Rejecting a Culture of Scarcity

Have you ever toggled between reading two books and found a beautiful and fruitful convergence? That happened to me last week and it felt like a gift. It was as if the universe kindly underscored a message so I would be sure to receive it. That message was about rejecting a culture of scarcity.

Rejecting a culture of scarcity

Taking Time to Be Well

Since January, I have been trying to practice more health-promoting behaviors. I was more mindfully sipping my tea, stretching most mornings with a short yoga routine, meditating, and walking. Each of these activities brings me real, noticeable benefits. But, I soon realized how much time it took to do all or most of them daily–an hour or an hour and a half each day. I started to feel stressed about all the time it took! So, I started pairing down the number of activities I did every day. I even shortened the length of those I did: reducing the length of my walk, scrolling on my phone half way into my tea time, and so on.

It takes so much time to care for my body and mind, I thought, and time is so tight! I don’t have enough time! Then my readings converged on the topic of rejecting a culture of scarcity.

Brown and Kimmerer on Scarcity

I am re-reading Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability and reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. Both are professors and so much more. Brown and Kimmerer each earned a Ph.D. (the former in social work, the latter in botany). Each describes herself, respectively, as a story catcher and a story teller. Their styles and their grounding are very different: Brown proudly identifies as a Texan, Kimmerer as an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Despite their differences, both write eloquently about scarcity and its antidotes.

Both authors write about scarcity. I read BrenΓ© Brown declare “[w]e live in a culture of deep scarcity–never enough.” Brown pointed out how we often wake up thinking we didn’t get enough rest and go to bed be thinking we didn’t accomplish enough. Similarly, Robin Wall Kimmerer explains that”[r]ecognizing abundance rather than scarcity undermines” an economic system that makes us think we don’t have enough and need more. These passages helped me realize how mired I am in scarcity thinking. It spills over from my cultural conditioning. It oozes out from intense work place demands, and it creeps into my personal life. Scarcity thinking makes me believe that I do not have the time (or the right to take the time) to engage in healthy practices. It didn’t occur to me that I could try rejecting a culture of scarcity.

Reject Scarcity to Survive & Thrive

What was I thinking–time is scarce, there are only so many minutes in a day–so I need to do fewer healthy things? Less health is okay because time is scarce? That doesn’t make sense. And, let me acknowledge here that I know there are many different kinds of healthy practices people can do. I don’t judge anyone for not doing these things. I also recognize that many people have very intense demands–as caregivers, struggling to make ends meet, etc. These demands may well make time scarce for them in a way that it isn’t for me.

I am a caregiver who works hard. But, I am privileged to have a decent balance between resources and responsibilities. I support changing social structures so no one has to sacrifice themselves and their health to meet their care responsibilities. We deserve a society that helps everyone survive and thrive. (If you are interested in an organization that works for this kind of change, check out Caring Across Generations.)

An hour or *gasp* an hour and a half is really not too much time to spend daily to move, stretch, rest, and focus. Everyone deserves that time. So, the Brown and Kimmerer readings have reminded me to push back against capitalist culture telling me that I have to prioritize productivity to the detriment of my health. I am rejecting a culture scarcity. I will take the time to care for my wellbeing. It will take effort to stick with it when I feel like I need to get more done. I finally understand that on a deeper level.

Message received, Universe. Message received.

If you are interested in tea and mindfulness, you might appreciate my posts pairing tea and focus words or moTEAvational quotes. Or, you might be interested in my Spring Rest Kit for Tea Lovers –an online kit full of resources to help you enjoy convenient, mindful, and restorative tea breaks.

Do you struggle with scarcity, too? How you push back against it? I invite you to share in the comments if you are so inclined.

6 replies on “Rejecting a Culture of Scarcity”

I 100% struggle with scarcity! Especially in a work-at-home environment where I occasionally have to balance child care responsibilities alongside work responsibilities. There isn’t a clear distinction between when the workday ends and when the homelife begins. Also, I spent nearly every day of 2020 “at work”, not allowing myself weekends or PTO days or sick days. I was constantly trying to get ahead at work so I could be prepared for whatever new obstacle the pandemic threw my way. I’m really feeling the effects of it in 2021, too.

I’m currently trying to battle burnout by NOT working weekends anymore, but I can’t seem to actually allow myself leisure time. I always seem to mix a relaxing activity with something that produces results. Like, instead of sitting down to read and enjoy a cup of tea, I listen to audiobooks while cleaning the house. Or, recently, my husband suggested I take a nap (because I was battling a cold that was making me tired), and I told him napping felt like a waste of time. I am very much aware that all of this is productivity anxiety created by our culture, and yet I still struggle with intentionally giving myself time to rest. It’s such a hard thing to reject!

JACKIE: Thank you so much for sharing! Wow–I can relate to no demarcation between where I work and where I live during COVID. I have gotten better with a lot of effort these last few months about not working on the weekend, but it’s still a struggle not to peek at and respond to work emails. (I feel ridiculous typing that. Trying not to do my work on the weekend feels like overcoming an addiction to me.) And, I hadn’t even given full thought to the fact that I rarely just listen to my audio books. I often listen while “being productive,” too. Thanks for helping me realize that by sharing. Sending solidarity your way! Hoping we can find ways to just be and breathe without having to feel “productive.” –Traci

Thanks so much for sharing! Trying to balance work, my business and every other part of life, I often go to bed thinking I didn’t do enough. It leaves such a pit in my stomach and also makes me feel less than. I do make time to workout everyday and I DO NOT infringe on that time but I did start meditating daily last september and in the last month realize I am not all there during meditation. Sometimes I’m answering emails or packing an order and I tell myself it’s ok I’m still being mindful and not “wasting” 15 or 20 minutes. This is my nudge to go back to what I was doing before πŸ™‚

I can so relate, Nazanin. And, I know you have a full-time job and an amazing tea-related business! Love the tea stickers, stationery, bookmarks, jewelry–everything–I have bought from your amazing shop, I can see how 2 jobs–and being an entrepreneur, would really ratchet up that sense of time scarcity. Good luck with your recalibration, and may you be gentle with yourself as you find your way. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

This is a powerful post and an important reminder. Thank you, Traci. I feel that I have the same struggles you faced. And, it’s quite counterintuitive. When I engage in healthful practices, I feel so much better! I’ve become ill more than once from overwork–how many times does that need to happen to get the message?

I was recently doing a meditation about space–the space between each breath, the space between sipping my tea and putting down my teacup, the space between getting off public transport and getting the office and how each of these spaces can offer a moment or more for self reflection and mindfulness. This is one of the practices I’ve been doing this past week.

Thanks for sharing your insights and helpful practices, Maggie. I so hear you! I love the focus on space. It seems like a great antidote to that feeling that everything is too much. If we can find the spaces, surely that helps! (As does whittling back the to-do list. πŸ˜‰

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