Monday, November 17, 2008

You Can Never Go Back

About a year ago, one of my favorite beans wrote a post entitled, "You Can Never Go Back." Because I am a shameless stealer, I am totally ganking her post title. Sorry, GB. Next time, trademark your post titles. Ha ha!

There are times, when I feel like I am slipping. The transition between continents, the move from a routine of working at an office five days a week to that of a being a student with no clear routine has been ... rough.

I am doing well on some counts. I walk to school every day. I haven't been in a car in at least a month. I live in a tiny room. I have minor electricity needs. I go to the natural food store and buy my massive cartons of tea, all organic, fair trade, and without plastic shrink wrap.

BUT. I am consumed by my failures. The many times I end up grabbing a sandwich, or a doughnut, or even worse a Dr. Pepper or a Kit Kat bar from the vending machine.

I am overwhelmed. I am unprepared. I am still adjusting.

Sometimes I worry. I'm getting lazy. What if I get too lazy? What if I eat Kit Kat bar too many? Is there a tipping point for a personal environmentalist? A point where we say, "Eh, eff it. It's too hard. Let's just go back to the way things used to be?" Or is it more subtle? Is it, that one day, we wake up and realize that we're living the life we used to live three years ago?

But then yesterday, I was at a shoe store. And the shoe store was selling several pairs of cute shoes for a mere £5. £5! That's only $7.50 with the new AWESOME exchange rate. True, none of the shoes were particularly sensible, but dude £5!

But ... I couldn't do it. True, the cost to me personally at the moment might only be £5, but I knew that the shoes really cost much more than £5. And so, it didn't matter that right now I would only have to pay £5. Maybe if the shoes were a necessity, if they were sensible, I would have considered it. But for cute but impractical Mary Jane's? No way.

And that's when I realized that it's true. You can never go back. That maybe I do slip up more than I'd like to. But I can't slip up unaware. I can't buy a plastic wrapped sandwich entirely guilt free. And that's a good thing. Because while we are all going to make mistakes, or get lazy, it is ultimately, our awareness that keeps us going. It is our awareness that prevents us from going back to the way things were.

So I'll keep plugging away. And some days, I know, I will fail. But I will continue to take things one day at a time. And every day, every single day, I will stay mindful. I will stay conscious.


EcoBurban said...

Oh, thank you for this post. With our new hectic life of a full time working mom and a totally sucky economy I feel like I've been slipping up too. A pizza for dinner here, a quick car ride to the store there and a bribe of sugary cereal in the pantry and so on.

But, my homemade coffee still comes to work in my steel thermos and my lunch is packed in reusabe containers and our thermostat is turned down. You're right, you can't go back. You just learn from your mistakes. But, why do we feel so guilty? ;o)

Joyce said...

This reminds me of the way pilgrims used to walk on their pilgrimages: two steps forward, one step back. It was symbolic of one's spiritual life. We try to discipline ourselves, but then was fall out of discipline. It's really true about anything. But religious people call it "the long obedience in the right direction". It's the overarching direction of your life that matters, not the ocassional slip-up.

Jamie D. said...

Wonderful post. This is exactly what I fear - especially when things get hard, and I feel like I'm ready to just give it all up. But I agree - even though I slide backwards, I can't do anything without being *aware* of it's impact on the environment, and at least thinking about it. Awareness is key.

Allie said...

This is a wonderful post! I really do think it's like dieting, in a way. If you give up b/c you had a slice of chocolate cake, you're done. But if you enjoy that cake and then make other adjustments, and take it in stride and keep plugging away, you'll stick to it. We can't be perfect, and that's okay.

Green Bean said...

You little title thief, you! ;-)

I agree with all the other comments. I sometimes wonder this too when life is a bit too busy. Will my kids eat one frozen pizza too many? But you are right. You just can't go back. Once you take the red pill (or is it the blue one), you can't unlearn and go back to blissful ignorance.

