Too Much and Not Enough

Pinterest, Peers, and Pastel Ranges

For pennies a day, my husband and I sponsored a child through Compassion International, a Christian organization with charitable projects in third-world countries. This young boy wrote me letters, and I wrote back (inconsistently, I’m afraid). Sometimes, I sent him a few extra dollars for his birthday, and he sent me a Crayon-decorated note to tell me what he bought: a live chicken. For food.

It would help me, in my most shallow moments, to remember this.

But I forget that I already have enough when I’m browsing Pinterest pictures of remodeled houses painted all the right colors. Photos of kitchens with custom-made cabinets and retro ranges that come in a rainbow of pastels. Not that there’s anything wrong with having a nice kitchen. But my kitchen is nice enough.

I forget it when my friend shows me the new furniture in her sunroom makeover. When she fills a Lenox teacup from the built-in single-handle instant hot water dispenser, and I think, I need one of those. Need, my foot.

Clutter and the Need for Less

Recently, I read Rick Bragg’s All Over but the Shoutin’, a beautifully-written, heart-breaking memoir and tribute to his mother, who “went eighteen years without a new dress so her sons could have school clothes.” And I recall my over-filled closet where the dresses hang so close, there’s no light between them.

Not that I disdain my possessions. I’m thankful for my clothes and furniture and food. I’m supremely thankful for a hard-working, generous husband, because this English Major isn’t exactly a money-making machine. I’m thankful for family members who have given us so much, relatives who grew up with Not Enough.

But for me, the scales between Too Much and Not Enough tip heavily to one side. And holding on to five black skirts, because, well, you never know when you might need five black skirts, is just a tad irrational.

Hobbes has a clutter problem.

A Zero-Sum Game

I’m no different from my little dog who isn’t hungry but stands sentry beside his food, growling, for HOURS, to keep the other dogs from eating it. While Calvin and Ollie are chasing toads and digging holes in the yard, Hobbes is shackled to his metal bowl.

I, too, am a captive of my clutter if I allow myself to be. As they say, everything you own, owns you. If, like Hobbes, I spend my limited time, energy and attention on superfluous possessions, I have less of those resources to spend on more important things, such as spirituality, people, or creative pursuits.

“The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds.”  Thomas Merton

If I accumulate stuff motivated by (let’s call it what it is) envy, or a false sense of scarcity (rather than true scarcity such as that experienced in the third-world), clutter will fill all the corners of my home and my mind.

Hobbes, you and I need a mindset makeover.


It’s Hard to be Real

As much as I want to be authentic, I fall short.

It’s not usually intentional, trying to be someone I’m not. It’s subconscious.

Sometimes, I glimpse those fake personas in my heart. Like floaters that come and go, they drift into my line of sight when I’m not looking for them. The more I try to focus on them, the more they elude me.

“Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious men are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular poet or the particular monk they are intended to be by God. They never become the man or the artist who is called for by all the circumstances of their individual lives. They waste their years in vain efforts to be some other poet, some other saint…They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavor to have somebody else’s experiences or write somebody else’s poems.”

from New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton


1950's velveteen rabbit

I spent years trying not to be an introvert. Years pushing myself to be extroverted and to run as fast as the next person. But I couldn’t keep up. And I undervalued my true nature.

I spent years denying my high sensitivity. Years pretending I could do ANYTHING by  relying on my own strength. By pushing. Turns out it wasn’t enough. When I gave up, I discovered I only needed strength to do what God had called ME to do. Not what everyone else was called to do. It was freeing. And humbling.

Worse yet, I’ve refused to admit to myself my darker feelings — envy, insecurity, bitterness — even as I plastered on a sweet-as-pie smile. Whew. (Of course, that’s not an exhaustive list of my faults.)

Why is it so hard to be real? Any thoughts?