Lately I've been meditating on all the ways I'd like to refine my life. I suppose it has a lot to do with all the things I'm juggling, and all the things I anticipate adding into the mix. Kids, jobs, family, friends, farming, potential founding of a non-profit, doula-ing (soon! Just waiting for that little boy to night-wean…), and everything in between. I just can't make sense of some things in my life any more.
At first I started to see it all in stuff. Too much clutter. I don't need most of what I have, I realized. How did we fill all three floors of this house? I've been less and less inclined to save things when it comes to my monthly purging. I figure, what good is having the stuff if you don't even know you have it? Exactly. I'm better and better about not bringing in new things, too. The only new (to us) stuff we've acquired recently are some sheets, a pair of work boots for Jeff, and some rain barrels. Well, and some fun art and music from Christmas time. But still, it's so much better! I mean, we haven't been "shoppers" for quite some time, but we are scavengers. It's all just feeling a little more intentional in that area.
Then I started to see it in technology and the news. So much clutter to be had there. It manifests in much the same way as household clutter, too. I found that when I was really focused on spending time online, reading about things that are happening worlds away- things that are truly beyond my control- I was often doing it at the expense of my own immediate environment. Like, I'd be looking on facebook at a person that I don't ever see anymore, while my kids were whining for my attention. I'd spend a bunch of emotional energy thinking about how f***ed up our political system is, and how it's got us all trapped into thinking we need it, and then I feel too zapped to be emotionally present for my friends and family right around me. It just all started to seem so ridiculous and irrelevant compared to what I could be doing and what I do have control over. And then I'm so emotionally and mentally exhausted at the end of the day that all I want to do is watch some mindless show to decompress and relax. So imbalanced! How can I end my day with mindfulness and intention, just like I started it?
It has me thinking a lot about my limitations as a human. The monkeysphere, if you will. Read that article. It says it better than I could, really. So enlightening. And really central to what kind of life I'm seeking, lately. I am working to recognize my limitations, and work with them. Now it makes sense when I spend my time caring about people worlds away, I don't feel like I have the energy for my own life. It's simple math, really. Don't get me wrong, I think an individual's capacity for love is great. But now it makes so much more sense why all these loving wonderful people are all shopping for iPhones despite the knowledge of how they are made. And those are the things that get me so upset. Like, why won't people make the necessary changes when they are right in front of us? Thankfully, it's not that people are assholes, it's that we can't care beyond a certain point. Even beyond caring, how are we supposed to DO anything when it's so far away? I have this vision of us all flapping our arms around being outraged, or posting status or journal updates as some kind of a sign that we care, and then nothing happening to better whatever situation it is. We're just talking and feeling and flapping, and that's that. What good is it? Many charities are flawed in this way too. Like, their motives are good, and yet when it comes down to it they take money and spend it on administrative costs- and what money does end up supporting whatever cause ends up being fairly ineffective because… well, we're just too far removed. Like I recently learned about Heifer International. Great idea, poorly implemented because most families that get the animals don't actually know how to care for them. I suppose there is room for improvement there, but you get the point. Sponsoring the building of a well was actually the most effective thing that you could do with your money, charity-wise.
The way to make an ethical life, I'm thinking, is to downsize. Perhaps this is not for everyone, and I can see the importance of someone being an activist for the issues in the Congo, etc. My concern is less about not being able to care, but rather feeling like I want to make a difference in the ways that I can. I want to hone those energies into things that I feel confident will really be good. I don't want to miss opportunities to be present in my own life, and in the life of those around me. Like, the other day, I was out feeding the chickens and my neighbor was out back with his dog. We chatted and joked about how the weather keeps us indoors and we hadn't talked for a month or more. He was sick with a cold. Later that night I was making an enormous pot of soup, as I am wont to do, and realized that I could give him some. So I sent Vera and Jeff next door with a dozen eggs and a quart of soup, and it felt good. It just felt like… solid and simple. I can feed and nurture the people around me kind of good.
It seems like this entry needs a picture… why not some sunshine and earth?
I guess this is the only route that makes sense to me, in light of the craziness in this culture. I hate being trapped into systems that poison and exploit and that we have to do a million hours of research just to know if something that seems great is not toxic. Most of the time, if that answer is not right in front of us, it's a safe bet that it IS toxic and hurts somebody. What a world! It's enough to make you go crazy. And most of us are, at least in this context. So I'm taking small steps to really be a part of my life and my relationships, to find the place where what and who I care about really come together into a physical reality, one that I can truly care for and nurture without making toxic compromises. I have never felt settled with the idea that the world is just on this trajectory that can't be stopped. While that might be true, I just wonder what would happen if we all simplified and slowed down. If we took all that philosophy and talk, all those inspirational quotes rattling around in our heads, all our politics and ideologies, and just brought it into action. If we trimmed off all the unnecessary clutter- the toxicity that distracts us from truly inhabiting our days and relationships- and just tossed that out in favor of a life that we can touch.
Not totally sure how to do that yet, but I'm working on it. Thoughts?