Sunday, March 2, 2008

Honoring your green path

We humans have a nasty habit of comparing ourselves with others.

I know I'm guilty of it.

Last week I heard someone praising a member of her office who rode his bike to work, fanatically turned off all the lights (sometimes in rooms where meetings were still taking place), collected the coffee grounds for his home garden, and took it upon himself to make sure the recyclables were actually getting recycled. (Sounds like Betty's boyfriend or something!) This person clearly plays an important role creating a better "office" world.

Now when I first overheard this, I squirmed. My mind immediately went to the fact that I drive my kids around in a compact mini-van that gets at most 19 miles per gallon. Never mind the good stuff happening over here, I should be doing more stuff like that over there.

There are too many incorrect assumptions here to count, but the biggest one is that I could actually bike into town with my two kids, laptop, five recycle bins, and 8-10 cloth reusable bags and, until four weeks ago, my sweet Viszla dog all in tow!

But talk about an inefficient use of energy. Comparing your path with another's. (voice in the head: Oooohh, that one looks so much greener and lush and wow - that's what my path should look like).

My friends, it is a path. It's a process.

The risk when I feel guilty or slip into negative patterns (feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the world's problems, for example) is when I've jumped off the path entirely.

I'm going to honor my "green" path, knowing there will be places where I've planted a seed of change (researching an alternative vehicle), others I'm watering and tending (making alternative choices when it comes to food purchases), some places are lush and blooming (my family accumulates very little trash - we've got the recycling/donating/less consuming thing down pretty well). Other spots have some weeds that haven't been pulled yet because I can't decide if they should stay or not.

So stop and smell the flowers. And realize that yesterday you might have taken a couple steps backward, but tomorrow you'll take one step forward. As long as we stay on the path, we're doing well.

Warm wishes,


ChrEliz said...

This was a great post, Teri. I run into this with my vegetarianism all the time. I think sometimes, "Oh, gosh. He's a VEGAN. He's such a 'better' vegetarian than I am. I'm only ~mostly~ ovo-lacto, but then I even eat fish 5 or 6 times a year. And I'm not a no-leather person, look at my shoes... Guilt, shame..."

The truth is, I'm seriously reducing my ecological footprint by the choices I make every day to eschew meat and poultry. Many fewer animals are being killed for my convenience or my dining pleasure because of my commitment to eating the way I do. The fact that I wear leather shoes (no leather upholstery, no jackets or coats, no leather purses or wallets, just shoes) doesn't mean that I'm a total hypocrite who might as well go pig out at the local steakhouse every day for the rest of my life. It just means that I'm doing 75% (or whatever) of what I can do to reduce my flesh consumption, to reduce how many animals are dying for my use. That's pretty good! Maybe I'll increase my commitment in the future. But I sure as heck shouldn't let my own internal critic (or some holier than thou person who might have nothing better to do than judge others) make me feel like my efforts are meaningless simply because they're less than perfect, because my results (and my efforts, frankly) are less than 100%. You're right. We're on a path. It's not helpful to slam ourselves for not being perfect. Thanks for that reminder, I needed that today!

Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

All it takes is for every person to make just one change -- whether it's not driving one day, using cloth bags instead of plastic, or something else entirely. Each little change makes a difference and that's what matters. And then, when each person has made that change, if they make another small one, the good things start adding up.