Maybe it’s the never-finished back-to-school shopping with two teenage girls that brought me here.
I’ve been inundated with daily (hourly?) requests for new everything, and if one is good, three is better. It’s history repeating itself, I realize, because I remember putting my Mom through the same grueling routine every year. But now I’m the Mom and I have to say, always wanting (or being asked for) more is exhausting. As far as the eye can see, there is more to be had, and even as adults, seeing what we don’t have has the ability to send us into desire and acquire mode. The breathless chase for new things tangles up what we have (or don’t have) with who we are, and pushes us to soothe our stubborn longing with another handbag, a bigger television, a newer car.
It’s natural and omnipresent, especially around where I live. Everywhere I look I (and my daughters) see more and different stuff. Sprawling houses and bigger diamonds, more labels and less wrinkles, tighter muscles and looser spending habits. Not needing it – whatever “it” may be at that moment – is irrelevant. It’s a thirst that is never quenched. And the more we see, the more we want to see, in both quantity (hello, Pinterest) and quality (me using two fingers to zoom up on a magazine page…oops). We want to get closer, compare, decide. Those jeans are more stylish. Her skin is more radiant. That recipe looks more delicious.
But what do we do with what we already have? What are some simple ways in which we could expand our lives without also expanding our balance due?
Off the top: I could learn how to choose, spice, grill, and carve a perfect T-bone steak. I could try to mix and enjoy a proper martini, instead of always opting for the easy pour of a glass of wine. I love strolling slowly through a farmer’s market, inhaling the sweet off-the-vine smells – and I am lucky enough to have them nearby and open practically year-round – yet I rarely get up and go. I could try new recipes from one of my beloved cookbooks rather than falling back on the same rotation week to week. But for some reason, I don’t.
We spend so many hours driving, looking, wondering, working, worrying, and not nearly enough time exploring new things, diving into experiences, and being present. And this “not doing” rides in the sidecar along with the driving realization that time is the most precious commodity of all.
Striving to grow and achieve is good. Some habits are good, too. Comforting, even. But breaking the right ones can be restorative. What if we treated everyday life as we do when we’re on vacation? Take longer walks and shorter calls. Tackle harder recipes and easier commutes. Loosen up on bedtimes and tighten up our abs by laughing the night away with family and friends (even on a school night).
What if we just release the chokehold we think we have on life and attempt instead to simply live it?
As sure as I feel my heart beating, I know there is more to having less, doing less, wanting less. When I feel overloaded, I take as deep and slow a breath as I can to bring myself back to stillness and center. In the quiet, I’m more able to drown out the sound of that nagging inner voice, and listen instead to my internal mantra of gratitude. I have healthy daughters. An 84-year-old dad. The man I love in my bed. An able body and mind. True friends who see me from the heart out, rather than from the outside in.
Those are gifts – ones that can’t compare with the things we buy, give, or covet. That mantra brings me back to less is more. In that mindset, it’s not so bad to allow hunger to come into our bellies. It’s okay to want, but at the same time, not every desire needs instant gratification. Let it be. Maybe if we sit with that longing for a while, we can see where the craving is rooted, and feed it with what it’s truly calling out for.
Next time the winds of change and stress and pressure whip your hair around, instead of buying yourself out of the storm, give yourself the gift of a few minutes alone. Bend your knees, ground your feet, and close your eyes. Create space and calm. Physically let yourself sink deeper into steady Mother Earth. Let your breath expand your lungs and shrink the voices asking for more with each deep inhale and exhale. Hear that rhythmic sound preach to you instead. It says you do enough. You have enough. You are enough.