The Ponder Effect | How much, exactly, is enough?
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How much, exactly, is enough?


I love the holiday season: the weather, the decor, the music, the food, the gifts, the traditions, the magic, the stories, and even, in spite of myself, the hectic pace.

It’s a season that invites a fireplace and a steaming cup of tea. A season that balances both the discipline of expectation and an abundance of joy. A season that promotes, however obnoxiously, an attitude of thoughtfulness.

When I was a kid, my parents worked hard to get Christmas right. Christmas Eve was full of the appropriate mix of wonder and reverence. Christmas morning broke early and felt less manufactured than, I’m sure, was the reality. Our tree was spectacular: big and bright and carefully ornamented. It often snowed on Christmas day, or thereabouts – something my parents obviously didn’t orchestrate, but helped with the overall effect. There was Moravian sugar cake served on festive plates, and hot chocolate poured into special mugs, and the answer to every question, it seemed, was YES.

The gifts mattered, of course, but the thing that mattered most was the day’s certain, accumulated, palpable magic.

The best things were the simple ones, not the perfect ones: the mugs we always drank out of, for example, and the (store bought!) sugar cake. If the tree hadn’t been perfect, I might have worried about my mother, but the spirit of Christmas would not have been lost.

In the midst of our everyday life, this holiday, more than any other, felt like a respite, a true joy.

Because of that, every year I eagerly await the holiday season as an opportunity to explore that spirit of generosity and playfulness. I seek to welcome it with the expectation that it will be both alive with magic and gratitude and buffeted by an acknowledgement of the divine.

And yet every year of my adult life, I’ve found myself in almost complete surrender to the brute force of the holiday season. Bit by bit, my magnificent plans are set to scale, and the question that keeps me tethered is: How much, exactly, is enough?

Someone – I don’t know who – recently popularized the phrase, “all the things.” In most contexts, it serves as both a giant eye roll to those who seem able to do it all and a way to make light of all the ways we fall short: Haha – we can’t do all the things. There’s something in that jocular quality that doesn’t quite sit right with me. The things we can do are only just enough, and enough just doesn’t quite cut it.

But this holiday season, I’d love to hear from those of you who truly celebrate “enough” in various areas of your life.

What limits give you life, and how did you come to set them?

Beyond the holiday season, is there a way to reframe your definition of “enough” so that life takes a more measured pace?

What joy can we find when we accept, with gratitude, a spirit of respite rather than believing the only option is to be overspent?

Where in your holiday season do you find that certain, palpable, accumulated magic? And how can you bring that into focus, so that everything else falls away?

Towles Kintz is a writer, freelance editor and mother of three, living in Nashville, Tennessee. To read more of her work, visit Art House America ( or

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