Beth, I have few parting words for you as you start your next chapter. I don’t know how this will unfold, I don’t know your next chapter or if there will be a sequel. I do, however, know what you taught me over the last 12 months. I hope that might be useful to you in your journey and as you live your chapters to come.
I have never been a numbers person. Honestly, keeping track of anything in a formulaic way has always been counterintuitive for me. I’ve just finished week one of this “Cap and Trade” system and am finding that balancing my actual environmental habits to be less difficult and than balancing the points on the scoring card. I am now wishing I had been asked to brush up on some mathematical equations in my last logic chapter; it may have helped me create a tool for tracking all the miles of driving, cubic feet of waste, gallons of water, and hours of electricity I am using this month.
I have never even balanced my checkbook technically, but I also have never overdrawn. It may not be logical but I usually sense when something is off balance and then adjust as needed. I just make sure that I keep to my moderate spending habits and try to stay on the frugal side of things. I have tried to adopt this mode of operation to this game. So I’m not sure what my point results will reveal in the end, but one thing has become extremely clear. I am now more aware of everything I do on a daily basis more than I ever thought I could be (or wanted to be!). I mean who tracks how many times they flush a toilet in a database?
Within days, I determined what my highest point scoring habits include: driving my car, charging my laptop/phone, eating food that has an unknown origin and showering daily. Some of these things were easy to scale back right away. (like cutting back on my amount of showers and length of them) But others can not be changed overnight – giving up my car would mean giving up my job and giving up my computer would also mean giving up my job. I decided to avoid unemployment and focus on the areas in which there was potential to shift. Food and Water. These two things I have direct control over changing in my daily life.
Or do I? Even these decisions, in which I thought I had ultimate control over, are a lot more complex than I originally thought. I didn’t make it past my first meal of the month before I became tangled up in the logistics of how to “score” my eating habits.
Dinner number one: I had a salad with greens from my own garden, a tomato from a neighbors garden, some packaged baby carrots, a non organic cucumber and some salad dressing (with a ton of random ingredients) all from… the “local” grocery store, along with a turkey burger bearing a label saying it’s meat was “distributed” in near by Landover, MD Hmmm… something harvested by me, something locally harvested – other veggies from unknown territories and meat from where? If “distributed” means raised and processed, I think less than 100 miles away? So how many points is that?
Things got pretty complicated even after examining one meal. Knowing I got my food from the local food store was not knowing where my food is from. Living in Annapolis, I am privileged to have access to many places that sell locally grown food, but I did find, after checking, that those stores and markets are actually scattered around the area and are a farther drive away than my local Grocery Store. I would also have to go to several different places to get all things locally. Would the miles in my car out weigh the choice of the food? Hmmm… I had to check out the point system to find out. After checking I still was not sure.
While focusing on water consumption, this different dilemma surfaced: I’m in a pubic bathroom in my favorite coffee shop remembering that every time I flush a toilet I am essentially wasting water (and gaining .5 points). I am wondering how the proprietor and other customers would feel about me implementing the, “if its yellow let it mellow” motto. I never opposed this idea but I had also never really fully adopted it. This was the first time I actually found myself pondering this predicament. Do I do what’s considered “rude” and leave pee unflushed in a public toilet or do I waste the water and enable this water wasting habit we have all taken part in for years? I caved that time and succumbed to the “avoid doing what is rude rule” that my mother taught me long ago.
It’s ridiculous that I even have time or head space to think about such a “dilemma” as this let alone ponder it for the rest of the day. Later that evening I brought it up again in a phone conversation with “Logic and Order” chapter writer Gabe DellaVecchia. “Do you leave pee in public toilets?” I asked. He lived in Portland Oregon where he said that the “if its yellow let it mellow motto” is the norm, not only in personal homes but in public places as well. He said you may get labeled a “hippie” for letting the yellow mellow but heck that seems a lot better label than being called “rude”.
Is it rude to save water? Are we still being labeled negatively for trying to conserve? Well I guess we all have opinions on the right and wrong ways of doing things and we all feel differently about what’s important (in this case our etiquette or our conservation habits). But we can only make decisions for ourselves in our personal lives… OR do we need to work harder as a culture together to make these changes acceptable?
This game has filled my head with an overwhelming amount to think about and its only week one! Not only am I now thinking about how my personal choices are impacting everything and everyone around me but I am also pondering how and why we have come to make the choices we do and what kind of support we may or may not have for trying to make those changes toward a better outcome?
It seems like we are up against a lot of different obstacles when trying to do something like lower our personal impact on the environment. Beyond just the system in which we track our habits, there is the structure of the city we live in, our culture, our economic status and our upbringing. These are just a few of the factors that I haven’t even touched on yet. What were you taught as a child about how to make your decisions. Were you raised to conserve water or conserve money? Did you grow up on fast food or grow your own food?
I am curious about finding a system that could help us all shift our habits while taking into account our different starting points. (does this exist?) And are we even in a position to be able to make the changes we want to or will we have the access to do so? These are some of the bigger questions I’ve been wrestling with this week along with the “pee in public toilet dilemma”.
