Learning to Live Intentionally

One of the factors in my becoming more environmentally conscious as well as becoming a vegetarian was trying to find a purpose for my life. For those who don’t know me suffice it to say that I have somewhat floundered through life so far trying to find my purpose, calling, destiny, whatever you want to call it. I feel that for the first 40 years of my life I was just trying to survive but not much living was really happening. When I turned 40 I really took stock of my life, as many do at that milestone.

I did not have a career. I did not have children. I did not even have my own house.

I did have a broken marriage, an unfinished degree, and chronic depression.

Didn’t seem like much of a legacy to leave.

So I asked myself what could I do that would really make a difference? I looked into various volunteer opportunities and some of those are still possibilities but still being somewhat in survival mode (bills still have to be paid), my available time is very limited especially now with helping out with Grandma. But I did not want to wait until I had more free time to start doing something. That is how environmentalism and minimalism landed on my radar. These were things I could do now with little extra time commitment that could still make a difference.

Parallel to that journey was my vegetarian journey which had much more to do with the fact that I could literally no longer stomach the idea of eating the flesh of a living breathing animal anymore than I could of doing the same to another human. It was just a bonus in my eyes that reducing my animal consumption to zero and significantly reducing my family’s as well through creative recipes, also had an environmental impact. By reducing the demand for factory farmed meat, we are joining our voices with hundreds of thousands of others who are saying ‘no more!’ The devastation wreaked upon the east coast by hurricane Florance brought to light the horrors of factory pig slaughter plants where millions of animals were left to drown. Additionally the immense amount of manure produced by such a large consolidation of animals mixed with the flood waters polluting streams and water sources throughout the Carolinas. Factory farming is good for no one but the owners and their bank account. It is horrible for the animals. It is taking its toll on America’s health. It is destroying the ecosystem. It needs to stop.

I realize that I am not in a position to travel with UNICEF to help people in undeveloped countries. I am not smart enough to develop anything to help clean up our oceans or make plastic bio-degradable. I’m not rich enough to buy politicians to pass regulatory legislation (not sure that will ever be the answer to the problem anyway). I’m very well of my limitations, but instead of throwing up my hands and saying, “I can’t make a difference.” I decided to figure out how I could start making a difference right here and now.

If you have read any of my other posts, you know that one of the first things I did was reduce my use of plastic. I do not use plastic straws. I carry my own reusable eating utensils to reduce having to use plastic silverware. I buy whatever I can in tin, aluminum, or glass OR refill my own containers rather than buying new ones. I have switched to shampoo bars instead of buying shampoo in bottles. We only use bar soap instead of body wash in plastic bottles. I try to buy in bulk to reduce the amount of plastic produced for those things that can’t be purchased any other way. I say all of this not to toot my own horn, but to drive home the point that if I can make these changes, ANYONE can do it!

Other things to consider that make a huge difference over time and collectively when more people participate include:

Consolidate errands in one trip when possible. This saves gasoline and time (good for your pocketbook) and reduces the overall emissions produced from multiple trips.

Don’t dump your melted ice or ‘old’ water from your drinking cup down the sink. Use it to water your house plants or even your pets (they will drink toilet water given the chance, so they won’t mind drinking after you).

This one some may argue against but read my argument for it and give it some thought. I utilize Amazon a lot. I request limited packaging and either reuse or recycle the boxes and packing material. We live in a very small community and have to drive 10+ miles to get to any type of store. Since Amazon utilizes the Unites States Post Office to deliver and the Post Office delivers to my town six days a week, it just makes more sense to me to use the gas and vehicle that is already coming my way than to run around all over the county (literally) to get what I need. It takes more planning on my part, but I believe it is better on my pocket book and the environment in the long run.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. I am constantly looking for other ways to make a difference either by reducing my product and energy consumption, my amount of landfill waste, even my amount of recyclable materials (we are quickly approaching the tipping point where recycling will no longer be a viable option) or by doing something positive to impact my community, country, and world. One thing I refuse to do is nothing. If I truly believed I could not make a difference with my actions, I would just curl up in a ball and die because what would be the point. Believe me, having chronic depression that is a very tempting prospect. Instead I am going to keep fighting for change, for good, for kindness, for love. Will you?

