Having an experience of scarcity seems like an indulgent first world problem to me and yet I go tripping down that rabbit warren more than I have for a long time. Having downsized my life in most ways in the last year, not all at my own hand, I often catch myself wanting. I recall my economics classes where the lesson that resources are finite, and an insatiable appetite for growth featured regularly. This economic equation keeps revisiting me at so many levels, practical, spiritual, meta physical. I want more – one last conversation, one last kiss, one last meal. I want less – one less speeding fine, one less demand, one less choice.
The invitation to simplicity is one giant mathematical computation of complexity that results in an overwhelming sense of a sum zero game that I never asked to play. This see-saw of being grateful for what I have and feeling a paucity of intimacy is quite exhausting. The ups and downs of the see-saw are grief on her ride through me and the interior landscapes I traverse. Many of these lands are new to me, and some I keep revisiting looking for meaning and magic to unlock and hold memories, hoping the voyage of this Dawn Treader will come to shore soon to rest and find me in a safe habour. I know I am in a safe habour all the time and I do have enough of all that I need. Yet …
There are triggers all around that sneak up and remind me of scarcity. I see couples making plans for a life together and I want to warn them how it will all end. I hear the dog barking next door, wearing himself out waiting for his family to come home and his loneliness grows and then dissipates giving up just before they arrive. I feel the ash, and am infused with the smell of the fire from the broken limbs fallen from the wild winds the night before, that I have made into a little hearth in the back yard, and I think about the differences between being buried and cremated. (How does carbon get stored and released?) That leads me to think about land, the scarcity of it, my carbon footprint, the legacy I leave by all my actions. This is not living abundantly, my scarcity lens is keeping me from fullness and it refuses to leave me and contributing to a feeling of self-indulgence.
Theologians and economists have always found abundance and scarcity a point of difference. I think the root of the challenge to get this balance right, lies somewhere in gratitude, generosity and hope. Being generous is a sign of abundance, my biggest currency has always been time and now I realise how finite time is and I am making more choices with me at the middle of the equation, again a new landscape and one where I am yet to master. Being grateful is a practice and I am trying to be agnostic about what I am grateful for, everything can be appreciated and received with kindness. This practice seems to be woven with respect and recognition, actually being able to notice the gift however unseemly wrapped it comes to me. Hope offers potential to shape what will come next and to be an actor in that future without letting the scarcity filter, is a daily exercise in my inner life gym.
In this year of self-compassion, I am struggling to replace scarcity with abundance which has been my default for so long. Privileges I took for granted or worse, hadn’t even noticed I had. These privileges are now inviting me to pivot, flipping abundance for scarcity, There are invitations waiting for me to find the wealth within, the freedom of less and joy of simplicity. I will try not to shame myself too much for defining this feeling of scarcity as a first world problem, as it is teaching me to be more mindful, more conscious of my consumption of all kinds of things from air time to fossil fuels. To be more gentle on myself and grateful for all the times I have been generous and how that disposition is one of the key reasons for the depth of the wound. After all something that is scarce is also rare and therefore usually incredibly precious and perhaps that is the clue to the relationship between abundance and scarcity – the rare space that one creates for the other.