Sunday, November 23, 2008

Living simply and deliberately

Comments on Friday's post "When the challenge is over - Moderation" had me really thinking. Although I think it's a positive sign that we continue to struggle over the choices we make because it means we are being mindful, can I have taken it too far and allowed guilt to dampen what is first and foremost a pursuit of a better life?

Some of the comments on that post were:

"In my life simple, green and frugal are lifestyle choices that arise from values that have less to do with a sense of overall guilt over consumption... than how I choose to embrace existence... A desire to be part of, rather than apart from, the web of existance is not a perspective of deprivation for me." -- Hugh

"Changes and choices, I believe, should come from the heart." --Mon

Somewhere along the way, now 10 years into the attempt to simplify my life, have I lost my focus? Reading some of those comments was a real "duh" moment for me. As a result, I went back to my original goal, written 10 years ago and later made into a bookmark so that I could keep it close and in mind:

Live Simply and Deliberately
  • Love and be loved
  • Be healthy and strong
  • Respect the Earth
  • Respect yourself
  • Have fun

And that's where I think I lost my way and have fallen prey to an all-or-nothing mentality. I have been allowing the goal of respecting the Earth dictate my decisions without keeping in mind that it's important to have fun, too!

This weekend has been an opportunity to step back and re-evaluate some decisions and what they contribute to my life. Eating locally is definitely a plus with added value to every last one of those mini-goals. Obsessively tracking my car mileage, however, in an attempt to continuously lower our driving impact can at times conflict with mental health and having fun.

And therein, I believe I truly find moderation - in returning to a decade-old rule of thumb and my original measure for happiness - to live simply and deliberately.

Thanks, everyone, for helping me re-focus!


Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Wow Heather, you are truly an inspirational person. I wish I had the ability to write about my thoughts and feelings the way that you do. I don't have a problem writing about things from a more scholastic perspective, but to write personally, I get writers block.

You remind me too to remember why I started to make the changes I did to begin with. It is easy to get enthralled in the process of reduction. It is easy to see your life in terms of comparison: "how much I have I reduced my consumption of x this month?" But you are right, somewhere along the way we can allow this to take precedent over our origial motivation. For me it was much the same as you, it didn't seem fair to me that American's have access to so much more of the world resources than others. It didn't seem right that we mortaged our future for gain today, that we ignored the state of the planet and other people who live on it. I realized my consumption was contributing to suffering - of the planet, animals, and people. It seemed that my life was fairly devoid of meaning beyond stuff and that our fast paced culture is stressful and dehumanizing. It isn't all about reduction, sacrifice, or doing without - this is part of it, yes, but sometimes we can overlook the personal, spiritual, and freeing aspects of it in our pursuit to continually reduce further.

Thank you again Heather, this post really made me think. In fact, thank you so much for your blog, thank you for sharing your wisdom and kindness.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

(sorry about all the typos, my fingers were moving quite quickly :-))

Hugh said...

Heather, are you feeling guilty about feeling guilty? LOL I love your bookmark!

Jennifer, If your response is any indication, you seem to be nicely articulate in expressing your thoughts and feeling.

As for way finding, it is a daily task for me. More a task of wonderment and discovery than dreadful responsibility, but that is probably because I have low expectations.

Heather @ SGF said...

jennifer - Are you kidding? I love your blog and you're a fantastic writer! We're definitely on the same page about focus though. While it's good to zero in on our consumptive habits, we still have to take a step back and remind ourselves of the whole picture lest we lose the forest for trees (as they say).

hugh - Dude! You get me coming and going :)

I love my bookmark (it's so worn now). I even have some small photos on it - pictures of things that remind me of what I love about my life. And since I am a compulsive reader, I am never far from that reminder.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Hugh - I appreciate your response. It actually took me a lot longer to write that response to Heather's post than it should have. It isn't that I cannot express my personal thoughts and feelings, it is just really difficult, and most of the time I start to do it, I can never seem to put it into words and I give up.

I have significantly lowered my expectations as well. :-) I find that it has helped me on more fronts than I would have thought. There is a lot less to get disappointed about when you don't expect very much, so I understand what you mean.

Heather - I really appreciate that, thank you. I just find that I have an easier time trying to write about something from a more "objective" (or from a stand point that I articulate) rather than how I feel personally. I have been working on it, it just takes me awhile. I've always been a very reserved person, but those times when I have been able to satisfactorily convey my feelings, it has been very rewarding. I just can't tell you how many times I have sat down to write about something that bothers me on a personal level or that I've been mulling over in this crazy brain of mine, and how it makes me feel, how it makes me feel about humanity, our future, etc., and I just stumble. It is a journey, and perhaps in a decades time I can be as articulate as you. :-)

Chile said...

Heather, I think your guiding principles for a simple and deliberate life are right on target. (I'm going to steal them and post them on my refrigerator!)

It's great that you've reconnected with these goals and now remember that respecting yourself is an integral part of meeting them. It seems like allowing oneself to have fun frequently gets lost when folks try to change their lives, doesn't it?

Heather @ SGF said...

Chile - steal away, girl! I'm more than happy to share! It's amazing. The last couple of days I've felt very light. Less stressed. I'm definitely back on track :)

Heather @ SGF said...

jennifer - sometimes when I'm unsure about what to write (and I need to get some personal feeling out - like on Friday), I just treat the blog like my personal diary. Just throw stuff out there. I was so glad I did because everyone else was there to help me get back on track.

Theresa said...

I was thinking on the way into work this morning about David Wann's delightful phrase, 'joyful moderation.' It reminded me that we are not supposed to be suffering martyrs or guilt-ridden ascetics, just people doing the best we can while feeling some joy and contentment as we move towards as fair and just a 'footprint' on this planet as we can manage.

Blogs are great, hey? Such a source of support and inspiration, which is all part of that 'joyful' thing, for me.

CindyW said...

I have always been a moderate in everything, so being 80% green rarely bothers me. I shall point out that being 80% good enough is also a reason that I am NOT perfect in every way.

Going 100% green is difficult to sustain in an environment that is not set up for 100% success. For example, I've wanted to drive less, though I drive only 50 miles a week, much less than an average American. Not having convenient public transit system around where I live definitely puts a dent in my goal whenever I need to go to client meetings. I could never succeed if I set up a goal of not driving at all.

Anyway, enough rambling. I want to do the best I am able to without feeling guilty all the time. Maybe that is wimpy, but at least it is sustainable :)

Heather @ SGF said...

theresa - I agree. Not only are blogs a chance for us to journal our thoughts, but we get amazing feedback in the process.

cindyw - no, I don't think it's wimpy. I'd call it sane :)