knowing when is when and when enough is enough

He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.
Lao Tzu

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
William Blake

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(the image of a dying tomato bush with a leafleg bug ready to take the remains / Julie Cook / 2014)

The air is sticky thick with humidity, it is as if the waning weeks of Summer are doing their best to suffocate the life out of every living creature before she is vanquished from the calendar.
Can we hold on until Autumn?
Until the air changes with a lightness, with coolness, with crispness?
Can we muster the strength to head out into the relentless heat of the final blasts of August’s furnace one more time to water a parched lawn, to walk an exhausted dog, to practice the quintessential game of Fall? Are we ready yet to throw in Summer’s beach towel in exchange for Autumn’s brilliant blanket of color?

As we are now left with the same nagging question. . .when is enough yet enough–when is when when?

Back when I was preparing to throw in the towel to my career in education, deciding it was time to walk away from the classroom I had called home for 31 years, there were those who clamored for me to stay. I dare say there were also those who clamored more quietly for me to “go, please go. . .” but the question more often than not asked was “how did / do you know it’s time?”
How does one know when when is when and enough is enough?

I’m not sure if my answer would be the right answer for someone else wrestling with a decision of knowing when is when but it was one that worked for me. My decision was certainly expedited by my Dad’s failing memory, but it was also hurried along by my oh so very stress ridden and tired body. I had spent a lifetime shoring up my physical self, patching here and there, swallowing this and that just so I could keep going. You know the old saying, a sick teacher is better than a substitute any day.

It helped to some degree that I had also witnessed first hand other individuals who had stayed longer than they should— those who had long lost their charisma, their passion, their vitality, their stamina, their enthusiasm, their enjoyment, their patience, their “love”. I did not want to be that person.
I needed, wanted, to go out on top—not just for my own sake, but for the sake of the program I had spent a lifetime forging.
So, after 31 years, the time had come, when enough was truly enough.

I say all of this as I find myself sitting on the cusp of one season slowly waning, soon to give way, thankfully, to another season. I forged a valiant fight in the garden this year. I documented the journey starting back just shortly after Easter, when the soil was still cold from a lingering winter.

We journeyed, you and I, throughout the early harrowing attacks of wandering and maundering deer, armadillos and raccoons. You read of my battles to stave off a keen and cunning enemy armed with nothing more than Irish Spring soap. You read of my frustrations and wonderment as you shared the images of the emerging fruits of my labors, as well as the later heavy laden baskets of the plethora of the harvest, along with a recipe or two.

Yet I must say, that the time draws nigh as it is soon time to cut and till under the dregs of this season’s work. It is soon time to put away the trappings of this year’s garden, as we will merely wait until the time arrives for next year’s garden—the very garden my husband says, once again, will not be happening.

I know it’s time when the weeds outnumber the plants. When the ants threaten to make off with me as their mounds could possibly swallow me whole, when the maypops sprout, when the tomatoes “fire up” as a slow drying and dying begins to take place. . . and when, most surely, the leaf legged bugs arrive.
And yes that is their common name. . .

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They are the Coreidae–members of the hemipteran, suborder Heteroptera—kin to the stinkbugs but thankfully, do not seem to emit an odor or perhaps it is overcome by the decaying stench of rotting tomatoes wafting heavenward.

Each year, late August, these alien looking insects descend upon my remaining tomatoes with a vengeance—with this, more or less, being a direct result of my having allowed them to move in. Days may pass before I venture out to what is now an overgrown and overrun patch of land that once held great promise. The heavy heat and humidity, and the endless battle against weed and insect, all by late Summer, has witnessed my having thrown in the towel, allowing Mother Nature to take back what is rightfully hers.

As I pick through the dried and dying vines, seeking the dregs of remaining ripening tomatoes—those spared black rot or still intact and not bursting on the vine from the ill effects of late rains, I am nearly knocked over by the ariel assault of leaflegs fleeing my encroaching presence.

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The official end of Summer is upon us next weekend with the annual return of the long Labor Day weekend’s last hooray. This is our signal, our beacon, our cue that change is forthcoming.
I for one do not need a calendar to be reminded. I have the leaflegs. These alien like insects who act as either harbinger or hearalder of the change of things to come.

The time for when is now as it is more than time that I’ve had enough—

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β€œThe longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know…Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. This is enough.”
― John Adams

3 comments on “knowing when is when and when enough is enough

  1. Lynda says:

    Julie, this post is very thought-provoking. One of the things that really speaks to me is your decision to leave teaching and how others encouraged you to stay; yet you listened to your inner voice rather than the others. That is so important in our lives – to be true to ourselves and to what we know is God’s will in our lives. That leads me to the quote from John Adams which reflects Micah 6:8 where God tells us “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God…” Circumstances change but those truths never do. Have a very blessed weekend.

  2. I’ve been finding some bugs that look very similar to some of these. I’ll be soooooooo glad when August has come to an end. I always am even though our heat can continue on for weeks after it has left, but at least the triple digits seem to fall off shortly after September gets under way. This has actually not been as bad an August as the last several, but I just hate the heat whether it’s 100 or 113. I was actually very ready to retire the year before I did but it made to big a difference in my retirement money to stay another year, but it sure took a toll on my health. I am glad though that I stayed that last year as the extra money each month has given me my play(garden) money. I sure as heck could NOT have made another year though. I had definitely burned out big time. I pray you have a blessed Sabbath tomorrow, missy. Love and hugs, Natalie πŸ™‚

    • I was lucky that 30 was and is the magic number in Georgia. I knew that at the time, I was but 52, young to “retire”—but I took the job right out of college at the ripe ol age of 22—never stopping long enough to catch my breath—it was time. Since I never went back for further degrees—masters, specialist,etc—my pay was minuscule–but my choice was wanting to be as much mom and wife as I could be while still having to work. Going back to school on top of that would not have allowed me the balance I tried keeping in our lives—even though it wasn’t always the easiest or greatest of balancing—as you well know, being a working wife and mom is no easy task or mere feat.
      Had I been a single parent that would have all been different and I would have had to go back getting as many advancements as possible to up the paycheck—but I was fortunate in that regard that we were a two income home.
      I did coach for a while, sponsor of this and that, participate in summer learning programs and did receive numerous trainings and endorsements to be able to teach AP and IB, but that was my drawn line–
      Whereas I do miss feeling as if I’m making a difference somewhere out there, I don’t miss a 5AM wakeup call and a non stop day until falling into bed. πŸ™‚
      Hugs my little retired teacher in arms πŸ™‚

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