 an hour, which I knew wouldn’t cover rent plus car insurance plus loan payments once they became due. My friends had all moved back home, so I was alone in a city of millions of people except for my grandmother, who lived an hour away. I had a 50-minute commute to drive 6 miles in LA traffic, a soul-sucking way to spend over eight hours a week.
I was miserable and lonely and broke. All of the areas of my life were set to 🚽.
Finally, I decided, enough was enough. One hot August day during my lunch break, I called my cousin in Denver on a whim and said, “I want to move to Colorado. Can I stay with you while I get on my feet?” It was spur-of-the-moment and not well thought out, but she accepted on the spot, delighted and excited.
My second call was to my mother, to let her know I decided I’d be leaving the state. She was not delighted and excited, but I had made my decision, and nothing could stop me.
Two months later, I was living in Denver. I woke up every morning to look out my window and marvel at the Rocky Mountains. I was able to get rid of my car, because Denver has a better public transportation system than LA does, and I got a free Metro bus pass with my job. The cost of living was less, and I could cover all my bills. I made some amazing friends, I had extended family close by, and I felt like I belonged.
Not two years later, my company transferred me to Texas. Here there are no Rocky Mountains, no extended family, and I spent much of the last several years feeling like I didn’t belong–waiting for that one day, always waiting for enough to finally be enough so that I would know it’s time to exchange all my Scrabble tiles and start fresh somewhere new.
I’ve About Had Enough
To be honest, I always thought this was normal. I thought everyone lived their life with one eye on their watch and one foot out the door, until I read Getting to Commitment: Overcoming the 8 Greatest Obstacles to Lasting Connection. While the book focuses on commitment within romantic relationships, I found that most of it actually applied to how I approach almost all parts of my life. For example, if I replace love with lives, I get the following:
As much as we may protest that we seek genuine [lives], too often we are more attracted to fantasies than to real [life]. And frequently we also want unrealistic guarantees. We want to know what the future will hold; we want to know for sure that [the lives] we choose will be able to deliver on our initial promises. A fact of life, however, is that real [life] offers no guarantees. We are not always perfect, those [in our lives] are not always perfect, and the [lives we choose] are not always perfect.
Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.
I’ve never not compared my life to the imaginary “opportunity cost” of my fantasy life, conveniently forgetting that even when I have been okay-est, there were dark days. Everyone suffers, everyone struggles. It doesn’t mean everything in my life needs to be thrown out.
This fantasy of starting my whole life over somewhere else was based on a fantasy of what my brand new shiny life could look like. Comparing what you have to some fuzzy ideal of what you could have is foolish. The future is uncertain no matter what, and all lives have sadness and suffering. Quitting your job to try to write full-time (or whatever your particular flavor of fantasy) is no guarantee that you’ll somehow avoid pain for the rest of your living days.
Here’s the other problem with waiting for a sign that your life (or some area of your life) should be abandoned: ultimately, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you — Matthew 7:7.
Our brains are assholes, and confirmation bias is a thing. Look for a reason to think you’ve had enough, and you’ll find it. As long as you live your life with the assumption that you’re leaving your current situation as soon as you’ve finally had enough, you’ll always feel as though you’re almost there… and you’re likely to throw away something that would actually be great if you had a different mindset.
And here’s the real rub: if you do finally “have enough” and jump ship, you’re taking that mindset and all that baggage with you, so even if you land somewhere absolutely amazing, you’ll still spend all your time looking for ways in which you’ve had enough, until the cycle repeats itself.
According to Brené Brown, this constant personal focus on whether or not we “have enough” actually stems from our culture of perceived scarcity. In Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, she writes:
We spend inordinate amounts of time calculating how much we have, want, and don’t have, and how much everyone else has, needs, and wants. […] We are often comparing our lives, our marriages, our families, and our communities to unattainable, media-driven versions of perfection, or we’re holding up our reality against our own fictional account of how great someone else has it.”
Do you operate from a place of scarcity? Fill in the blank in the following sentence: “Never _______ enough.” It’s shockingly easy. Maybe your answers look like mine have in the past:
- Never noticed enough
- Never needed enough
- Never loved enough
…ouch. Thank God for therapy, amiright?
So, yeah. If you assume you’re not okay or you don’t have enough [insert perceived scarcity here], you’ll be unhappy and you’ll always notice the ways you’re not okay. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This all sounds incredibly dire, until we remember just how powerful the human brain (and its mindset) is: when you look for ways that you do have enough, you’ll might just find them. The opposite of “not enough” is not “plenty,” it’s “enough.”
What if we started looking for ways in which we are noticed enough, we are needed enough, we are loved enough? We’d be more likely to find them. Once you’ve identified those areas in your life in which you’re operating from a place of scarcity, you can start to change your perspective on it. Rather than focusing on when things aren’t going well, you can focus on things that are going well.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t change jobs if your current situation is bad. This is not to say that you shouldn’t leave a relationship if it isn’t working for you. But it’s important to separate your understanding of the current situation from an unknown fantasy, and identify what would be enough.
Much love. – Lindsay