Pandemic lesson on enoughness

Like a greedy American, I have hoarded something. And I go to dangerous places when I try to reason out why. Self-justification and self-pity crowd out truth. How much is enough? I’ve been doing a bit of honest self-reflection.

My pandemic lesson on enoughness

What did I hoard?

Ground coffee.

I’m now the proud owner of several 250-gram bags of ground coffee to use in the coffee machine we have brought with us from place to place in the Philippines. But when we arrived in Malay, Aklan, on Panay Island, and decided to hunker down here for the pandemic, we found no ground coffee anywhere. We did what the locals do – we swallowed instant.

When quarantine measures eased, it enabled us to get to places like Boracay Island and the provincial capital city Kalibo. Ground coffee can be found in those places: a tourist mecca and a tourist stop, respectively. Tourists can afford real brewed coffee. Most Filippino families cannot.

So on a day trip to deserted Boracay last month, we found and bought a couple of packages ground coffee. Then I went to Kalibo last Sunday and bought a few more. And I went to Kalibo again today, and I bought yet more. More, more, more… and yet never enough… or is it?

It seems one package will last Tedly and I five to six days. Two pots a day (2.5 mugs a pot). One pot for me, one for him – but sometimes less. (Mom Diane drinks tea.) I have savored every sip.

In my teens I started to drink coffee when I worked weekends in the delicatessen owned by my parents. Coffee has been a staple in my diet since…. forever. When I was a young adult, my father mailed me boxes of the coffee he sold in the store. Tedly’s story with coffee is different, but the same. He also enjoyed often as a complimentary beverage where we worked.

Why did I hoard ground coffee?

I am “fearful” of not having enough.

My head says, ‘I enjoy it so much!’ Also: ‘I deserve it because I’ve sacrificed other comforts that cannot be found in this rural area of the Philippines during a pandemic.’ At this point, I feel self-pity. On closer examination, I feel “fear” (more like a mix of dread and agitation) at the thought of not having enough.

To feel better, I self-rationalize. To excuse my gluttonous behavior, I self-justify. ‘No one is going to miss this,’ I say to myself. ‘No one here even drinks it!’ I keep going; I start to feel better. ‘Buying more now will save me the three-hour round trip back to Kalibo.’ And even: ‘If we go back on lockdown, I won’t be able to get to Kalibo to get it.’

So, self-vindicated, I march up to the checkout and I pay for several packs of ground gold.

A few packs would have been sufficient. Instead, I bought as many as I could fit into my bag with other goods on the shopping list (though none as important to me as coffee).

What combats this fear of not having enough?

For me, I guess it’s acceptance. Acceptance that if I do not ‘have enough’ I can simply swallow the instant again. I did it for two months. It worked. It pepped me up and avoided the caffeine withdrawal headaches.

Isn’t acceptance always the answer?

If I accept what I have as ‘enough’ – then I can chose to embrace enoughness.

Also faith. Faith that I’ll be okay with whatever the Source/Universal Force/God grants me.

Pandemic lesson on enoughness

My coffee hoarding is a simplistic example of warped greed. Think of people in this world who never give anything to anyone because they chose to keep it all to themselves: whether it’s money or land, coffee or toilet paper.

Last week, a friend and fellow breast cancer survivor — and retired world traveler — posted a daily meditation on Facebook that sent me down a path of self-examination. It lifted the veils of my self-justification and self-rationalization. Not only on buying coffee – but on everything I’m fearful about not having ‘enough of’.

I shared part of the meditation in our weekly newsletter. (A signup for the newsletter is below.)

The writing is by Fr. Richard Rohr and it says in part:

“Most of us have grown up with a capitalist worldview which makes a virtue and goal out of accumulation, consumption, and collecting. It has taught us to assume, quite falsely, that more is better…

Only through simplicity can we find deep contentment instead of perpetually striving and living unsatisfied. Simple living is the foundational social justice teaching of Jesus, Francis and Clare of Assisi, Dorothy Day, Pope Francis, and all hermits, mystics, prophets, and seers since time immemorial...” – Fr. Richard Rohr, “Embracing Enoughness”

It’s a short read, if you want to click on the link above. It prompted me to click around other daily meditations, too.

Learning more lessons

As a retired budget traveler, I already embrace enoughness — to a certain extent. I travel the world with two carry-on bags. But I can always work on acceptance to embrace it more. And I can appreciate a pause in my thoughts to consider what I’m fearful about, and how that fear is affecting my behavior.

Usually, when I take that pause for self-reflection, truth will emerge. And then my faith strengthens.

I will end with a sign we saw on Boracay Island, which had been closed to visitors last year for environmental clean-up. It’s a sign I appreciated.

Thanks for reading, “Pandemic lesson on enoughness.”

For lighter reads, we suggest:

For how to be an Earth Vagabond – a retired budget traveler:

Earth Vagabonds are strong advocates for authentic “slow travel” when borders reopen.

Pandemic lesson on enoughness

2 thoughts on “Pandemic lesson on enoughness

  1. Kudos on your bravery to write publicly about this. I love that the three of you have been so willing to engage in that community and inculcate the perspectives that it brings.

    Maybe sign off, a la Tedly, with “more coffee”?

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