The pain awareness brings

One of the things I knew I wanted to work on in my time away from Jenson is the anger I hold inside me.

An anger that I know drives a lot of my feelings of frustration towards others. But an anger I know is really an anger I hold against myself.

And it’s an anger that I feel at myself for having heard but not listened to the environmental crisis that we’ve known about for decades.

I remember learning about greenhouse gases at secondary school, so I can’t claim to not have known about what was going on.

But I didn’t act.

I’ve been aware for years that most rubbish goes into landfill or is burnt.

But I still chose to fill up my bin indiscriminately with single-use plastics and things I’ve cast aside after limited use.

I’ve known about the injustices that go with the earth’s exploitation – slavery, poverty, bribery, corruption.

But I still selected products that I wanted (the mac I use for blogging a prime example) regardless.

When I think about these things, I feel incredibly sad.

I feel the pain I’ve inflicted to the world.

And it makes me cry, to feel incredible sadness when I sit with this pain.

I know this pain is available to me because of the awakening and connection I’ve had to nature in the past few months.

I feel how nature – trees, flowers, grass, woods, stones, mountains, insects, animals – are all alive.

They don’t live at the same frequency as us – they grow slower, communicate differently – but that doesn’t mean they’re any less alive or worthy or important.

And it’s our folly to think otherwise.

In treating them all as second class citizens (or not citizens of this world at all) we’ve arrived at this knife-edge of human viability, faced with irreversible climate change and mass bio-diversity loss.

In knowing this, I sense why other people might not be able face into this pain.

Because doing so requires us to take responsibility for what we’ve done – at an individual and collective level – and that is hard.

But in writing this, I recognise that I’m taking on responsibility for the whole of humankind and our collective responsibility for getting into this mess.

And this responsibility is not mine to hold alone. To try to do so is destructive and paralysing.

It’s too much for me to feel.

It’s not mine to hold alone.

It stops me from being as effective, strategic and powerful as I could be in taking action.


In realising this, I know I need to sit with how I’m feeling some more.

I need to contemplate how I might I step out of this anger and burdensome responsibility, not to cast it aside, but to stop myself being overwhelmed and unable to act.

I know I need to practice self-forgiveness and compassion – even just holding my hands at my heart daily and saying ‘I forgive you‘ will be a start to this.

I also wonder how I can use this insight – the pain this work brings – to find a way of helping others to look into the situation without paralysis and overwhelming pain or avoiding any responsibility at all.

And I know I need to dance daily to work negative energy out of my body. To shake off the anger and the frustration and to step into the joy that this work can bring – being whole with nature, living a sustainable life at all levels, feeling the joy that deepened connections to all life forms brings to my life.

This isn’t work that will be done in a day. It’s work that will take time.

Being aware of what is going on is the first step.

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I’ve got enough

I’m nearing the end my year of not shopping. Not unnecessarily buying clothing, toiletries, nail varnish, books, stationary. All the things that would be nice to have but I don’t need.

I’ve bent my rules a little over the year, buying ebooks that I want to read, especially when my library doesn’t have a copy on hand, and I’ve bought four items knowingly – a teething necklace (complete waste of time), a dress (lovely but I didn’t need it), a lip stain (good purchase, but I could have coped without) and a notebook which was on sale and I’ll keep for when I need one.

But apart from these three items, I’ve let numerous other ones go. Wanting to jump into a purchase but holding back and finding, after the initial urge, that I didn’t really need them.

I’ve also changed the way I buy for others, not just throwing money at things because I need to buy them a present but asking what they want if I don’t know and learning that my worth is not connected to my skill of present buying.

And while I think I’m going to relax my rules and allow myself to buy in charity shops across the year, I’m going to keep going with my ‘stopping shopping’ lifestyle.

And here’s why:

I’ve been reading a book called ‘doughnut economics’ – I’d highly recommend it. It shows how current economic theory, built on continued growth as it’s defining measure, isn’t viable for ongoing life on Earth.

We need to find a sweet spot between people having enough to survive (access to water, healthcare, education, food, social support networks) and not pushing our planet above the threshold of what it can sustain (leading to climate change, ocean acidification, air pollution).

