Introducing the Enoughness Project: My study in gratitude, receivership and transcendence


Kip calls these my cheetah jammies. (I always hang my cotton Target nightgowns on a satin hanger. You don’t?)

“Cool jammies, Mudder,” Kip says, a talking baby koala hanging from my right side like it’s eucalyptus. It makes me laugh every time this three-year-old snuggle monster calls me “Mother,” so he does it often.

“Are you a cheetah?”

“Yes, Kippy, I am a cheetah,” I whisper.


“Your mommy is a cheetah. And so are you because you can run sooo fast,” I say.

“I suuuure can! I sure can wun wiwy fast,” he sings, then pauses. “I wuv you, my mudderrrr.”

He leans his head into the curve of my neck and pats my back the same way I do when I want to let him know without words that I love him. It’s the first thing in the morning.

It seems blasphemous in hindsight to put him down in that moment so that I might return to fixating on what to wear for the day, but that’s what I do. The recent indulgence in birthday cake and pizza feels full in my midsection. I think I look a little bit pregnant and the weather has turned warm, requiring me to forego the layers I’d usually employ to hide myself.

If only I had a shirt that looked nice and also hid this stomach thing I’ve got working.

If only I had something other than last summer’s cotton dresses to throw on.

If only I had a different body altogether. Yeah, I wish I just had a different body…

Should this If Only voice go totally unchecked, it might say: “OMG, what is wrong with you? Seriously, what is up with your body? You know that if you want to look fit, you’ve got to get control of yourself, lazy. I’m talking about exercise. And no birthday cake. I don’t care if it is your five-year-old’s birthday. Get it together.”

In this moment, precisely 30 seconds after releasing Kip, the embodiment of joy, from my arms, I feel sad. I think about how much better I’d feel about everything if I had a new shirt. A new shirt would solve all my problems. I wonder if I have time to go buy one. Or a new dress. Something to make me look more fantastic than I feel in this moment.

But I’ve made a deal with myself and with the universe, and a new shirt is not an option. This deal–it popped into my head in a way that felt important while meditating one night– I’m calling it my Enoughness Project: A study in gratitude, receivership and transcendence. You could call it a sort of spiritual detox, a process of recognizing my own innate enoughness.

What the Enoughness Project entails:

-No frivolous shopping trips. I will not purchase any nonessential material items for three months. This particularly means clothes, beauty products and home accessories. I’ve never been a credit-card-debt-racking slave to beauty and fashion, and I don’t *think* my friends would describe me as a shopper, but when I want to make myself feel shiny and new, I often seek out Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, Target or the makeup counter for things that will spruce up my body, my appearance or my nest at a low cost.

-I must accept blessings in whatever form they come. My gut reaction when I’m facing generosity, gifts, work opportunities, epiphanies, beautiful moments, etc., is to think or say “Thank you so much. But I can’t accept that.” In other words, “I don’t deserve that.” With this project, I must remain open to receiving all the wonderful blessings that come my way and leave it at “Thank you so much. I’d love that.” Because I need to buy the line I give everyone else: You are amazing, you are a child of God and you deserve all the blessings in the universe. (Everyone does.)

-Maintain conscious awareness of all the blessings I already enjoy. This means opening my eyes a little wider so I can take in all that I have—and be grateful for it.

The point?

If you’ll pardon some redundancy, there are several points to this project:

-Separate the association between looking good and being good.

-Get comfortable with receiving blessings

-Be grateful for all that I already have

-Get acquainted with my own motives for material consumption, grow my understanding of when/why I buy things and establish new habits that are more aligned with my values.

What was the impetus for the Enoughness Project?

I went to the dentist. That night, as I was meditating, I received a clear call, which may have been inspired by my conversation with the Bosnian dental hygienist who I’ve seen a hundred times but who has never made mere mention of the horrors she experienced during the ethnic cleansing of her people until that day. I listened to her tales of fear, torture, bleakness and not having enough food to feed her tiny children and, with tears in my eyes, I felt sickened by my own to-do list, which included things like “look for a new going-out dress” and “buy a turquoise accent piece for the living room.” The vision of my elegant dental hygienist huddled on the floor with her four-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter, both hungry, in a foxhole of couches and chairs, hoping to sleep all night protected from gunfire in the streets while her husband worked at the prison camp…

Her story brought an undeniable clarity within me: I have everything I need and almost all of what I want. In listening to her experience in her home country and in receiving her call to enjoy everything we have in this country, going out and buying stuff on a whim, though a regular habit, officially became an expired habit for me.

