Archive for August, 2008
My brother and I are fifteen months apart, and we’ve always been quite different in personality. In fact, there was a period of many years where we didn’t much know how to relate to one another at all. I always longed to be close to him, so it is so heartening to me that in our mid-thirties we have started to come together in ways I’d never have imagined.
He and my sister-in-law have just decided to go vegetarian/vegan, which I’ve been for years (and they, frankly, didn’t quite “get” at first). And I and my husband have just decided to homeschool, which they have been doing for a couple years now (and I, frankly, didn’t quite “get” at first either). In recent years, both of our families have been coming to separate, yet similar, decisions on how to live a life that is more balanced, Earth-friendly, family-focused, and compassionate. And it is bringing us to a level of conversation and connection I had always hoped for.
They are able to help guide us with homeschooling, I’m able to help guide them with food, and we all exchange notes on eco issues, downsizing and natural living in an amazing way as we each continue to evolve on this path of “having enough” living. While we will always be different, we are talking more often, and I think more excited to converse than ever, as we help each other and compare notes.
I asked my mom the other day — who has always been politically progressive but is also pretty mainstream in certain lifestyle ways — what she thought of the fact that she now has two grown children who are homeschooling vegetarians (she wasn’t/isn’t either). She replied, “I think it is a testament to the way your dad and I taught you both to question and to make decisions for yourselves.” A great answer.
Funny enough, another book I’ve been reading, along with Above All, Be Kind (which I am loving more and more the further I read), is a book called Raising Children Who Think For Themselves. It’s written by an MD who decided to look into what she saw as an epidemic of unsatisified and unhealthy children and families. After talking to families across the country, her conclusion was that the root of this epidemic is the fact that so many adults and children have become externally motivated rather than internally motivated.
This means they are so influenced by peer pressure and media pressure that they cannot find their own inner peace and lose touch with their inner selves, and the ability to think for themselves, which leads to unhappiness. While the second half of the book, which gives specific answers to specific parenting dilemmas, has some suggestions I don’t 100% jive with (and others I do), the first half, with this larger conclusion, is so insightful and spot-on in my view. It is a wonderful way to describe the deeper roots of the “having-it-all” cultural dilemma I’ve been writing about here for over a year now.
In short, we must be able to think critically and make tough decisions on how we live that are in line with our deepest values (and know what those values are) to be able to feel that we “have enough.” Once we do this, levels of happiness and connection open up in the most gratifying ways. Both of these books confirm that, as does my relationship with my brother and his family, and my mom’s response to the choices we are making. It’s very exciting to me, and a new way of articulating things that I plan to delve further into.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the idea of thinking for ourselves, making lifestyle choices in line with our values, and creating internally- rather than externally-motivated global citizens. How does this all connect to “having enough” for you?
Can you feel it today where you live? The slight hint of the autumn ahead? Here in Southern Cal, a cool breeze flows through the window. DH is shopping for school lunch food for the back-to-teacher-meetings week starting Tuesday. The minister at our UU fellowship is back from her summer break. A friend’s husband just returned from Iraq.
A new season is upon us. A new energy sizzles in the air. I love fall. DH loves fall. People say we don’t “have fall” here, because our foliage is as subtle as our temperature changes. But there is a fall weather here, a fall smell and a fall vibe — it brings me back to the first day of junior high and the white sweatshirt I wore that day — even though we can still be at the beach in bathing suits many days in October.
I’m enjoying the end of summer now, and the prospects of fall ahead. I’m enjoying the returns and departures that the new season brings. The circle of life has had its cruel moments for us this season, but the circle will continue, as the leaves continue to grow and shrivel and grow again.
And we will continue as well, doing our best to treasure the breeze and what it brings.
So, returning to our regular “Having Enough” programming, I am thrilled to share here some books and films I’ve been perusing at home this summer. Several really struck a chord in my Having Enough quest, and if you haven’t checked them out, I hope you will:
Who Killed the Electric Car? This film, which tells the story of the birth and death of the electric car in California, really blew me away. It’s told in a compelling storytelling style and it has a way of being both simple and complex at once. The verdict for me: there is no good reason we should not all be driving electric cars — cleaner, quieter, less expensive, gas-free, plug-in electric cars — but plenty of bad (and horribly humbling and disappointing) reasons that we are not. In the special features, there’s a great piece on what we can do to help move our nation toward this no-brainer.
