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Scare City: My Never-ending Problem with Abundance
I meditate on enoughness and end up drowning
Having an abundant mindset is important if you want to feel safe in the world.
Feeling as though not enough of the good stuff is available to you, whether you’re conscious of that scarcity or not, will keep you in a survival mode.
Scarcity will rock your worldview so much that even when there’s evidence of abundance right in front of you, you will fear it being taken away rather than just enjoying what’s present.
Scarcity isn’t just about the thing that feels low on inventory. Scarcity reinforces beliefs, and then actions, that can direct our lives.
If there’s not enough, it might be that you’re convinced you’re not enough. Self-deprivation, low self-worth, and depression ensue.
If there’s not enough, it might be that everyone else is your rival. Isolation, hyper-individualism, and anti-social behaviors ensue (i.e. buying up all the toilet paper when a pandemic of the lungs hits town).
If there’s not enough, it might be that someone is to blame. Anger, conflict, and relational rupture ensue.
Feeling as though there’s not enough is an invitation for anxiety to do its best work. Therefore it’s important to address where scarcity fears — whether scarcity of time, resources, love, pleasure, joy, objects, etc. — are informing how safe the world is for you to exist in.
Tell Me About Your Grandparents
Exploring unconscious core beliefs about scarcity and abundance is important in understanding your energy around these poles.
For example, I know that my grandmother grew up in capital-scarce southern Italy where being able to share a robust meal with her family was a rarity. When she arrived in America, she had only a short time before the great depression began.
My mother grew up one of six children in a 2-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. She and her sisters shared a bed, and everything else, for the first many years of their life.
The anxiety that comes from not having enough is felt in my bloodstream from experiences I, myself, never had. But because trauma moves through generations as it does, both in the nervous system and in the mythology we teach each other, I have immense struggles with scarcity.
To celebrate the abundance that eventually arrived — and remember, abundance is having enough, not necessarily having it all — my grandmother would perpetually be cooking and coercing us all to eat it, regardless of our hunger.
The stereotypical Italian grandmother simultaneously force-feeding carbs to all of Brooklyn and then commenting on how fat you’re getting.
I loved her for it.
And yet it’s also very apparent to me the threads of my own eating disorder. But that’s for another time.
Food abundance became a language of love. What she couldn’t have at times in her childhood, she wanted to make sure her family had. I respect that.
Knowing this helps me better understand some of my unconscious feelings around scarcity and abundance and how I’m pretty primed to always think there’s never enough.
But even when I’m able to invite in thoughts of abundance, they’re not pure.
I hunker down with an abundance meditation on YouTube.
The idea behind the meditation is that whatever you want abundance in, let’s say money, isn’t the place to begin. Because if you want abundance in it, that’s the first indication that you don’t already feel it.
Begin instead where you feel it.
What do you feel aplenty in your life?
Books. I have so many books. So much wisdom on my shelves, so many perspectives, so many worlds to dive into, so many offerings, so many ways to share with people I love… but damn, when I move, this is going to be a hassle. I’m going to have to get rid of so many books. I’ll have to make so many decisions about how to rid myself of too many books. How did I get this many books? I must have spent so much money on books. What else could I have spent that money on now that I see it all together like this? Did I ever return the book I borrowed from my friend? She must think I’m the worst. Who can even read this many books? How am I…
Okay. Whoa. Not the vibe. Try again.
Okay. Okay. Whew. Okay.
Clothes. A good amount of clothes that I’ve accumulated over the years. Clothes I feel comfortable in, clothes I feel empowered to wear. Clothes in my dresser, clothes in my closet… oh that closet. There are so many clothes in that closet, a pile would probably tumble out if I tried to open it. I need more space, I can’t keep living in this tiny apartment. I don’t have enough space for all the clothes. And the dresser’s still broken, haven’t gotten that fixed yet. And look at that pile of laundry. When I’m going to be able to get to the laundromat? I can’t go tonight, can I go tomorrow? Do I have enough clean underwear to…
Oops. Did it again. Try something else. Try something that you’re not attached to. Try the suggestion of the meditation guide.
Okay. I got this. No sweat.
Sunshine. There’s so much sunshine. The sun always rises, it’s the one thing we can truly rely on it. It’s risen every day of my entire life, and every day before that, too but I wasn’t there to see it. Especially here in southern California, sunshine sunshine sunshine. And it’s great to know that even when it’s cloudy, the sun is still there, just on the other side of the clouds. It feels so good to soak up all that sunshine… But what month is it? May? Oh god, it’s going to get so warm soon. And the sun is going to become a blister, especially now that the ozone layer has been depleted by another year of no one caring about the climate. And I’m so forgetful about sunscreen, the sun is probably killing me. Anyway, who’s to say the sun will always be there, huh? We’re heading in the wrong direction and wouldn’t that be some shit, to be a part of the generation of humans that ruined the sun! I’ll probably just stay inside until October when it cools off and the sun won’t make me feel like I’m slowly dying.
I’m done. I’m done with this meditation, it’s only making everything worse.
From Enough to Too Much
When I reflect on my wandering mind, I’m not surprised to see my stubborn sense of scarcity. I knew my Calabrian grandmother well and I know her thick-headed anxiety is alive and well in me, too.
What does surprise me, though, is that in the confines of my mind caves, abundance itself is not pure. Even when I stay in the energy of abundance, I can’t find peace. Instead, I find overwhelm.
As someone oriented strongly to all-or-nothing thinking, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that feeling into the energy of enough is a slippery slope into the energy of too goddamn much. The books need sorting, the clothes need cleaning, the sun needs a few extra layers between us. It’s no wonder I’m not experiencing abundance in so many areas of my life.
Stay in the Day
The path, I believe, is managing anxiety, which is the common denominator in both scarcity and abundance concerns.
Whether I’m seeing enough or not, I’m either jumping to conclusions, making assumptions, future-tripping, black-and-white/all-or-nothing thinking, or tasking myself with an unrealistic amount of work in an unrealistic period of time.
Better instead is to think of abundance not as “it’s always been there and it always will” but rather as “it’s here now.”
If I want to read a book right now, I have plenty to choose from.
If I want to wear a cute outfit now, I have plenty to choose from.
If I want to feel the sun now, I have plenty to access.
If those things are there tomorrow, great. If they’re not, great. Well, probably not great, but that’s for Tomorrow Vanessa to assess. And she’ll do a great job because Tomorrow Vanessa will be empowered to address tomorrow’s world. Today Vanessa is empowered to address today’s world and she’d do a much better job if she stayed in this day.
Huh. That’s funny. The very first therapy session I ever had, back when I was 20 and buried in the starkness of my first ever major depressive episode, my lovely therapist challenged me to mindfulness. “Can you stay in the day? Maybe the moment is too small, but the week, month, and year are too big. So how about you try to stay in the day?”
I hadn’t realized she was still in there. It makes sense now.
Stay in the day, and everything, much less abundance, becomes manageable.
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