When Is Enough Enough?
Michael Han is a father of three and director at law firm Han and Lu Chambers LLP.
I always struggle to know when enough is enough. The desire for more always boils over. It’s part of our system too. We are set from birth to jump through hoops. There are just too many hoops, trying to fulfill one expectation after another. It seems endless. Is death really the end of this life of quiet desperation?
Every new season brings with it its demands on us. The roles we take on in each season pull us from one direction to another, even to stretching point.
We struggle to know who we are in the storms of change. Finding our identity is like finding a needle in the haystack. We lose ourselves in the mindless hurry and artificial emergencies. Our self-importance is rooted in shifting sand, never finding an anchor of being safe and assured in our own skin.
Even in our rest, we are restless. In our sleep, we are sleepless. And in our stillness, it’s far from being effortless.
This sense of deep insufficiency haunts us, because we are like a kid in a toy mall, pushing a trolley down the aisle, to fill in as many toys as we can before the mall closes. It’s just never enough. We don’t even know when enough is enough.
Author Theodor Fontane said: “Happiness, it seems to me, consists of two things: first, in being where you belong and second - and best - in comfortably going through everyday life, that is, having a good night’s sleep and not being hurt by new shoes.”
Where do I belong then? I believe where I am is where I belong, with family, with loved ones, with friends, and with community. Some of us may forget that, drowned in our mindless pursuits.
Anyway, I can’t imagine anywhere else. For I am where I am by the choices I have made. They may be imperfect, and I may have my regrets, but it’s part of the journey my choices have taken me. I take responsibility for it, and from thereon, move forward with it. The trail is continuous. It is a learning trail. It is a trail shaping and sharpening me.
Given a choice, I do not want to live a life despising where I am, and wishing I belong elsewhere. I believe that if I can’t accept where I am now, I will also struggle to accept the place I wish to be at, even if I do get there.
I must never forget that the place may change, but my restless heart is still the same.
Ultimately, it’s the ‘me’ that I have to come to terms with. And until I find rest within, I will never find it wherever I am, or with what I have achieved.
And for the second part, the best part, Fontane reminds us to comfortably go through everyday life by having a good night’s sleep, and not being hurt by new shoes.
I take that to mean that we should never sweat the small stuff. We need to let go. Life is too short to let the heated emotion of a moment last a lifetime. Why drag your feet through life burdened by envy, anger and guilt? Why not leave them all behind and comfortably go through everyday life, sleeping well and embracing life’s new challenges, designed to grow us, and not crush us?
We owe it to ourselves to enjoy our rest, that is, unhurried rest. And every time we deprive ourselves of it, we live a life like zombies in the night, and ghosts in the day, disembodied souls dispossessed of our will, hope and purpose. Like I said, we lose ourselves in the dark enchanted forest of our own endless desires.
As I end, I take my cue from Jesus. When he talks about heaven, he always starts with the small stuff with the potential to become big. For example, it’s like a mustard seed. But planted in good soil, watered diligently, and given a little time, it becomes a heaven to savour when harvest comes.
How about leaven bread? Well, you just need a pinch of leaven, knead the dough, enjoy the process, and then let it be. It will rise. It is an unhurried process. Heaven then comes in the sweetest fragrance as the warm bread is rolled out of the oven.
That is what life is all about. That is how we embrace 'enoughness' - with a life of contentment.
We let go of that which doesn’t matter. And we find rest in letting go. We also enjoy heaven in the little things that grow at its own pace and time.
When we are able to do that, we are never lost, because wherever we are, we are home. It is where we truly belong, as we savour one day at a time.