What do you think? How can we assess and accept the path where we have come from to get to a new place of balance where we’d all like to be?
Please join Chapter 3 writer Andy and I in the Cap and Trade Game and track your own habits! You may learn something about yourself and the possibly the environment in which you live and where you came from. Just click here and add your name to play.
Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.
I knew that Living Chapters would turn my life upside down, but I had no idea that I would be swinging so soon into such new heights, new hurts, and new habits in just two weeks.
Along with the request to add activity in my life, I have also been asked to become more aware of my senses and the affects they have on my body. Doing both of these things seems to be providing a nice balance. With all of this running around (literally), I first found it difficult to tune into my senses. I thought the “awareness of the senses activity” could only be accomplished outside of, or separate from the physical activity in my life. I thought, I needed to stop moving, block out external distractions and focus directly on being aware to engage with my senses. However I realized very quickly that physicality was about to throw some not so subtle sensations at me in an obvious and brutal way.
About three days into the new running and jumping routine, I became aware of some pretty intense feelings immediately. First there was the huffing, puffing, and gasping for air that accompanied the first minutes of running. That was followed by the occasional side ache in the gut or the prickly pin-points up and down my shins. And then came the thudding of my heart racing into my temples and pounding throughout my head. The sound reminded me that, yes there is a massive muscle within me working really hard to keep me alive and moving. And let’s not leave out my favorite new sensations since starting this chapter, soreness, stiffness and shin splints…. Yes! I must be doing something right. …Right?
So while my body is communicating to me in all these fun new ways, I am listening as closely as possible trying to decode them in order to keep some kind of balance. How do you not over do it while still pushing hard enough to become healthier? I think somehow tuning into these sensations may be the only way to answer that question. That along with doing what feels right to you.
What does feel right to me? Stretching! Stretching before activity, stretching after activity, stretching while driving, while working, during conversations. I love it, can’t get enough. (I have been doing backstage ballerina-moves when no one is looking. ) Because I love this so much, I have tried to integrate this into my day as much as possible. In addition to the in-between activity stretching, I committed to at least 15 minutes of yoga before bed each night. I have always loved practicing yoga, but have relied in the past on attending occasional organized classes to do it. Now I have realized I can do this independently, taking the poses that I remember from my lessons and putting them into practice before sleeping. It helps me to relax and calms my mind at the end of the day.
Now, the current challenge to my “yoga before bed” new habit, is that I literally do not have enough room on the sail boat I live on to even lay out a yoga mat. I decided that outside on the dock next to the passing water taxis and kayakers was not going to work for my personal relaxation stretch time. I did however luckily find a near by space. I will say, without revealing too much, that the space is not technically open to the public but is empty and not being used currently. I decided that stretching silently there for 15 – 30 minutes an evening wouldn’t harm anyone.
Desiring discreteness, I sneak into the space at night. I lay the yoga mat down in the dark and although I can’t see, my feet easily find the edge of the mat and make their way into a downward dog pose. In silence and darkness, all my awareness directly goes to each and every response that my body gives me through the stretches. “Oh that feels good, push that pose a bit longer…” or “actually that cramp in my side says that trying to turn into a pretzel tonight isn’t going to happen”. Deprived of light and external distraction I am left to focus on my muscles, my breathing and my thoughts. After the first 5 minutes, my muscles relax and my thoughts dissipate, leaving me with only the act of motion and breathing, which is really the essence of yoga isn’t it? I may not be practicing all poses “correctly” (or necessarily “legally” in my secret studio) but it has been the best combination of physical and sensory exercises that I have experienced yet this month. It has led me to learn and listen a bit more intently to what my body is trying to communicate.
Another sensation that has newly arrived, is restlessness. I have started to feel antsy after sitting too long. Only after a few hours of sedentary work, I want to get up and do something. I’ve been combatting this by breaking up the day with quick active things (jump rope journal! or short jogs). I have also been motivated and inspired to try out new things. Heck, if I am somehow running now (which I never thought possible) I could also pick up a few new skills like being a trapeze artist? It’s not that far fetched right? Well, I compromised and found something a little less extreme and much more suited to me…
Aerial yoga! Seriously, who wouldn’t want to feel like they were flying while getting a workout at the same time? I learned, just this week, that there is nothing quite like hanging upside down suspended by your muscles and silk fabric to cure a bout of restlessness….. I dare you to try it!
Post script: I want to give a big thank you and shout out to Chapter One writer Joe Gall, who I visited in Boston this past weekend. He is taking on this new running routine with dedication and has inspired me to work harder at it! I also got to visit Chapter Three writer Andy Cook, who gave me guitar lessons and support with my beginner musical abilities. The city of Boston itself simply gave me a great large landscape in which to walk for miles in keeping me active the whole weekend!
Speaking of the Senses… Living Chapter’s Maestro selected the song below to accompany me throughout Chapter one. I have used it to guide me through some of my new activities:
Want to check in to see if I am keeping up my promises? Check out the Living Chapters Facebook page for updates on the jump rope journal, exercise documentation and my food photo gallery.
Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.