"Never Enough"

Scroll down to read more about the story behind the song. Hear the song on Spotify (link below), or listen and buy from my "Music" page

You used to save up words that I spoke
like pennies you found
lying lost on the ground
Roll me up in your arms
keep me safe from harm
then hold me up to the light
Now the days are all spent
Don’t know where the time went
and I feel so empty

It’s never enough, no it’s never enough, no it’s never enough
Would you stay for awhile?
It’s never enough, no it’s never enough, no it’s never enough
Would you please make me smile?

Sometimes when you look into the mirror
do you know who you see?
Are you who you should be?
Do you know where you’re going?
Do you like where you’ve been?
Do you wish you could start over again?
You got what you wanted
You thought you were free
Now you can’t get what you need (Chorus)

We’re spending our time
like there’s time to spare
We’re just now starting to care
that it’s never enough

To be alive is to be constantly striving. And for humans, who are conscious of our striving, the breadth and depth of our desire seems boundless. We want more of everything: more money, more love, more power, more success...above all, more time. We yearn for more from the moment we draw our first breath to the last—only intensifying the struggle (for all but the wisest of us) the more we are aware of our limits. At middle age we seem to suddenly recognize our own mortality and buck against it any way we can...usually by striving for more of what it is we think we want.

This song, “Never Enough,” went through several major rewrites—primarily, I think, because I had a hard time describing that sense of wanting more in a concrete way. I didn’t want to define a circumstance too narrowly but ended up with too broad a concept.  I’d play the song in a workshop and everyone would look at me quizzically at the end.

Although I think I finally got to an emotionally resonant song, it is interesting to me that people have interpreted that sense of “wanting more” from both sides of the equation. I was relating to the “wanting more”, but others were exasperated by the sense that no matter how much they do or give or try, it is never enough.

In the first verse a relationship that was once treasured is no longer deemed valuable. The currency of a relationship—words we speak to one another, time spent physically with another, or visually cherishing the other—is spent.  Why? It’s not clear. One partner wants more, the other has given all that can be given and it’s still “never enough.”

In the second verse, the listener confronts the dissatisfaction with self: “are you who you should be?” We set goals for ourselves and, even if we achieve those goals, we find it isn’t enough.  For some of us, perhaps we chose the wrong goals “can’t get what you need,” for others of us perhaps we haven’t learned to be content with what we have.

The (shortened) third verse is a reminder that no matter which part of the journey we are on (wanting more or giving more), our time is limited. There is no “time to spare.” At this point I hope the chorus has even more resonance: “stay for awhile” (learn how to be still), “make me smile” (practice gratitude). As the Buddhists remind us, we only have the current moment, so we should cherish it. Let the current moment teach us that now is enough in spite of—or perhaps even because of—our constant longing for more.