This alternative lifestyle we’ve carved out for ourselves is full of booby traps. One of the many I fall into is self righteousness, and a general desire to show off just how green and groovy I am.
There might be a few true altruists out there, but I suspect that most of the rest of the green movement is about like me. I do care, deeply and passionately about the earth and her human and animal inhabitants. I have lay slain in my bed with grief, many a time. A strong sense of responsibility is certainly a part of what directs my daily life. But there’s a more primary reason, not to be overlooked or underestimated.
Like most of us I think, I do what I do because I love to do it.
I like to think that making all our bread instead of buying preservative rich loaves shipped from distant factories helps me stick it to The Man, just a teeny bit. But if baking bread was a dreaded chore for me, if I tried but couldn’t like the dark wheat flavor, it wouldn’t last. In the end, I make our bread because I enjoy manual chores with edible results, and I love homemade bread. Similarly, I hang our laundry partly to save on electricity and therefore participate just a little bit less in the war of petroleum, but perhaps more compellingly because I love hanging laundry. I love having a chore which requires I go outside, I love the feel of wet cloth and the sound of the breeze and the smell of sun dried clothes.
Even when my life was very extreme, and much more self righteous, the reality of my motivation was always the same. Ascetisism was appealing partly because consuming less helps save the world, but also because there is an immense satisfaction and subtle joy in an ascetic’s life. Nowadays, I keep up with many of these “green chores” largely because the doing of them keeps me sane. It keeps me grounded and able to remember that I was once someone. A ‘me’ outside of mama. I might not love each individual chore in a DIY lifestyle, but I love the lifestyle that encompasses those chores.
I don’t mean to dismiss morally driven action. On a daily basis my sense of morality keeps me in line. There is nothing enjoyable about washing the shit out of cloth diapers, but I do it– every day. I believe in ‘responsible action,’ absolutely. I believe that we as a culture have lost respect for it, and that’s not okay. We’ve taken our lackadaisical ‘whatever’ attitude too far, as a culture we think it’s cool to not give a shit about anyone else. Look out for number one.
I don’t have much hope for the human race, but I’ve always believed that a sane person cannot discover the horrors of the world and then go on as before, without trying to effect change. What I do may not be very significant in the big scheme of things, but how can I sit idly by? I have to feel like I’m doing what I can, just to keep my wits about me.
Nevertheless, I know myself. I am earnest, and hard working, but I don’t have an unusual amount of self-discipline. I would not be able to stick to my guns if I didn’t overall like the feel of the steel.
I think this distinction is important because otherwise it’s just too easy to climb up on my high horse and ride away. Otherwise some poor mama might be reading this blog somewhere and feeling guilty because she doesn’t hang her laundry. She might read about me making laundry soap and soaked wheat berry bread in the midst of having two little bitties underfoot, and she might feel less. Honey, let me tell you a secret. I was teetering on the edge. Homemade laundry soap was my life preserver.
Not everybody has the desire, or furthermore the instinct or inborn ability for these manual chores of homemaking. My Man for example. Not interested in the home like I am. He appreciates what I do, he truly does. But doesn’t have much desire to share the work with me, nor are tangible skills his strong point. His is the brainy path. He has always known that, and has tried to form for himself a way to be useful in the world with what he has. An oversized brain.
Sometimes I am sad that we don’t work together day to day as a team on all of these home projects. But honestly, my last lover and I were that tight, and I think we were a bit insufferable. I find value more and more in My Man’s separate-ness, the way we each cover our end of a true partnership. I have also come to realize the essentiality of his brainy environmental work. And in general, the importance of every person doing what they can with what they have.
And what about me? I used to do stuff. Now I write about stuff. I mean, I do stuff too, but if I quit with all this computerized time wasting, I’d get a hell of a lot more done. In the beginning of my writing obsession, I got down on myself about it. It seemed indulgent. Writing takes so much time! Time that I could be lessening our dependence on The Man.
But writing felt so good, every post like a much needed bowel movement. It kept me sane, and thrilled me. And then eventually people started reading what I was writing, and apparently it meant something to them, to you. I still feel indulgent, every time I write. But would you all rather I get down to business in my household? I’ve come to accept that this “computerized time wasting” has a use in the world, even if it detracts from the efficacy of my household.
And moreover, it has a use to me. That’s what this is all about right? The truth of it is that, as much as I have come to appreciate you the reader, I write this blog for myself. Because I want to. Because I can. Because I am inclined toward writing, to no one’s surprise more than my own.
I grow a big garden, cook all our meals, hang my laundry and bike my kids to the farmer’s market because I want to ‘be the change,’ yes. But also because in my freakishness, I think it’s a damn good time! I adore the directness, the dirtiness, the satisfaction of a day hard worked.
I like the feel of the steel.