Getting an education.

I wrote an entry yesterday but it was all erased by Jeff somehow (poor guy felt so bad!) and at that point I didn’t have the gumption to write it over again anyway. So many things on my mind. I’m thinking a lot about how to balance this lifestyle with ways in which I am accustomed to living… that was a terrible way of describing it- I guess just learning how to consolidate it all and deal with doubt. For example, it’s my wonderful Jeff’s birthday today. He’s 26! Anyway, he wanted this cake for his birthday. Specifically, this yellow cake with rainbow-chip frosting that comes straight from the supermarket. His sister used to make it when he was a kid and he remembered it with such fondness. He answered with such surety, I had to ask again just to be sure I heard him right. He smiled and told me the story about having so often when he was a kid, and so I just shrugged and said "Ok then, rainbow chip frosting it is."

Now, it might not seem like this is anything to bat an eye about, but for the past 3 years Jeff and I have dedicated ourselves to living more sustainably, and the first step had to be with how/what we eat. We don’t go to the supermarket. We buy our food primarily from our food co-op, and what we don’t get there is raw milk and bulk meats that we order from local farmers. We try to grow as much as we can, and work to store things and waste as little as possible. It’s not perfect, we still buy a lemon and an avocado here and there, but we have really been fine-tuning it so that we just don’t eat the way that we used to. Each year it becomes more refined- more bulk foods, less packaged stuff, no more bananas, more stored veggies from our own garden, etc. We also don’t eat meat when we eat out- which we don’t do often. This is not to be food snobs- although it kind of comes with the territory when you get used to this way of eating. I didn’t feel noticably better, I didn’t feel bad to begin with, but I do feel gross when I eat much of the food I used to be okay eating. I can feel the difference between a greasy piece of pizza and one that I made myself. So, it’s feeling good, this choice of ours. We have no doubts that it’s right for us. Not to mention ways in which our health improved without us realizing it. Jeff uses his inhaler far less often and is no longer lactose intolerant, my cycles became more regulated, I had a great pregnancy, we both rarely get sick, it’s just good. I even wonder if I’m overcoming some of my food allergies, although I’d like to get it tested before I go eating whatever I want. Anyway, it’s not just that we feel good. That’s a perk. It’s really about living in a way that we feel is ethical and in line with our values. You’d be surprised how much that has to do with your food. 

So here I was with this birthday request. In my family, and I think in many, you basically get what you want on your birthday (within reason). I felt this lingering objection, but I didn’t feel like I had a right to say anything. Two days went by and I, without thinking, said "So you really want this rainbow-chip thing for your birthday?" Jeff got really upset and asked me what this was all about, why I couldn’t just honor his birthday request and all that… I felt bad, so I explained why I was confused about it, but told him that I would make it if he wanted me to. He said it was ruined now and that he’d just feel guilty eating it at this point. I felt like a ruiner of birthdays. We got past it and now we’ve happily settled on me doing my best to make it with ingredients from the co-op, although it will not be what he remembers.

I felt so bad about it all, it got me questioning everything. I would love to abide by that unspoken rule that people get to have what they want on their birthdays, but what happens when I don’t believe that people can have whatever they want, period. I mean, surely I can walk up to the store and get him the stupid cake, but I don’t believe that that kind of eating is/should be truly available to us. It’s not sustainable, not to mention it’s bad for our bodies, and part of what we’ve been rejecting is this sense of entitlement that is just false and results in suffering and many of the problems we see in the world today. I know, way to think about a cake, right?

It’s just tiring sometimes, doing what you believe in. I know many people criticize us, or think it’s just too much work and that it’s not necessarily one person’s responsiblity to do this. Or, more likely, they think we’re big fat downers. But, I really feel like every year I’ve collected little pieces to the puzzle, and they come together slowly to form a picture- a good and hopeful picture, not one filled with deprivation . It’s hard to have understanding for something you can’t see, but that’s faith. It became infinitely easier to do this and to want to do more after I started. It comes together slowly, but it comes together. Sacrifice, fear of what people will think, a birthday, any reason I can think of not to do it, it just all becomes less and less important the closer I get to what I believe is right. The lines between what is hard and what is easy become blurred and my work becomes my joy.
Jeff talked a bit about how it feels addictive to take the easy road. If you start to let something slip, if you make it okay for something then it’s hard to see life without it all. I felt like that was the best reason not to allow ourselves to have the cake, straight from the birthday boy’s mouth. Because it’s not just cake, it’s a ripple effect, it’s compromising the structure of our beliefs. The more I write the more sure I feel.

I guess one of my fears that lingers is the idea that I’m a big bummer to everyone. That I’ll somehow ruin experiences and desires and make people tired of me. It’s not an unfounded fear, is the problem. That stuff will happen to some extent. All it takes is that perspective. I’m sure my kids will tire of it all, I know my parents have already. But, I’ve learned that I can’t let that matter. I can’t let those doubting voices sway me from my action, because I know that it has purpose, even if I can’t see it yet. An example of this that I love- my dad was a bad alcoholic/addict when he was in his teens. He was in rough shape towards the end, his teeth were falling out and he was turning yellow from hepatitis… bad news, right? Anyway, this middle aged guy approached him one day on his way to an AA meeting. He was able to tell that my dad needed help in that way, and so he invited him to the meeting. This was back in the 70s when the only people who went to AA were middle aged men. So, my 19 year old father went to his first AA meeting on a whim. He’s been sober ever since. He’s gone on to work for and eventually run a very successful drug treatment facility. He’s sponsored hundreds of addicts and alcoholics and continues to be active in the AA community. Needless to say, he’s inspired and helped countless people, and it can all be brought back to a single moment, when a guy took a chance and asked a crazy looking dude he’d never met to come with him to a meeting. That man moved a few years after my dad got sober, and ever since then my dad has been trying to find him. He’s wanted to thank him and show him what he’s done with his sobriety. Finally, after over a decade of searching, he found him. The man is still sober and was surprised to hear from my dad. I love this story, because it just shows how you won’t always see the fruits of an action like that until later- in this case it was 30 years later. Anyway, it just teaches me that I need to do things that I know are right, even if it’s something very small, and to take chances, even if I don’t see an immediate return. I imagine that that man was walking with some people who discouraged him from talking to that crazy long-haired kid. I imagine so many obstacles- even just the fear of talking to someone new. Anyway.

My aunt made Vera these mittens.for Christmas. We now call them her "kitten mittens" (say really fast).

Snowy night. So much snow lately.

She’s always preferred feeding herself, so I just let her have at it now. She even scoops her spoon in the bowl and everything! My big girl.

"I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education." -Wilson Mizner


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