This kind of a post, though, is great because it demonstrates that we are none of us perfect. And for those just starting out, you don't need to be perfect. You won't always do the exact eco-perfect thing. But you are aware, you try and that is enough. It has to be.

Anonymous said...

Good post! I agree with allie. I like to think of it as being mindful - I'm aware that buying something I need that's wrapped in plastic may not the best way, but I ask myself "Is it the best way for now?" If the answer's "yes" then I'll get it and try to figure out a better way for next time.

Farmer's Daughter said...

Don't be too hard on yourself! Nobody's perfect. We all succumb to temptation out of tiredness, failure to plan ahead, or our hectic lifestyles. I'm currently recovering from falling off the wagon during Halloween... "Fair trade schmare trade, give me a Reese's!!!"
I think it's easy to perceive that everyone in the blogosphere is perfect, eating only organic, local foods, conserving energy wherever he or she can, protesting, and doing everything we can to save the world. I for one know that I'm just muddling through trying to do the best I can. And I make up for my bad days with good ones.

Anonymous said...

The fact that you thought about the remote possibility of eating one kitkat too many says to me that it won't happen.

Awareness stops us from going back. Knowing how the meat is "farmed", how I can take a bite? Knowing the existence of the floating plastic island, how can I buy more unnecessary plastic crap? Knowing through experience that I can be perfectly content without 95% of the stuff I used to haul into our house from Target, why would I do it again?

I am also so glad that we are all never going back together...

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Allie's comment up there reminded me of a sign in a super awesome cake shop in DC called Cake Love. Responding to the question, "Do you have any healthy cakes?" the sign said "Yes. Enjoy life. Eat in moderation."

If we try not to eat any cake at all just because it's not good for us, we're gonna end up pretty unhappy. Or if you're like me, you'll just end up binging on cake because you feel so cake deprived. On the other hand, if you allow yourself a little cake every now and then in moderation, you're going to be a much happier person.

If we all tried to be the perfect greenie all the time, we'd just end up burned out. All we can expect of ourselves is that we do the best we can with the knowledge we have most of the time.

EJ said...

Don't be so harsh with yourself. Call it being human rather than failing. We all "fail", but life goes on and sometimes we even learn by our mistakes.

Linda Jane said...

Thank you for this post. I have been feeling the same way lately, while trying to figure out my next move in life (I'm in between jobs and, well in between everything really). I'm still learning every day and sometimes it does seem like it's going to be hard and that I might be tempted to just forget it all, but you're right; when I still can't throw a single scrap of paper anywhere but in the recycle, when I cringe in the "Payless Plastics" store and have to leave... you can't go back from that. You just have to keep doing the best and remember that each guilty Kit Kat is a reminder that you are aware, that you are trying. Thank you for reminding me that I am too.

ruchi said...

EBM, you're welcome. I am mad impressed with you every day. I *so* don't know how you do it with four boys and a full time job!!

Joyce, that's a nice image. You're right. It's about our overall trajectory, rather than just about the slip up here and there.

Jamie, yes, awareness is the key. :)

Allie, you're right. We spend a lot of time looking at our failures, but maybe we are making up for our failures in other ways!

GB, I cannot believe that the great Green Bean EVER serves her kids frozen pizza! ;) You just said that bit to make me feel better for my bad eating habits, didn't you?

Lucky, you're right. One of the problems we are facing is that sometimes living a sustainable life is an uphill battle. We have to not just look at why we are buying something wrapped in plastic, but why that's often the best option!

Abbie, yeah, sometimes it is easy on the blogosphere to imagine that everyone is perfect, but I guess none of us really are! :)

Cindy, I'm glad we're never going back together too. Or something coherent like that. :)

Erin, hah! That's a great sign!!

EJ, you're right. To err is human, right? Thanks for reminding me.

Linda Jane, for sure! We are all aware, we are all doing the best we can in our busy lives. That's all we can really ask.