What Is The “Right” Way To Live?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how the planet and our way of life is changing. Climate, hurried, busy lives, debt, stress and pressure. It’s taking it’s toll.

Not all of it is negative change, of course. We have new technologies that are improving lives all over the place, connecting us, and offering opportunities that are seemingly limitless. And means of travel that can get us from A to B in a day or much less. The world is becoming more accessible, and that’s great. I’m all about a global community.

But we also are still behaving in such primitive ways when we know there are things that hurt us in the long run. Fossil fuels. Plastics. Waste. Careless use of water. oil-rigs

There are those that say that it will be in our lifetime that meat won’t be available easily as a food source anymore, and that becoming vegan is the way we’ll all have to go in order to survive.

There are barriers that prevent forward movement in the areas of renewable energy sources, and access to healthy foods, and alternative, natural ways to improve our health, as well as traditional medical care.

And in schools we are seeing continual increase in dependence on test scores for funding, which leads to more sitting and less playing outside, fewer options for the arts in schools – which is  one factor (along with higher rates of trauma) that increases rates of behavioral and academic and social problems as well as rates of anxiety and depression in our young people. Reduced stress and more play is something we are just beginning to see as important in the long term health of our entire culture.

So what are we doing? Why do we live this way as a society?

I think because it’s easy.

I am well aware that I am lazy when it comes to yard work, chores and gardening.  It is really easy for me to get stuck on my ass staring at my laptop. So what am I thinking?

girls-in-waterBut my heart is there. I have attempted a garden yearly for 7 years and sometimes I produce something. I love how it feels to bring in a harvest of tomatoes, or a cucumber or radishes that grew because I set up the environment and planted them.

But sometimes it feels like a fluke. Weeds are prolific and intimidating to me. I refuse to use round-up on my lawn and poisons in the garden. The irrigation system that is in place cracked a few years ago, and gushed water unbeknownst to my husband and I, for a few days, into the neighbors yard, which leaked into his basement, flooding it over a foot deep and destroying his furnace. Our homeowner’s insurance was not happy with us, and I am now afraid to use the irrigation water that flows through a network of PVC pipes. I have attempted a worm bin but the worms died. I was heartbroken and felt like a hopeless failure and am afraid to put little wormies in danger by trying again. But, Currently, I have a vast harvest of volunteer tomatillos. Second year in a row (first year I planted something, didn’t know what it was. It was tomatillos. This year they grew all by themselves. I haven’t even been out to water them.)

But I know there are small changes I can make that wouldn’t cause overwhelm. Some cost money we don’t have yet, some don’t. Most cost time and energy and commitment. Composting. Growing food. Making my own non-toxic household cleansers. Reducing the use of plastics (okay, I have done that, but I haven’t eliminated them).

I do ride my bike more, and we turn out the lights when we leave a room, and turn off the faucet when we’re brushing our teeth. I recycle, and take the time to rinse containers and cans that will go in the recycle, and separate the bubble wrap from the inside of the puffy envelopes.

But that’s about it. Anything else is less easy, and would take effort.

child-watering-canMy dream is to be a homesteader.

I know, laughable right? I have trouble keeping indoor plants alive, and I grow mostly weeds.  I don’t LOVE getting my hands in the dirt (my arms get itchy, and my skin gets dry, and dirt under my nails makes me shudder)…but I WANT to love it. I WANT to want to live this way. I WANT effort. I believe “effort” is not the same thing as “stress”.

I think the less effort we put out towards things that are meaningful, the more stress we create for ourselves.

Let me say that again a little more clearly:

The more we avoid effort in meaningful activities, the more stress we create for ourselves.

Think about it. Growing my own food, having land to raise chickens (maybe even goats!), reducing my carbon footprint…and if I ever have grandkids, offering a place for them to learn about the cycle of life, become connected to a simpler way of living that is closer to the earth and natural ways of being …it sounds like a hard, sweaty, satisfying way to live. With the bonus of a good internet connection…satisfying. Connected. Simple. Living from the inside out, good for self, good for planet.

Taking the easy way gives us problems later on. Some more immediate, and some longer-term. Example: Not taking my own bags into the grocery store is easier. No effort to remember them, the store gives me their bags. But then I have a wad of plastic bags to deal with. I could throw them away, but I know that is just adding plastics to the landfill. I use some to dispose of the dog waste, but most just hangs in the closet, stuffing more bags in each day, eventually having to remember to take them to the store to recycle. But it’s a reminder daily that I am taking the easy way at the expense of the planet.

A day where I don’t accomplish much is a day I feel more stressed. I’m antsy, I don’t sleep well.
A day where I put effort into Getting Things Done means I can soften at the end of the day, settle into sleep with satisfaction.
But effort towards those more sustainable actions is not a habit right now.

I wonder if I could develop those habits though. Because I wonder if the world is heading in the direction of being forced to live more simply. What we’re doing isn’t working out so well. Our kids are suffering because they can’t play freely or spend time outside of the watchful eyes of adults. Not because they are less safe, but because other adults will report it as neglectful parenting. That is the greatest risk as a parent these days, that I can see. Parents are in the prison of other people’s judgement.

At some point, and I think it’s already happening, people will become fed up with the lifestyle our communities are being pressured into – technology sometimes makes it easy to live a hurried life, keeping our kids too close, maybe justifying the education system because we need it for daycare and can’t afford anything else.

To slow down, we will have to make a drastic change towards simplicity, and sustainability, and to serve our children we have to make drastic changes to how we view how they learn, and question our assumptions of how it’s best to educate them. We MUST let them play freely. We need to learn how to trust them when they are away from us, playing and exploring and being responsible.

girls-462072_1920So this is where I’m headed, (although living simply doesn’t have to mean homesteading, it is where my heart goes) I am not sure how I am going to move from my cushy life with easy habits into a life of daily work to live more simply. I want to found a school for kids that supports their natural way of learning. And I want to own land, and have a sustainable off-grid home that is energy efficient and safe. And I want to grow my own food.

My first steps are to take this online course on permaculture. (My daughter has been talking about this often, and it’s got me inspired and curious.) I have also begun to gather interested people to help me with the school. And my husband and I have decided to sell our home next year and downsize to save money to buy land and have a home built.

I think, deciding on small steps that my husband and I can do to develop habits that lead us in the direction we want to go, is the key.

Big change is overwhelming. I can’t see how to get from A to B except that today, I can pull some weeds, and make a pot of beans and rice. And write this post.

What are your long-term goals? Ideas and thoughts about the right way to live for you?

What happens if your right way doesn’t match up with what’s best for the planet?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and the best way is to comment below, because discussion is where it’s at!

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  1. I want to do it with you. The permaculture class, the school, growing my own food – count me in! Include putting solar panels on my roof!

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