Last night, after I wrote yesterday's post, Honda and I ended up having a semi-long phone conversation about the whole mall thing in specific, and my environmentalist lifestyle in general.
"Sometimes I feel like you're part of this new religion and some of the things that we used to enjoy and do together are now not okay," she said to me.
And that was hard to hear, but I knew where she was coming from, and told her so. "To be fair," I said to her, "I think we're talking shades of Protestant here. I mean it's not like you're that materialistic either."
And she agreed with me, and we talked some more, and in the end, we decided that at the end of my non-consumerist year, Miss V and Honda will come over, check out my closet, and figure out with me exactly what I need. If I need staples like sensible shoes, then we'll probably go to the mall to try and find something. If they decide, on reflection, that I don't really need new clothes, then we'll just hit up the thrift stores and see if we can score some cute designer dresses for cheap. In the end, I think we came up with a fun plan that will allow us all to spend quality time with each other. And honestly, if Honda didn't ever pressure me to buy new shoes, I'd probably be wearing 10 year old shoes that didn't support my feet and that had massive holes in the soles. So it's not like she doesn't have valid reasons for overseeing my shoe collection.
Which brings me to the point of this post: compromise. What I'm learning is that life is about compromise. Sometimes, life is even about compromising your ideals.
A couple days ago, Colin Beavan wrote a very powerful post. And he included a quote from his dad that has stuck with me for the past couple days. His dad said, "You should worry less about your carbon footprint and more about your family footprint."
I'm realizing more and more how true that statement is. We environmentalists talk a lot about the benefit environmental living can have on your relationships. Less time watching TV or working, and more time eating family dinner or playing Scrabble.
But it is undeniable that there is also a flip-side. Commuting by bus instead of car can mean more time spent away from your child. Staying close to home instead of getting on a plane can mean less time with distant family and friends.
Where's the balance? What's the solution?
It's a tough question. For some people, the environment trumps all. They are not willing to compromise their ideals for their family and friends. I understand this thinking. After all, compromising your ideals? That sounds at best hypocritical, and at worst, akin to rending your soul in two.
But for me, personally, I've learnt that I can't NOT compromise. Ultimately, my friends and family are more precious than anything else in this world, including my lofty-minded ideals.
Let me give you an example. When my dad died unexpectedly four years ago, I had FIVE friends fly from all over the country to be with me. Literally, I called them crying, and the next thing I knew, they were beside me.
I can't tell you how grateful I am for that. That they would drop everything to be beside me is a testament to how absolutely spectacular my friends are.
What if they had decided not to come because of the carbon emissions? How would I have felt?
Lonely. Crappy. Unloved.
Because I needed them there with me. And they knew that. They knew that it was more important to be with me than it was to be at their jobs or their homes. So they came.
And if the situation is ever reversed, you can bet I will hop on a freaking plane and head wherever, to be with my friends in their time of need.
Carbon emissions be damned.
Is it selfish of me to put my friends and family ahead of the environmental movement?
Yes, it is. But without them, I'm just a lonely, sad person who sits in my un-air-conditioned apartment eating my stupid local sandwich alone. They are my r'aison d'etre. If I didn't have my loved ones, frankly, I'm not sure I would be able to remember why I was trying to "save the world" in the first place.
But there is a silver lining to this cloud of compromise.
You see, I'm not the only one making compromises and adjustments.
A couple weeks ago I was in Honda's Honda, and it was kinda unnaturally stuffy in there. "I'm trying to challenge myself to do without the a/c in my car and at home," she said to me.
Mind you, I had never told Honda not to use her air conditioner. To be perfectly honest, I still use MY air conditioner in the car. But after watching me take on challenge after challenge, she had decided to set this challenge for herself. And I was mad impressed and proud of her. And also hot and sweaty. No car a/c is hard!
This past weekend, I went up to the Bay Area to my mom's house. Staying at someone else's home generally requires environmental compromises, and a couple months ago, my mom and I had gotten into a little argument about some fruit from New Zealand. So I was trying not to push my values onto her, and when we were discussing how to procure martini glasses for a party she was throwing, I swallowed my ideals and mentioned that party stores do make plastic martini glasses.
"Plastic cups?" she asked in disbelief that I would even talk of such a thing. "No, I don't want plastic cups. Haven't you noticed? I'm not using any disposable plastic for this party."
I hadn't noticed, exactly, but she was right. In fact, the only disposable items were a few appetizer napkins. My mom threw a party for thirty people, and didn't use a single plastic cup. Not one. Pretty impressive, huh?
In the end, I think that it's because I make compromises, because I am flexible, that my friends and family are willing to make changes to their lives. If I was unyielding, I think they would feel alienated from me, instead of inspired by me.
And so, I have to remember. There is no one right answer. These things are not black and white. My moral code is not intrinsically superior to anyone else's. And that being a good environmentalist/friend/relative/person means spending less time prostelytizing and judging and more time accepting and listening.
Because one person can't save the world. We're going to need all hands on deck. But we're never going to get there without making some compromises along the way.
2 months ago