What does enough look like?

February 25, 2008 | By | 2 Replies More

I love being a recruiter as a way to make a living. It is a fantastic mix of detective work, rapport building, conflict resolution, understanding and differentiation. In our new information age I can do it from anywhere, and that is just cool as it can be. My career fits me well, and I find it immensely rewarding when things go well, and probably learn even more when they do not.

I left my company and went out on my own because I felt like like my life was terribly out of balance. Yes part of it was the oppressive and abusive atmosphere coupled with the rampant disrespect, but all of that negativity really just made me more aware that I was following a path that wasn’t consistent with how I wanted to live. I found myself dreaming of a life where where kindness, compassion, and mutual respect formed the ground rules and, ultimately, where I could feel like I “made a difference” to the world as a whole. That life looked so far away from what I was living that it seemed like a fairy tale. When I stopped and looked at the distance between the life I was living and the life I wanted, I got scared. I also got busy figuring out a way to escape. It is not that I am against working smart and making money. I had that discussion with myself years and years ago, and I decided then that I can do more for the world with some cash than without it. But the truth was I was exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally from an environment that had become combative and very dark. I wasn’t doing anything for myself, not to mention anyone else.

When I left this past October I wasn’t at all prepared for the fireworks, especially because I had tried to do everything in the most positive manner I could imagine. I didn’t realize escaping would be so painful and difficult and infuriating, and I was shattered in a lot of ways. I felt like I had stepped off a cliff and couldn’t catch my breath. I realized I had walked away from a lucrative position with no money coming in and a whole lot going out. I was depressed and beat up before, but now I was was terrified.

I knew I wanted to build my new life in a way that would be more congruent with my values, so I figured I had better pay more attention to what my values were. I started reading a lot of stuff, including some Thich Nhat Hahn. I had read him before, but for some reason this time his poetic words hit home with a vengeance. He cuts right through the fluff and offers some real meat to those questioning business as usual. It sounds a bit dramatic, but I think reading Being Peace kept me from going off the train tracks while I found my balance. Leaving my old job was, for me, part of my fumbling toward a more mindful approach to living, moving away from consumption as an end in itself, working toward a world view based on compassion for and appreciation of other, and rejecting dogma over a search for a constantly evolving truth. I think the fact that rejecting all dogma – even Buddhist doctrine – is part of Thich Nhat Hahn’s world view is really sort of cool. I always thought that Zen Buddhism was awesome for atheists and post modern-thinkers.

Reading him gave me some of the best tools I had to get through my anger, fear, and stress – I learned how to breath through things as a way of staying in the moment and finding balance. Finding a way to treasure my present (even at 3AM on a fearful, sleepless night) seemed to help me let go of a lot of my what ifs, and somehow led me to see how I wanted to spend my resources and use my time.

Now, a few months into this experiment, I am figuring out new rhythms of working and living starting from scratch. I think that without those first few months struggling with rage, confusion and fear (and, truth be told, living off the charity of others with absolutely white knuckles -eating lots of beans and rice) I might not have been able to even formulate my emerging perspective. Working from home for myself brings with it all kinds of crazy questions and issues – not the least of which is remembering to brush my teeth, and figuring out a time to start work – it is also allowing me to figure out why I am working and what I want to accomplish. I am beginning to think about my life in a “what is enough” way instead of a “what can I get” way. It sounds simplistic but it has had a profound impact. Plus it works well for business the way I want to do it. My clients appreciate my flexibility, and so does my stress level.

Living with enough is still fun, and rich, and vibrant (or it wouldn’t be enough) and it allows me to have more freedom and creativity in order to do things I think are important. I have wild dreams of sponsoring mental health treatment for women who are at risk and without resources, and starting a foundation to catch people before they fall through the cracks of our economy to give them tools to prevent disaster, and all kinds of other slightly nutty schemes. Figuring out what is enough for me will ensure I have resources to put toward those plans very soon, but right now enough means being able to buy a bit nicer beans and pay my expenses. Walking away from financial certainty with a side order of crushed soul was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and it is true I still have no safety net. But the process of doing it and paying attention has helped me feel more secure than I ever have, and spending time thinking about what enough means to me is a big part of that.

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Category: Consumerism, Culture, Meaning of Life

About the Author ()

Lisa lives and works in the city of St. Louis, and is striving to develop the right mix of both while asking herself what it means to live a good life. You can follow her on twitter http://www.twitter.com/lisarokusek

Comments (2)

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  1. Ben says:

    I guess "brave" doesn't quite capture your situation.

    I've always sort of had a safety net. I have asked myself some of the same questions, whether i am doing enough, or if even i know what i want. I think i'm gonna keep my day job for now 🙂 but it does sometimes seem like i'm not getting anywhere in terms of the big picture. Well, i gotta go save the world… brb

  2. I find your courage very admirable! I could use some of it, too! 🙂

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