That’s Enough

As a new widow, one of the challenges I’ve identified already is recognizing what is enough. For example, how many pictures do I leave up before mementoes turn into shrines?  Or as our son said when I asked what of his dad’s keepsakes he’d like to take, “how much of someone else’s life can you hold onto without losing your own?”  Good question.  How do you know when remembering is  “enough”?

We say, “that’s enough” so glibly, as though the word “enough” holds magical properties. The meaning can be stretched to fit any size portion of any noun, whether concrete or abstract, from “that’s enough mashed potatoes” to “I find love enough in your arms.” Pretty amazing word. But the word also spells trouble for humankind when we don’t know how much is enough, when we abdicate responsibility and let others determine how much is enough for us, or when we want to tell God when we’ve had enough.

We get plenty of opportunities to learn how much is enough. From the time we are born, if we are lucky (enough) to have good parents, we learn our demands earn rewards – some or most of the time.  But not always. Sometimes we feel the lack of “enough.”  Such uncertainty keeps us focused on our neediness, wondering “Will there be enough?” That’s a reasonable concern since we do have needs that must be met. However, living with uncertainty tends to make us demand and keep on demanding. Uncertainty breeds anxiety. And anxiety interferes with our acquiring trust and gratitude.  So how does anyone learn when we truly have enough?  The same way we learn to worry there won’t be enough. By practicing.

I once was taught a Passover song that I think it would behoove people of all faiths to sing: Dayenu. In Hebrew the word “day” means “enough” and the suffix “enu” means “to us.” The lyrics recount gifts of God to the Jewish people – freeing them from slavery, giving them the Torah, creating the sabbath. The song’s rousing chorus repeatedly proclaims “Dayenu!” after each gift, celebrating that just ONE of these gifts of God would have been “enough to us.” The point of the song is to awaken the heart to gratitude, to focus the mind on blessings, to recognize “enough” when we see it.

Concentrating on specific blessings can help us recognize we have enough. And examples of grace are all around us. So the first secret is to look for just ONE and practice acknowledging that one unmerited gift.  We had 33 years together. Dayenu.  We shared a level of care and trust that elude most. Day-day-enu.

So the secret to knowing how much is enough is to recognize that enough already exists.  It’s enough to wake up today and be able to live for yet another 24 hours.  It is enough to have the memories in my mind that I can call to the forefront today whenever I need to recollect the blessings that have been part of my life.  For now the mementoes and talismans of our past are enough.  I can trust that I will recognize when enough time has lapsed to put some grieving helps away.  Living my remaining life well is the best tribute to Ron I can offer in his memory.

And when grief becomes too much, I can recall the prayer Maya Angelou included in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:

“Our Father, thank you for letting me see this New Day. Thank you that you didn’t allow the bed I lay on last night to be my cooling board, nor my blanket my winding sheet.”

Dayenu!  Lord, that’s enough for me. Amen.


Holy Saturday

Everything is made more meaningful in this world by pause. Think of it. Mark Twain wrote a whole essay about the importance of the pause in story telling. And then he practiced it in his writing. We use the phrase “great comic timing” to praise a comedian who puts in an effective pause at just the right moment. “Joy to the World” is just the notes down the scale without the holds and pauses. Pausing makes whatever we have to wait for seem more important. Of course we also chirp platitudes like “S/he who hesitates is lost” as well. Sometimes life demands immediacy. Split seconds determine medals. A pause to reflect is not in an Olympian’s training schedule. And, for the most part, we resist pausing in our daily lives, too. It seems to me that pausing is more the stuff of artists – poets, musicians, writers, and the like. Photographers have to be quick, but they are trying to capture just the right pause.

I wonder are there pauses in the universe? Do the orbits of the planets have built in pauses? Or do they rumble inexorably on? I wish I had been more interested in learning physics than I was fearful of taking a hard class in which I might get a bad grade. But I was too young to be wise. Of course, the scriptural view of the stars and planets is that pausing is perfectly possible. The sun is stopped in her course. Even God rested (or created the pause) on thje seventh day.

Maybe one of the important lessons to learn this side of eternity (the pauseless existence?) is how and when to pause, to get our holy timing right, to learn how to create meaningful pause.

Those are my thoughts this Holy Saturday morning. The day we remember Jesus didn’t just leap up – like from a magic trick – and shout “Ta da!” There was a respectful pause after death, a time in an unneeded tomb, a moment in which the Universe herself seemed to say, “Wait for it, wait for it!”

And maybe that’s the purpose of this inner hold of grief on my heart. The energy of life is heightened by the hiatus. Like the bulbs that rest and wait. Like the quiet of Holy Saturday before the celebration of new life rushes in on Easter morning. Too soon and we’d take life for granted. Too late and we would give up the wait.

Jesus, did you really know how it was going to go? Or, like me, did you have to hold on to faith in the darkness? I like to think you had to wait. Just like us. So that you know the tension that pause creates — the “already, but not yet” existence of human beings. We wait with you. Ready to be flung into joy. Help us hold the pause just long enough to make your joke work for the crowd. Amen.