As a communicator I’m fascinated by both languages and words. Today I’m veering off my normal medical topics to focus on something more linguistic.

The man had a lean, rangy, hard-scrabble look about him. His pressed jeans and starched shirt made me think he haled from west Texas or perhaps Oklahoma. Certainly somewhere west, and hot, and dusty. Based on his age, I guessed he’d been born to Depression Era parents and probably served in WWII and perhaps even Korea. We were at one of those open-air things where food vendors circulated with bite-sized samples of their wares. When offered one, I heard the man reply, “Thank you, but I’ve had enough to eat today.”

I thought to myself that the man probably hadn’t had enough of anything except hard work his entire life. But I understood what he was saying. I was mainly raised by a single mom and, on more than one occasion, had been told that I’d had enough to eat, even though my stomach thought to argue otherwise.

All this ruminating made me think about the word “enough”.

For such a small word, it creates a clear, powerful dividing line between need and want. You might have enough food to eat, money to pay the rent, time to get to where you’re going, data to make a decision, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want more. Maybe a little buffer. Perhaps a little extra to make sure you’re not hungry, broke, late, wrong. But there is no buffer in “enough.” “Enough” is a true measure; there is no extra. No Lagniappe as they say in New Orleans. “Enough” is sufficient upon to itself.

So how do we know when enough is really enough? As the quote from Atticus goes, “Just enough crazy to make her interesting.” Beyond that, it becomes “more than enough.” Sometimes it’s hard to tell when the “enough point” has been reached, but I guarantee we all know when we don’t have enough.

Beyond dividing “need” and “want,” the word “enough” also serves as a tipping point. It’s that moment when it becomes clear that something different needs to be done. A change must be made. People will change jobs, homes, spouses, nearly any aspect of their lives when they’ve “had enough.” Interestingly, I think there is a lot of medical advice sought at the “enough” point. There comes a time when a person will decide they’ve had enough dealing with pain or other symptoms that it warrants seeing a doctor.

I’ve always thought of “enough” as an almost invisible word. One of those fillers in a sentence that take up the space between the first capital letter and the final period. It is unassuming. It’s an introvert. It certainly doesn’t have the panache of its synonyms such as “watershed moment.” “Enough” doesn’t seem important enough,  dramatic enough, or intense enough to carry the weight of transformative events. (See what I did there?)

Like many introverts I know, though, “enough” carries tremendous meaning and does so concisely.

I hope you have enough of not only what you need, but also what you want. Thank you for checking in.