A Lesson on Enough-ness


This is a guest post by my amazing friend Claire Murdough. I’m not ashamed to say it brought tears to my eyes.

I don’t know if you’ve ever found yourself crying by a trash can in the middle of the street, but that’s exactly where I found myself the other day. It was an odd and complicated moment, and I have much more to say on it. But – if you’ll bear with me for a moment– I’d actually like to start off by talking about something else first.

Something I’ll call “enough-ness.”

Now what exactly is “enough-ness”? It’s a little tricky, but I have a feeling you might already know.

When we buy things, we’re often trying to fill something up. We think “If only I owned this, it would be enough” or “Once I can afford this one thing, it will be enough.” It’s like we’re trying to fill some indeterminate volume of “enough-ness” in hopes that one day we’ll be filled to the brim with an inexhaustible supply of contentment and happiness.

It’s the very same concept we cast upon ourselves sometimes. “If I only lose a few more pounds, I’ll be enough” or “If I was only a bit funnier, I’d be enough.” We pick the highest peak in a mountain range to plant our flag of “enough,” and yet we never quite seem to summit.

But every so often, we get a glimpse into exactly how much enough-ness we have. In fact, it was this very recognition of enough-ness that had me sobbing into my hands next to a trash can, like I mentioned in the opening line of this post.

You see, two weeks ago, I was in the midst of throwing away something very near and important to me. It was a small red backpack, aged 20 years. It wasn’t that I wanted to get rid of it, or even that I was ready to move on to a new one. This backpack, sturdy as it had been over the years, had finally ripped beyond repair.

It made me excruciatingly sad. So sad it shook me to the core. “It’s just a backpack,” I thought. But no, I realized, it wasn’t “just” anything.

With this backpack on, I’d cried when I was lost. I’d packed it with too much and I’d packed it with too little. I’d felt it beat against my back with every step in every journey. This small backpack was the carrier of memories, tucked tenderly inside fabric. It was trials and tribulations, pain and lost-ness. (For those unfamiliar with lost-ness, it’s that feeling of wandering without direction, whether in happiness or sadness, frustration or glee). This backpack was more than zippers and cloth. It was enough.

The realization of this reminded me of one of my favorite books of mine as a kid: The Velveteen Rabbit. This section in particular:

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” Source

Rarely do we get the opportunity to say goodbye to something we love. Instead, we’re taken by surprise when something leaves or is taken from us. Whether that be a friend, a love, or a thing. If I’d left my backpack behind at a train station or it’d been snatched from me on the streets, it would’ve been different. Yet as I retired my pack, I understood exactly that I was choosing to lose.

As I stripped it down to its nakedness, took out all the gum-stained pens and old receipts I’d meant to take out so long ago, I removed each thing with such loving hands and delicate touches. It was like bathing a child. I understood just how real and beautiful it was.

A close friend asked me why I didn’t just keep the shell of it, as a treasured token. I stumbled to answer. Yes, I could have. I thought about it more than once. But saying my goodbye taught me a lesson so grand and precious I’m not sure I would have done anything differently. It taught me of “enough-ness.”

It’s OK to love a thing. It’s OK to let it go. It’s OK to be confused by it. It’s OK to change your mind and keep it close, to box it up and unveil it in 50 years. But whenever the time comes to make the decision, I hope – above all hopes – we have the steady beat of “we are enough, we are enough, we are real” echoing in our mind.


Claire Murdough is a part-time writer and full-time lover of donuts. She lives in San Francisco. You can find more of her writing here.

  • Wow, this really made me think! You just said a lot in not that many words, and beautifully written, too.

    I can imagine the heartbreak from throwing away your backpack, I had a similar thing with my running shoes. They had been everywhere, running towards a better health, running from problems, on hot roads and through deep puddles, they had nastiness from 5 different countries under their soles. But we had to part at some point :)

  • That’s so funny you should mention being sad over your backpack. I had an elderly lady tell me yesterday that she was so sad to see her parents home being torn down. She was two at the time when her dad built it and now to see an empty place where it once was. Rodents had taken over. It’s gone but the memories are still there.

  • This was a beautiful post of what it is to love and enjoy a “thing.” Of course we don’t get to go through this same ritual with beloved people or beloved pets because their life ends in a way we don’t control even when we make difficult choices. I have been practicing the ritual of blessing an item when it comes to the end of its usefulness for me or for everyone. This feels more noble and sacred and brings me peace almost every time. (Except for journals…every new journal…I’m convinced I’ll never connect again but then, magically, I do.)

  • I had that exact same feeling with an old pair of boots. I had already repaired them and they had seen me through many a journey, but finally it came to a stage that they couldn’t be fixed anymore. The cobbler told me there was a bin out the back to throw them away, but I still brought them home. Sometimes it’s hard to let go but time to move on. Those shoes are just a smaller part of the bigger picture. I think a lot of it is down to not wanting to forget certain memories, that often only get jolted when we see something that was tied to that time.

  • Focus on the very moment you are in….We can’t change yesterday and We can’t control what will happen tomorrow. Often if we just slow down and look at where we are at an exact moment of time you will soon realize you have everything you need. As for this article it made me think more of , stop procrastinating and do what you have dreamed or wanted. If you wait to long you may never get the opportunity to do it again.