There is a balance, and it’s found through churning out less.

It’s found through valuing what can’t be bought. Finding happiness in connection, contentment in having just enough.

And that’s what I’ve discovered this year – I have enough already. A roof over my head, enough food to eat, clothes on my back, meaningful work, a family I love.

I actually have more than enough – means to take a holiday, a salary that pays enough for me to work a reduced week and still cover my mortgage, enough to save a bit away for Jenson.

I do wonder whether this experience of mine shows just how privileged I am. I have the ability to shop, I just choose not to. Whilst others don’t have that luxury…but I am where I am and I’m trying to do my part.

I’m coming from a place of privilege but what I’ve done isn’t nothing. I’ve managed something of substance through questioning how and why I consume things…

So what’s next?

I’m always one for moving onwards and upwards, but there’s maybe a lesson for me in the doughnut economics.

Finding a life which has a smaller environmental impact whilst not breaking myself through unrealistic expectations.

Yes, there’s a climate crisis which needs us all to act. But I don’t need to berate myself for not being perfectly carbon neutral.

But I can’t help but feel a ‘what next’ and I feel in my body a discomfort with the amount I fly and the environmental impact it has, which blows out of the water any environmental kindness I’m trying to make through veganism, my move to stop shopping and the eco choices I’m moving to (such as cloth nappies).

I’m also aware of how mass farming of crops is destroying our land through the use of harsh chemicals. So I’m finding myself wondering whether buying organically where possible might be something I’m called to.

But I’m going to pause for a moment and celebrate how I’ve not contributed (much) to the consumerist machine this year.

It’s a small step, but I’m doing my part, and that feels pretty good.

What small thing could you do, friend? We all need do our part, however small, if we’re to save the world.

There’s no planet B

Our planet…it’s the only one we’ve got. And although I’ve written about ways to save our planet before, I feel compelled to write again about the predicament we’re in.

If we don’t halt greenhouse emissions within just shy of 11 years, we’ll be subject to chain reactions that will change the future of humanity forever.

Famine

Drought

Cities under water

Natural disasters at an even greater scale

And yet, I don’t see anything changing in our economics, in politics, in many people’s day-to-day actions.

And I get it.

It seems like it’s too big an issue – that we’re living in a slo-mo sci-fi movie where the issues are so huge that it’s debilitating. And small scale action seems pointless.

But it’s not.

We can all make a difference by adopting changes in life on an individual level:

  • Going vegan (or reducing our meat/dairy consumption).
  • Reducing what we buy – stopping going in for fast fashion.
  • Changing our habits – whether that’s ditching cellophane or starting to compost
  • Reducing the amounts of flight we take (I’m guilty of this one!)

There are so many ways to make a difference – this article by Virgin highlights some steps you can take to reduce your impact.

But we also need wide-scale change at a political level too:

  • Changing how governments measure success – from economic growth to removal of C02 production
  • Investing in ways to solve climate change, new tech and cultural hacks
  • Considering how to reward those whose lifestyles are kinder to the environment

We can be involved in the above by contacting our politicians and letting them know that we want them to take the environment seriously. If enough of us raise our voice, we can make a difference.

Will you join me?

I’m counting on it, because we have no planet B

Stopping shopping #3

I’m 3 months into my non-shopping adventure and wanted to reflect on what I’ve noticed about this experience. For those of you who didn’t read my first and second posts about not shopping, I decided to not buy unneeded stuff (including new clothes, books, cards) and only spend on either things I really need – food, train ticket to get to work, birthday presents – or memories (like a meal out with Gregg, paying to go camping with friends). My intention was to live like this for three months (until today!) but feel already that this is more of a forever lifestyle than a short-term experiment.

When I started on 17 June, I feared that not shopping or buying would feel restrictive and uncomfortable but instead it has felt liberating. With spending off the table, I feel more present. Just like I do when I switch off my phone and decide to just be in the moment.

I have also noticed that I appreciate what I already have so much more than before. Not buying needlessly has made my possessions – my sunglasses, clothes, shoes, bags, books – have more worth to me than when I could replace them without much thought.

