Enough

By

Leonard Zwelling

That word has several meanings.

It can mean you have reached your limit. “You’ve had enough.” “You’re mad as hell and won’t take it any more.” I hear you.

Many Americans in 2016 had had enough of politics as usual. They didn’t think that either mainstream party was advocating for them. Then along comes Donald Trump who is neither Republican nor Democrat. He represents something different. His opponent represented the same old, same old. He wins. She loses. No surprise if you’d been paying attention.

Even Barack Obama before Trump was something different. That’s what the country is still looking for. Something different. Most people have still had enough of the two parties, especially as represented by members of Congress who are either left-wing dreamers with very small constituencies or mealy-mouthed apologists for Trump or among the talking heads who do nothing but collect votes and money on the weekends. Congress is rightly viewed as inept. America looked for a change in 2008, but the economy undid any hope Obama had in doing all that much good and then he decided to ride the health care reform train when the stock market was sinking. How smart was that? The ACA proved a costly distraction. Fixing the economy in 2009 would have been enough.

Again, in 2016, the country wanted a change. It got Trump. What is it looking for in 2020? A lot will depend on how many people say to Trump, “enough!”

There’s another meaning of enough. It means just the right amount. Not too much, not too little. Just right. That’s enough. Say “when.”

It is hard to know when you are enough. When you are 71, as I am as I write this, you assess your life differently than when you were younger. Then it was all solid metrics of success. Scientific papers, awards, grants, invitations to major meetings, etc. My career seemed to be so important, but John Lennon is still right. “Life is what is happening when you are busy making other plans.” When I think back upon what occupied my days, I am stunned at how pedestrian it all seems now and how it all felt like an emergency then. But that’s life.

Now comes a greater challenge. When is what you are enough? It’s hard to know because there are no outside metrics for enoughness. I wrestle with this a great deal because the old me still wants to accomplish stuff while the current me just wants to let it be.

I seriously doubt that I will ever figure this out. Not being enough is cooked deep into my DNA and hard-wired into my personality from the earliest of days of being a first-born Jewish son of parents who lived through the Depression and did not want their kids to have to bear the brunt of that or, for that matter, a world war.

Instead we got the Cold War, the Sixties, the Beatles, Woodstock and the Moon Walk. I’ll take the trade. My generation was better off than the one before, but less certain of when they were enough. Of course, the Hippies always knew they were enough. The rest of us were less sure.

When the first enough of having reached one’s breaking point and the second enough of being okay in the present moment collide, which enough triumphs? The entire 2020 election may turn on “enough.” When has the country had enough of false prophets who promise to split us apart and when can we collectively say that we will continue to strive to become a more perfect nation, but for now, what we are is enough? It’s a hard one. There is still so much to do in race relations, income inequality, health care and housing that it is irrational to be complacent or self-satisfied. On the other hand, running around like chickens with our heads cut off castigating ourselves as not being good enough has only created more hostility and not gotten us into position to progress in the very areas that need so much work.

I think both “enoughs” matter. We should have had enough of the divisiveness of the Trump Administration, but know that we as a country are enough to lead the world if we can all pull in the same direction. Now if we could only find a leader that has enough to show us the way. So far, among the Democrats, no one is enough. But there’s still time. But just like life, it’s not forever.

Leonard Zwelling