Friday, April 25, 2008

Getting Comfortable

The sitter was here. It's 78 degrees out. Not a cloud in the sky. And I need to go to the bank. I could easily walk but I have about a million things to do before she leaves and a walk would take 30 minutes or so. My hulking minivan lounges in the driveway. It used to beckon me on such occasions with windows down, wind blowing, James Blunt crooning. Today, though, the birds are in the trees. The season's first butterflies flit from yard to yard. There is just the slightest breeze. You can't enjoy all that from inside a car.

I pull my spanky red bike out from the garage, don my husband's helmet and climb on. I wobble down the sidewalk and venture out on to street. Pumping over the hill, I float down the other side - passing parked cars, school children, the empty park and teeter into the bank's parking lot. Once I'm done with the ATM, I climb back on the bike seat and lumber toward the street. In a minute or two, my pedaling smooths out, the weaving stops and I'm headed home feeling, er, less uncomfortable than the last time I rode my bicycle.

This ride is much like my path to a lighter life. The first time, okay, the first several months that I line-dried my clothes, I hated it. It took too long, the clothes weren't as smooth as I was used to. Expectations change, though. We get used to something different. And different is not bad. Now, hanging my clothes is my yoga, meditation and communion with nature, all rolled into one. I don't notice that the towels may be scratchier or the jeans stiffer.

Switching from paper napkins or towels to cloth also seemed a hassle in the beginning. I couldn't chuck my soiled towel in the trash but had to walk all the way, okay ten steps, to the hamper. The washer filled up a tad sooner as well. In a month or two, though, the softness of a cloth napkin on my face or the absorbency of a dish towel to clean up spilled apple juice far outweighed the rough convenience of paper.

The first time I made yogurt, it took forever and came out part brownish water, part brittle whey. The second time took even longer and ended up overly lumpy. I couldn't convince my youngest to eat it and, food wasting aside, I couldn't stomach the stuff. Now, I throw yogurt together in a matter of minutes and it comes out perfect - or at least edible - every time.

Carrying a canvas bag is not going to save the world. Neither will using CFL light bulbs. It's not that we shouldn't do those things. Absolutely, we should. But it is not enough to think that one or two changes alone will halt global warming in its tracks, refreeze the Artic ice, or gift us with a simple life. This is a journey. There are many steps. As soon as I become comfortable, I look for the next step, the next change. I keep moving just outside of my ever-expanding comfort zone in search of a richer, more meaningful life.

Someone recently asked me if, after a year of living like this, doesn't it become too hard, too much? Don't I want to go back to my old life already?

As I wheeled my bike into the garage this afternoon, I thought about her question and my answer. No. I'm just getting comfortable.


Joyce said...

Hurray! Biking is the best!

Heather said...

What an amazing post! This is exactly the way it is for me. A baby step here, a baby step there, and before I know it my life is so different and yet so wonderful, things get easier each day and I could never go back. When we finally relax our stranglehold on what society says life is "supposed to be" and all the things it says we are "supposed to do" we can truly relax and let life lead us where we are meant to go.

Glad to hear you are back on your bike. I started riding mine again a year ago and I love it! I was absolutely terrified at first because we don't really have bike lanes and drivers around here are nuts. But I stuck with it and now, well I'm not a pro, but I'm not afraid anymore. I had a double basket put on the back to carry all my goods from the farmers market and library (it sure beats having a backpack on your back). What used to take me 40 minutes to walk to the farmers market/library downtown (that's only one way), now only takes me 15 or 20 minutes on a bike. I even take my recycling to the recycling center on the bike. All the sudden everything is twice a close. FREEDOM! And Wow! The gas mileage is awesome! :)

Rev. Sweet said...

Yea, I tried out my bike today too, but the derailer was bent and so off to the bike shop it went and I went about on foot. - No small children at home with a babysitter however.

Nadine said...

I love that you compare it to a journey. I find that little things come together for me when I read about them on other people's blogs and can incorporate some into my routine. I get a lot of inspiration that way.

katecontinued said...

You have a particular knack of capturing the transitions. I applaud you for this post and so many others. That is the crux - for white Americans of privilege anyway - of seeing the transition from what is regular, everyday life to a life more conscious.