It also feels really good to be doing something so practical and proactive to support the environment. It’s lovely to know I’m playing my part in stopping the needless churn of stuff being produced.

I have bought a few things that I could have done without – ben and jerry’s vegan ice cream (it is bloody amazing!) and a new face wash (I’ve got enough micellar water to last me until Easter so didn’t need a new one but was starting to get spots so wanted to get something that would be more targeted towards my skin type).

I’ve also decided that I’m going to slightly relax on not buying coffees at work. I had committed to not buying any during my three months but have found it uncomfortable. It’s often a way that people get stuff done at work in a collegiate way – going to a nearby cafe, buying each other a drink and talking about shared issues and work. I want to be part of this community ritual and if that means spending £20 a month on coffee, that’s ok by me.

On the whole, I’ve now stopped spending and it feels good.

It feels like this is impacting others too. I’ve really appreciated talking to my mum and what this way of being might mean for Christmas – perhaps less stuff being bought, a focus on what people need instead of buying something that I’m not sure the other person will like just to give ‘enough’… It feels nice to consider Christmas in a simpler way – focusing on spending time with the people I love instead of worrying that I haven’t bought enough for people.

I also really appreciated the few days I spent with my auntie last week who made her way down to Brighton to meet Jenson. Agreeing that this time together would be our Christmas and birthday presents this year has taken the pressure off her buying stuff that she’s not sure we’ll like and I’ve valued the time together over any presents we might have bought each other.

So here I am, three months after I stopped shopping, committing to keep living this way of life. It feels good to have a goal, like a little challenge, and so I’m going to try living this way for a year – yes, a year! – until 17 June 2019.

I’m sure I’ll have moments of difficulty, when I want to buy stuff, but I know that I can make this work and I know that it’ll make a difference with savings, with appreciating what I have, with connecting more with people as I ask to borrow things like books instead of buying them myself.

I love the simplicity, how it allows me to have greater presence in the ‘now’ and I love the positive impact I’m having on the planet as I buy less stuff.

Long may it continue!

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Now is the time

I’ve been hearing for a number of years about scary environmental things, like how ‘overshoot day’ (when we use all the resources the earth can regenerate in a year) was 1 August this year, how bees (crucial to pollinate and enable our food to grow) are on a teetering path towards extinction and how we’re 1 degree away from a planetary domino effect which would render much of our planet inhabitable.

I’ve got to be honest, it scares the fuck out of me.

I look at my son and am desperate to ensure that he has a planet to live on which isn’t plagued by famine, lack of land as the water level rises (because of polar ice melting) and drought.

Instead of retreating into myself and consuming a vast quantity of chocolate to placate myself, I’m going to be vocal about it.

I feel heavy of heart but also propelled to act, to shout to everyone about it.

We must to do something about this.

Each and every one of us.

Individually and collectively. We must take action, whatever we can. You must take action, whatever you can. I must take action, whatever I can.

It could be:

  • going without a car where possible,
  • eating less meat and dairy (the second biggest cause of climate change),
  • putting on a jumper before you turn on the heating (hard to think about in the summer!)
  • not buying food made with unsustainable palm oil (responsible for mass deforestation of the amazon rainforest – our planet’s lungs),
  • taking plastic bags to the shops instead of buying new ones,
  • buying less ‘new’ stuff
  • stopping using chemical cleaners and returning to old, kinder methods (like vinegar instead of bleach)
  • opting to refill products to use less plastic

There are so many choices we can make. Overshoot day has some interesting thoughts too – see here)

Yes, it needs heavy legislation from the government to stop the practices that damage the planet on a large scale – a ban on non-sustainable palm oil, financial aid to allow farmers to switch from dairy/meat industry to more sustainable practices, heavy taxes on the production of single-use plastic…

But to say that it’s all down to legislation (that individual, small actions can’t lead to mass change) is shedding ourselves of our responsibility to this planet and future generations.

Putting the blood of future generations on our hands.

So I invite you to stand with me in whatever way you can – if that’s opting for one of the choices above, joining in the debate about what else is possible, sharing this post on social media to get the message out to more people…we need to act collectively and individually.

Now is the time.

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