Do you ever get have that feeling of ‘it’s all too much?’ It can creep up insidiously. One moment you are revelling in the sense of abundance that can accompany ‘plenty’ then without you even noticing, it suddenly becomes ‘too much’.
Maybe it’s too much to juggle; too much to think about; too much stuff; too much choice; too much to do; too much responsibility; too much food (think of the festive season feasts!); too much to remember; too much …
What is it that tips a previously plentiful thing into too much?
Wiktionary.org provides a distinction of synonyms, which appeals to me. It says:
“Abundance, Plenty – these words rise upon each other in expressing the idea of fullness.
- Plenty denotes a sufficiency to supply every want; as, plenty of food, plenty of money, etc.
- Abundance expresses more, and gives the idea of superfluity or excess; as, abundance of riches, an abundance of wit and humor; often, however, it only denotes plenty in a high degree.”
Essentially, we go from sufficiency (or enough) to plenty. Then ‘more’ gets us to abundance (or excess). If we take “the idea of fullness” and apply ‘more’ to that, it is clear how we can arrive at ‘too much’. Whether we do it deliberately or not, continually adding ‘more’ eventually tips us over.
Who sets your ‘too much’ level?
A holiday in France provided me food for thought as I visited a wonderful local patisserie every day (no pun intended!). The cabinets were full of every temptation imaginable for this sweet-toothed Ripenist. For the first few days my delight would turn to discomfort, as the queue behind me invariably grew longer and larger. In my desire to take everything in and make the choice most likely to satisfy my visual and intestinal curiosity, it all got too much. Too much choice! Too much pressure!
More often than not, I would select several delicacies and exit quickly, with plenty.
I noticed however that the locals bought differently – just a baguette and a treat – seemingly oblivious to all the other temptations on offer.
When I asked a local woman how she managed to resist the temptation to buy more, she gave an elegant shrug (as French women seem born able to do) and said, “I know what I like”. In response to my “But what if you like it all?” she simply replied (again with the shrug) “One is plenty”. Not, one is enough, but one is plenty.
I realised, in that moment, that I don’t typically think that ‘one is plenty’. Plenty means lots. More than enough. An abundance. Surely if one is good, more is better?
I like having a well-stocked pantry, a full tank of petrol, a pile of magazines, a bowl of fresh fruit, a stack of fluffy towels, air mile points in reserve, a basket of soaps, a good crop of lettuces… As well as giving me a sense of abundance, they can also represent luxury, indulgence, nurturing, possibilities and freedom.
Despite this, ‘one is plenty’ continues to play on my mind. Especially since losing lots of irreplaceable, previously treasured things during some rather significant earthquakes. In the face of lives irrevocably changed, things – no matter how precious – became irrelevant and the pursuit of ‘more’ seemed, frankly, irreverent.
Since then, I have quite deliberately chosen to focus on enjoying a ‘one is plenty’ sense of abundance. And while I’m not quite there on chocolate yet, I am definitely making progress.
For example, when creating my Butterfly garden, I did a lot of research then finally chose only one of each plant that had the highest likelihood of attracting butterflies. I also added a ‘puddling pool’ flanked by flat stones (to sun themselves on) and some other bits and pieces, designed to say “Hey butterflies, here’s a great habitat to hang out in.” Each of those ‘ones’ has come together to create a whimsical world of ‘plenty’ where, as Aristotle said “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Recently two of my favourite little friends came to visit the garden and gift it some beautiful ceramic butterflies. Their Mother and I happily watched her daughters search out the perfect spot to place each of their butterflies, while the real butterflies frolicked and flitted about them. And I was reminded anew that one of anything that enables such joy is surely plenty enough.
When does plenty become ‘too much’ for you?