That said, it seems worthwhile to clarify I’m not foregoing shopping out of disgust for American mass consumption, although the trend does trouble me. The connection I felt with my dental hygienist was merely a catalyst for me to examine my own motives for consumption when, in reality, I have everything I need, no one is hungry and we are safe. This is not a political statement but rather a deeply personal exploration.

Send me some good vibes on this journey?

As most of us know, changing habits can be extremely difficult, and this will be no exception. My Enoughness Project is going to be a hard row, and I’ll be blogging about it as things come up. It’s sure to call up a whole slew of deep-down feelings, ideas, beliefs and experiences just waiting to surface; and, as this project is, after all, intended to induce transcendence, this is just as it should be.

With luck, in three months, at the very least, I’ll have the wherewithal to embrace life’s sweetest moments without preoccupying myself with material predicaments like what I’m going to wear. Instead of putting Kip down to stare at my closet, I’ll swing my little koala around in my arms, snuggle him close to my cheetah jammies, bathe him in laughter—and then get dressed.

13 thoughts on “Introducing the Enoughness Project: My study in gratitude, receivership and transcendence

  1. So sweet. And inspiring. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Wow, Emily, this is just so on target with me right now. Summer + major life transitions have me being negative about my bod, a mindset that seems to shrink down my capacity for compassion (not to mention happiness). I am joining you in the project! With a new job coming up, I may need to buy some work garb, but that’s about it. Also, I just read this great article and thought it was touching and relevant. Much love to you, fellow traveler!

    • Enlightening Elaine (you know that’s how your name is listed in my phone), I have never known you to feel negative about your strong, beautiful body, so I’m really sorry to hear you’re in a similar space as I am right now, but I’m also really excited you feel inspired to join me in my Enoughness Project. Now I have a buddy in the process! Hazzah! Just a thought: I’m actually about three weeks into the journey and have been amazed at the stuff that’s come my way for free. Amazed. Unbelievable doors have opened. Will share more in other posts. You might be surprised with some perfect work garb either handed down by some fabulous someone who doesn’t wear it anymore, or at prices so unbelievably accessible you can’t say no. Major transitions–heck, all transitions–are hard and I will be holding prayers for your consummate peace through it all.

      Also, that article is AMAZING. What a light in the world that woman is. I’m completely bowled over. How she could respond so lovingly and with such wisdom in the face of that kind of criticism is beyond me. Inspiring. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Another thought provoking, beautifully written entry!! Hugs to your koala from me!!

  4. I love your stories…they inspire me to be a better person and to appreciate what I have even more. I try to be positive about my life, but day to day humdrums get in the way more than they should. You are blessed with the ability to share and uplift. Thank you God for giving Emily this wonderful gift and Thank You Emily for being God’s vessel and sharing with the rest of us. I hope someday I can purchase a book of your writings to read over and over and share with others.

    • Oh, Cheryl, what a lovely note to read. You have no idea how much this encouragement means to me, amid my own day-to-day humdrums. Really. Thank you so much. Massive gratitude for you and the way you’ve uplifted me by thanking God for my writing. Wow. That feels amazing. (I get a sense that I’m one of many who’ve felt buoyed by your written or actual presence today.) Endless blessings to you!

      • Emily, I was introduced to your blog by my sister, Ginny Haley, who has been a good friend of your mom and dad’s for years. I am always amazed at how God brings people into our lives just when we need them. Thanks again. Maybe we will meet someday through that connection.

  5. Parallel universe Em! You also inspired me to go on an Enoughness Summer Journey! It’s intriguing to truly know why a Tory Burch label can make me feel briefly elated; but to truly find the hole inside myself as to why I purchased and “need” it is tough and maybe a bit ugly. Thank you for the reminder that blessings are abundant and not found in material possessions. I love you my wonderful friend!

    • Megs, it is so awesome to know you’re in this with me. You explain the feeling so eloquently here, and I just really identify with what you’re saying. The ugliness that sometimes hides beneath the joy at finding the thing of our momentary dreams is so hard to look at–good on you for so fearlessly taking it on! Just so you know, you are one of those people who always reminds me of the blessings all around. I may make you my lifeline and give you a call if I’m in a tailspin and feel like I need a reminder of where I can find real joy and blessings. I love you heaps, ole pal!

  6. Pingback: #8 Enoughness Project Series: Because maybe you expected me to post more, too. | emily en route

  7. Pingback: emily en route | “I’m very confident in how I look,” she said. And I smiled in awe.

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