The Business of Being Born Another film documentary, this one delves into the birth industry — yes, I said industry — and how the U.S. compares to other nations in our over-medicalization and profitization of birth. (Hint, lots of people move to Europe for saner births.) Being a midwife-loyal myself, this info wasn’t new to me, as the electric car info was, but I’m still glad the film was made to get folks thinking about how we have gone too far in this country in taking birth out of the hands of those closest to it, and turning it from something to be cherished into something to be feared.
Lars and the Real Girl This light-hearted but deep indy drama really surprised me. When I heard it was about a man who takes a life-sized doll as a girlfriend, I was kind of dreading a Weekend at Bernie’s farce. But, it couldn’t have been farther from that. This little film was actually a quite touching look at community and human nature, and what people can do for one another if they step out of their boxes and try. DH and I both enjoyed this, and I especially loved that the writer never took it to “easy” cop-out places, but kept it real despite the out-there premise. Lovely.
Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times I read a lot of parenting books these days, and some are more notable than others. This one, written in 2003 by Zoe Weil who founded the “humane education” movement, was probably my favorite of the summer. She lays out a straightforward outline for teaching children to be compassionate — by providing them information, teaching them critical thinking, offering them positive choices, and instilling in them reverence, respect and responsibility. Through many examples, and an urging to look at our own behavior first, she makes a clear case for the kind of education I am trying to give my children, and gives me some great tips to do it well. It’s worth a look, and it was at my local library.
There are more, but these are the ones that jump out at me in this moment I am stealing at my trusty computer. If you’ve seen or read these and have comments, please share. If you haven’t and decide to, I hope you enjoy them as I did.
So, I said July would be my stay-cation and now it’s a week into August. I’m just writing again for the first time and here’s the truth: I’m kind of forcing myself to do it.
The truth about my stay-cation is that it was really more of a break from writing regularly than a real break in my life. While writing is so natural to me, so “can’t not,” I needed a pause from it. I’m glad I took it, although I’m not sure I feel like it was a break so much as a necessary exhale.
The summer was super-busy and a little nuts, with constant out-of-town visitors, an intense period for our two-year-old, and me getting through the first trimester of pregnancy. It has been an intense summer for several relationships and people in my life. It has been a disorganized summer for me, unstructured for better and for worse, with long-unanswered emails, un-made phone calls, un-sorted papers and mail, and unclear thoughts. This summer I have been averse to being on the computer (odd for me) and I’ve down-sized some of my professional work to catch a breath.
This summer is almost over (noted in our house by teacher-husband returning to school in less than two weeks) and I’m not exactly sure what we’ve done with it. There have been glorious moments, enlightening books and films (which I’ll discuss later), spinning wheels over many little decisions, a quest for a more organized grocery list, new connections and disconnections in our growing community and among family/friends, the quiet mornings together that we hoped for, after some frenetic nights of toddler nightmares. Honestly, it’s a bit of a blur, perhaps nudged by pregnancy hormones, but a blur nonetheless.
So, the truth is, I didn’t exactly relax and not think on this stay-cation, as promised. The truth is, I’m not exactly coming back refreshed (although I didn’t actually plan to be thoroughly refreshed, so much as to just come back less clutter-brained). The truth is, I’m still feeling a bit tired and, yes, still clutter-brained.
It wouldn’t have mattered if we were at home or elsewhere (we tried elsewhere for a week and what a hilarious disaster that was — I’ll explain that later, too). It’s just a time of transition, of normal upheaval, of shedding and rethinking, which can’t really be “escaped from” and perhaps isn’t best to be. I’m still feeling fraught about some relationships, some choices in discussion, the upcoming big change in adding a member to our family. Yet, I’m also feeling OK amidst it all, in perspective of all of our many blessings and privileges and gifts. I’m happy, but unsettled at the moment — peaceful at core but a bit sleepless at the same time.
Still, I am back. I am writing. I am typing on this blog at 3:17 in the morning.
And, really, for today, that is enough.