Bill, Melinda, and What Constitutes ‘Enough’

Dearest Rachel –

Normally, I wouldn’t comment on current events in these letters. What happens in the wider world was of little concern to us even when we both were here; how much less so, now that the world itself is no longer a concern of yours. But I had to pause when I saw the numbers on the Gates’ divorce.

No, not the $150 billion, give or take a few.

What caught my attention was… the twenty-seven years.

Just a little less than a year short of our own marriage.

That’s right. We outlasted the wealthiest, most philanthropic couple on earth. By all earthly measures, these two ought to have all the answers to being able to stay together and create a meaningful life. They certainly claim to have the answers for everyone else, after all. And yet…

…here we are.

One wonders what happened. After all, these two were supposedly doing so much good in the world. Of all people to have a fulfilling life together, shouldn’t it be these two?

But apparently not.

I don’t claim to know why other people get together
I don’t claim to know why other people fall apart
All I really knew was that I thought we were for ever
And now that you are gone, oh girl, it’s breaking my heart

Just me… although it sounds like the chorus of a breakup song doesn’t it?

But yeah. I have no idea what either of them saw in each other (although there are the natural assumptions as to what Melinda might have seen in Bill), and evidently, that wasn’t enough to make it last, even as long as our marriage – which, if you ask me, wasn’t long enough.

And that’s the key word here throughout, isn’t it? Enough.

What, exactly, is “enough”?

I know that we used to talk about what we would consider to be “enough” from a material perspective, and how very few people ever reach that point. Although to be fair, for those that do, they usually tend to keep moving the goalposts. What they thought would be “enough” turns out not to be once they get it, which leaves them stretching their arms out for something more that’s juuust out of reach. It’s tempting to criticize a person for this, but this is what drives civilization; an ever-present yearning for that. much. more. And the effort to reach farther than one can grasp is the wellspring of both self-improvement and the whole of capitalist society – that whole ‘better mousetrap’ thing. Even in our faith, while we could accept the fact that we won’t attain perfection on this side of eternity, and just coast on the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, we are taught that such a lackadaisical attitude toward salvation reflects badly on our faith and our Redeemer, so we too need to continue to strive toward the perfection we are fully aware that we won’t attain.

On the other hand, we are also taught to be content in all things, and having a concept of “enough” is a step in that direction. To always be wanting “more,” no matter how much you already have, may be the foundation of capitalism, but it’s not usually fulfilling on a personal or spiritual level. And while I don’t necessarily advise taking one’s theology from the likes of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, it’s kind of hard to argue with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” isn’t it?

But we had determined some time ago what we might consider to be “enough,” and while it was a darn sight lower than what ol’ Bill here might consider to be pocket change, it was a target we managed to achieve… although we barely had a month together to celebrate reaching that milestone that would keep us comfortable for the rest of our lives (and Daniel’s).

Somehow, for Bill and Melinda, there was no “enough.”

Do I feel sorry for them? Well, maybe. All the money in the world doesn’t buy one fulfillment, no matter how much good use you might think you’re putting it to. And considering where they are despite their pursuit – and their means to do so – I admit to a twinge of sympathy for their having failed in their efforts.

Then again, all the money in the world can’t bring you back, either.

But that’s how things go: even the best marriages end up with one of us watching the other die (Actually, so do the worst marriages, come to think of it – it’s all a matter of the cause, after all). It’s cruel, but that’s this fallen world for you. Nothing lasts, whether good or bad. We can only hope that we have “enough” for each other to make it through, before we – like Bill and Melinda – have “enough of” each other.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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