    Cait, Thanks for sharing the words from Claire

  • This hits SO close to home. I’ve been contemplating getting rid of my first backpack that went with me to Europe after high school, to summer camp many times, and on lots of mountain and travel adventures. I’m not quite ready to let it go. But the rest of it, too — the enoughness… Yes. I needed this today. Thank you.

  • Wow . . . What a beautiful way to say that we move on — and that it’s okay (at least to some degree) because we have matured to a new level of understanding who WE are. And THAT’s why it’s okay. That’s what I read here anyway . . . and the message is encouraging to me. Thank you so much for sharing this post.

  • These words right here hit me where it hurts today: “Rarely do we get the opportunity to say goodbye to something we love. Instead, we’re taken by surprise when something leaves or is taken from us.”
    I’ve been struggling with the death of my cat who died of cancer back in January. The anger I have for his life being cut short just keeps boiling inside me and I know this is what has been keeping me from moving forward. I know it’s not fair and life’s not fair. And I know for my own mental health I’ve got to just let it go. It doesn’t mean I am forgetting him by letting go of the anger. Thank you for this heartfelt post!

    • Thank you for reading and for the thoughtful words, Jill. I’m so sorry to hear about your dear companion, and for the hurt you’re feeling. He left his “more than enough-ness” nestled snugly in your memories. ❤️

  • I love your enough-ness, that’s why I like keeping my old work shirts, love them through all the sweat. The Velveteen quote is fabulous, I feel “Real” now. Cheers, Peter

  • That paragraph from The Velveteen Rabbit is why I never finished reading that book aloud to my two boys. Tears were selling up in my eyes and I’m sure my voice was cracking. I made some excuse to quit and never went back to it. My boys are 30 and 28 now, so the memory is decades old now but still vivid in my mind.

    • It’s a raw one, that’s for sure. I don’t even think I quite understood it when I was a kid. Now it pulls at my heart. I wonder if they’d be interested in reading it now?

  • Can’t say that I relate to this post for the reason that I am the opposite : I get rid of most things and I don’t look back. But…. there is this pile of books from a 12 steps program that I’m still hanging onto for no good reasons…. I don’t go anymore, don’t adhere to the principles anymore, been out of it for 6 years, yet I can’t seem to just get rid of them. Then…. light bulb!! Your post makes me realize that being in that fellowship I felt connected to a higher power, I felt spiritual, I felt like a better version of myself physically, emotionally, spiritually. So am I hanging to those books in hope to become a “better me” again just by keeping them?? Because I think that I am “not enough” at the moment? Hmm… time to get rid of those books once and for all and move forward, trust myself.

    • That’s so interesting, Isabelle! It’s been incredible to hear that most people have at least one they hold tight to. Whether you keep it or send it on a new adventure, you’re most definitely enough ❤️

  • Wow Claire, I’ve never been this emotional over a back pack before. In my bedroom right now is a wooden box, the thing is ugly and falling apart. The things inside have been ruined because the wood is so rough. My wife has begged me since before were married to get rid of it but I can’t I just can’t. My grandfather built it specifically for me and died only a few weeks later. We were too close and it’s one of the only things left that I have of him and giving it up pains me too much.
    Thanks for this article I enjoyed it a lot.

    • I love hearing that, Tyler! I have treasures like that, too. The kind I don’t think I could ever willingly give up, based solely on the fact that they’re precious reminders of a person or a place.

  • So many things I should just say goodbye to and be done with it, it is so hard! Thanks for a wonderful post, I will keep your post in mind when I look at those things that really need to go. Maybe your words will give me the courage to let go.

  • Simply beautiful.

    I love the concept of enough-ness. I can definitely relate to “If only I was… (shorter/taller/thinner/richer/etc)”. A few years ago I had my colours analysed and overnight it changed my perception of clothing. If it doesn’t suit me it’s about the clothes, not about me. If it is the wrong colour or style, no matter how different I become it will still not work. It was liberating! I feel the idea of enough-ness is going to be equally liberating. Thank you

    • Thank you for the thoughtful response, Catherine! I so totally know that feeling of being liberated by getting rid of things that don’t “fit.” I used to blame my body. Now I have no problem chucking a pair of pants that I’ve outgrown or tossing a shirt that doesn’t make me feel great.

  • This is lovely. I so often find myself surprised by being able to get rid of things I thought I’d miss — but I don’t, because they weren’t imbued with meaning like something that’s been regularly used for something that matters.

    The one thing I regret getting rid of — ever — was the potato masher from my husband’s mother’s house. “That made a lot of dinners”, my husband said as we added it to the donate pile. I kept jewellery instead, thinking that would be the important thing … but nope, I wish I’d kept that potato masher.

  • Great post. It reminded me of the time we finally had to get rid of our 30 plus year old Maytag washing machine. Mom and dad bought it when they moved into the house a month before I was born. That thing was a true workhorse. When my mom saw it by the curb she cried. I thought that was very strange and asked why. She said she had good memories of that machine because she washed our diapers in it. Next thing I know I was crying too.

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