‘How Much Is Enough’ … Time?

By Claire Berger | May 29th, 2024

Our ideas of time can morph over the decades

How Much Is Enough book cover. By Claire Berger

How much is enough? This is the universal question comedian and writer Claire Berger answers in her book, “How Much Is Enough? Getting More By Living With Less.” She thoughtfully and humorously unpacks this puzzle across every aspect of our lives, from health and money to relationships and personal fulfillment. This excerpt from Berger’s book shows how ideas of time can morph over the decades. 

It’s impossible for me to explore the concept of enough without addressing time. If all goes well, and I fully expect that it will, I still have more than enough time to deepen my relationships with my family. I will have enough time to travel to new adventurous destinations, make new friends, fall in love, embarrass my children, and work on new creative pursuits.

I have absolutely no idea why I had such a ridiculous sense of urgency to blow through each chapter of my early life, from convincing my parents to let me enroll in kindergarten at just four years old, to graduating high school at sixteen and heading right to college – which I completed at twenty – just in time to get married that same year. My God, what was the rush? Why was I so impatient to move to my next chapter of life when I’d barely taken enough time to relish the current one?

One of the reasons I love cooking so much is that it exists in its own time frame. You cannot will water to boil. You cannot summon bread dough to rise before it is ready. You cannot rush a simmer. Cooking is time-sensitive, a constant reminder that we cannot control time. When I take enough time to organize and prep for a multicourse meal, I feel like a culinary orchestral conductor, utterly absorbed in the delicate syncopation of getting everything cooked and on the table at the right temperature at the same time. Brownies are my favorite culinary example of the magical power of time. They never seem quite done when you take them out of the oven at the prescribed time, but you must trust that they have cooked enough. If you follow directions, you will be richly rewarded with a firm, lightly cracked top and a dense, gooey center. Is there anything better than biting into a warm brownie? Well, maybe two, because one is rarely enough.

I have worked jobs both at night and during the day. The list is surprisingly diverse, including stand-up comic and preschool cooking instructor. These jobs required very different levels of adrenaline and time management, never affording me the luxury to contemplate my circadian rhythm.

So, whether you are on a deadline, have time on your hands, are experiencing a pregnant pause, getting time and a half, finding time, wasting time, on overtime, moving double time, on borrowed time, or doing time, please remember to live in the moment. May every minute you have left be filled with at least one precious second of bliss, and may it be enough.

author photo of Claire Berger, author of "How Much Is Enough?"Claire Berger got her start as a comedian at Second City in Chicago, catapulting her into the spotlight as a studio warmup comedian for “Seinfeld” and other iconic TV shows. Now 67, Berger is sharing her lived experiences with readers, from personal reinvention to resilience and a healthy dose of humor. Her book has received early praise from actor and entrepreneur Jennifer Garner, who commends Claire for her “gentle, steady example” in exploring life’s bigger questions. And CBS’s Nancy Giles says: “It’s a blend of deeply personal stories and provocative questions that will make you think, reflect and maybe even spit-take!” 

Another book on aging, comedy, and lessons on life: Dave Barry’s “Lessons from Lucy”


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