I’m feeling thoughtful and inspired this morning, having gotten lots of the basics done last night while Jeff worked late. The house is in relative order, and so I was sitting here checking up on some of my favorite blogs- oohing and aahing at their latest projects and thoughts. So much inspiration out there. There are days that I see those things (either in person or online) and it pushes me into a place filled with self-pity and defeatist thoughts. I sometimes wonder how they have the time to be so creative, or I’ll become envious and wish that I had the gifts that they do. I’ll look around and suddenly the things that I have are no longer good enough, no longer satisfying in the way that they used to be. Lately, though, I’ve been much less affected by those feelings of doubt. I’m more likely to look at others and feel pride for them, grateful for my creative community. I thought about it, and I was inspired to share my thoughts today.
In this culture, we’re encouraged to be consumers of everything- not just goods. We’ve been told that whatever our skills, someone else can do it better. Whether it be fixing a toilet, singing a song, making a basket, writing a book, painting a picture, being spiritual, growing food… we get the constant message that we have to do just a few special things, get money for it (and however much we earn tells us how valuable what we’re doing is…), and then take that money and use it for all the things that other people can do better. What I’ve found, just in the past two years, is that I love doing things. I love creating. I’ve renounced much of this consumer culture, and determined to become a producer in my own life. Now, rather than being a specialist in any one area, I’ve dipped into most areas. I’m building my skills constantly- but the skill that is perhaps the most important is learning to trust myself.
I have some dear friends who are about to embark on an adventure- they’ve remodeled a box truck to be a "mobile condo". This week marks the last few days in their house, and yesterday Jeff and I went over and got some of their extra stuff- they generously gave us tools, wood, a couple of rain barrels, art supplies, extra food… so sweet! It’s a pretty extraordinary project, and they have had to learn so much to make it happen. They’ve experimented, failed, succeeded, and just generally been pretty adventurous. They’ve also got a bunch of people who just don’t understand what they’re doing or why, and they’ve had to weather the criticism of those closest to them. It’s surely been a challenging time for them, but they’ve also been very brave and focused, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.
Jeff and I are doing very different things from them, but despite that it’s clear that the solidarity is there. What do we have in common? We’re taking agency over our own lives. We’re trying things. We’re learning. We’re no longer allowing the culture to determine what makes us happy. We realize that the things that are important have very little to do with money or status or material successes- things that so many people in this culture spend their entire lives working for. Rather, it has to do with our relationships- to each other, to the earth, to our non-human neighbors, to our own selves. It’s really a pleasure to watch them striving to take charge of their lives, and while perhaps at one time I would have criticized or compared their journey to my own (like so many of their witnesses are doing, unfortunately), I find that it’s been really easy to just bless them in it.
I think that people have been bombarded with the message that they can’t do or have what they want. They’ve also been told that they want a myriad of unsustainable things- things that ultimately, in my opinion, won’t provide the source for true happiness. I’m only at the beginning, but it makes me think of my garden. I don’t really know what I’m doing. It’s a combination of a couple of years of trial and error and borrowed ideas from different books and things I’ve seen. And then I was ambitious and I just went for it. It’s not perfect, and I’m not the best, but it’s so much better than if I didn’t do it at all. This year, I think we’ll actually be eating our stored vegetables through to the spring, and that’s pretty cool. It also would have been impossible to do without risking failure, and inevitably experiencing a deviation from my vision of success. Anyway, people have come by and admired our efforts, and told us about theirs. I’ve been so, so happy to share, and then am always excited to see what they’ve done. However, more often than not my request to see their garden is met with an eyeroll and a "oh, it’s nothing like this…" And then I feel disappointed- because I really am excited to see what they’ve done, and I’m not comparing it to what I’ve done. This whole life thing? It’s a collaboration. If we treat it like a competition then we’ll spend our time being isolated and plagued with thoughts that keep us from truly celebrating our gifts and trying new things. Plus, we’ve got to learn from each other! We can’t possibly be the best at all things, so we’ve got to lift each other up and teach one another, and enjoy individual and unique successes.
Anyway, I’m thinking about this because we’ve been talking more seriously about buying the land across the street. It might not happen, we’re just talking about it. It would most certainly be a collaboration- seeing as how we don’t have much in the way of financial means, we’d be reliant on some financial help. Our vision for the land is also pretty new to us, and we’d need lots of support from friends and family. There’s talk of a community garden, a CSA, the potential for a neighborhood egg share, a mini orchard, a small cob building and an outdoor kitchen- perhaps to hold classes on food storage and urban farming. I’m excited to see what we could do on a half an acre in the city… Do I know what I’m doing? Nope. And it’s a little intimidating. But, it’s also not a reason not to go for it. I’m finding that a big part of tapping into my own potential for happiness comes from trusting myself and my ability to learn. Thinking, I don’t know how to do this now, but I will. Anyway, it’s exciting. I’m excited for my friends in their mobile condo, I’m excited for us and our success this year, and for our plans for next year. I’m excited for my neighbor a couple of doors down who is learning to keep bees… I’m excited for all of us who are willing to try and who are working not to measure their successes against each other. It’s a constant process, but I’m hoping that I keep working to eliminate those competitive thoughts, and instead regularly celebrate my life and my friends, and see it all for what it actually is, rather than a reflection of my own insecurity.