Difference is as Difference Does

I don’t know about you but for me the movie Forrest Gump is chalk full of great quotes: “That’s all I have to say about that.” “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” “Stupid is as stupid does.”

That last one took me some time to really see the meaning behind the words. It wasn’t just a comeback to being called stupid. It was an introspective look at what is really stupid and what could be called legitimately stupid. What Forrest’s wise mama was teaching him was that the action can be stupid but without the action it cannot be ascribed that title.

The same goes for making a difference. Without action no difference is ever made. Actions that help the environment, animals, and other humans is what makes the difference. People can talk all day about solving problems, but until someone gets up out of chair and goes out and does action, no real difference is ever made. So I had to really look at myself and ask what actions am I doing to make a difference?

If you have followed my previous posts, you already know some of the things I have implemented as permanent changes in my life (vegetarian, recycling, reducing waste, etc.). These have all been actions but they have been somewhat passive actions. By that I mean that they are actions that I take that affect primarily me, my family, and my home. I have not ventured out much beyond my bubble to produce action in my community, city, state, or country. I want this to change. I want to be the change. The change starts here.

About 8 years ago my grandmother was diagnosed with late onset Alzheimer’s. Last year she had to move into my parent’s home for full-time supervision. This summer, that has transitioned to full-time care. Our family has been in crisis mode now for 14 months. The thing is during crisis mode, survival at all cost kicks in. Whatever can be done to make one area of life easier so energies can be focused in other areas is done regardless of cost. I help my parents out two days a week so they can have the freedom to do other tasks that daily life requires (grocery shopping, home repairs, appointments, etc.) or even just a quiet lunch out together. Unfortunately there is a lot of waste that happens when taking care of an elderly person, from adult diapers to plastic bottles of nutritional drinks. My father has always been and still is an avid recycler, but neither of my parents have embraced the ‘reduce’ part of the formula. My mom uses retail therapy to cope with the mounting pressures of taking care of grandma. So from an environmental standpoint, there is not much positive happening with this situation. To be honest, I don’t care.

Providing a healthy, safe environment for my grandma to spend her few remaining days is much more important to me at this moment than advocating for the environment. Does that mean I have gone back to using plastic straws and plastic shopping bags? NO WAY! I will keep implementing these and other changes because I can. My parents have much bigger issues to deal with right now than making their own soap or household cleaners.

Those of us who are able-bodied and not dealing with a major medical crisis in our homes are the ones who need to be even more vigilant about our choices that impact the environment to help soften the impact of those who just can’t right now. I have seen repeated arguments over the plastic straw ban vs disabled people who depend on them. There is a compromise. I’m living it on a much smaller scale with my family right now. Those who are able to should do everything in their power to make our environment cleaner and healthier. Those who can’t (sick, elderly, disabled) should be allowed to take full advantage of modern conveniences without being shamed or guilted. This is the balance that all life requires.

As for actions, I could be the plastic, water conservation, zero chemical nazi at my parent’s house two days a week, but I’m not. Instead I am leading a team to participate in a fundraising walk to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. I have not walked to raise money for anything my entire adult life. This is definitely outside my bubble, but it is still a very personal cause. I am positive this walk will not be an zero-waste event, however I hope that the money raised will help to find better treatments and eventually a cure that will have a bigger positive environmental impact than this fundraiser.

This shift in my perspective is huge for me. I have always been a very black/white, all/nothing kind of thinker. This risk analysis kind of thinking is opening up a whole new world for me and making me a hopefully more kind, understanding, and compassionate person. I want to be a ‘difference is as difference does’ person.

If you would like to help make a difference and donate to my fundraiser walk please go to this link:

http://act.alz.org/site/TR?pg=personal&px=14814147&fr_id=11233