Lately, I am struck by how to use what you stimulate within me. I frankly may just have a whole series of 'what green bean said' like in the progressive blog world people write, 'what digby said.' If it already is written so well - don't try to re-write it in one's own words.

BTW, Digby of Hullabaloo is a great writer. It was only last year that she appeared in public for an award and it became clear she was a woman. The big boy bloggers were flummoxed.

And about the bike . . . Loved this post.

pricklymom said...

Thank you for the inspirational post! We are taking baby-steps to a healthier, greener lifestyle too, and I need to hear from others whom it is working great for! My family thinks we are crazy with our CSA, cloth diapers, wipes and napkins, and my hubby taking the bus to work everyday.

pink dogwood said...

I need to learn how to ride a bike :(

Rhonda Jean said...

I agree, it's about the journey, not a destination. This is a great post, I'll be back to read some more.

Green Bean said...

Joyce: It is nice - now that I'm getting a bit more confident.

Heather: Isn't life better this way? Really! And your biking history gives me hope that someday I'll be up for more than a 7 minute ride downtown. I'm getting there.

Rev Sweet: Oh well. Walking is nice - best way to check out the birds, butterflies, people's yards. Yes, I'm nosy that way.

Nadine: I'm so glad. I agree with you - once I hear how someone else is doing something, I realize, oh, I could work that into my life too.

Kate: That must be the all-time most wonderful comment anyone ever left me. Thank you so much. BTW, love that Digby is a woman. Girl power! And finally, "life more conscious" - great term. I was trying to explain to someone why I am more at peace, happier with my current life. That sums it up. I used to live obliviously. Ignorance really isn't bliss though. It's just ignorance.

Pricklymom: Hurray! I love to hear about people doing the same thing. It is working for us and in a big way. Life is better, we feel better, and, yet, I don't feel like my family bends over backwards or are a bunch of freaks. We are living, as katecontinued termed it, a life more conscious. Keep up the good work! Before you know it, your family will be asking you for advice. :)

Pink Dogwood: Me too! ;-) My husband asked me if my bike works okay because I look so lame trying to maneover it.

RJ: Thanks! Every step is meaningful.

Gray Matters said...

Inspired post - isn't it wonderful how small changes lend themselves to huge growth. Thank you for your words.

Jennifer said...

I've just delved back into the world of making bread... right now I'm int he awkward adolescent stage of figuring it out... loaves that don't rise enough, loves that rise too fast, how much time? The bread is too dense, or too chewy, or too hard...

But, it's getting easier... and me and my husband LOVE the taste... it's starting to be comfortable. Soon I'll figure it out, and then it will take hardly any time at all again.

Going Crunchy said...

Oh, that is beautiful! How I wish we had more bike paths here.

I adore riding my bike. It's just a sense of liberation and freedom.

Woman with a Hatchet said...

GB, you really are inspirational. So many of your posts make me think "I could do that!" or better yet, "I should do that!".

You're right about the comfort zone - as we get used to a little eco step forward, it gets to be a habit and then it's time for the next step.

Recycle? Sure! Compost? Sure! Stop buying as much stuff? Shu--uh--sure. Cloth napkins? Sure! CFLs? You bet! Reduce plastic intake? Err...oh-okay!

Each time, a little tougher. The best part is that if I can get excited about a change, I can sometimes influence friends to do something similar. Family is a whole lot tougher, I notice!

Heather said...

Jennifer - you might check out "The Fresh Loaf" website. They have lessons that are great for learning to make bread. I'm no pro, but I have learned so much. A lot of people have responded to questions and they have a blog where you can ask anything you like. It's been a wonderful help for me. I just love the taste of homemade bread and I learn a little each time.

Have fun!

Debbie said...

You must have been a writer in a past life ~ you make it seem so easy. You paint wonderful pictures with your words while teaching green lessons. I must be honest and tell you that this post reminded me of the episode of "Friends" when Phoebe was learning how to ride a bike :)

I would be curious to hear how you all manage dealing with family/friends who are on a different page or chapter than you are as far as living a more 'green' lifestyle.
Keep on pedaling.

Beany said...

As previous posters mentioned, its beautifully written. Shasha Chedar had a post recently discussing habits and I thought that a habit was what made something fun and not a dreadful chore.

Habits also save time and allow me to engage in my favorite activity of lounging around.

Ellen said...

I've been trying to bike and walk more too. My 6yo is a bike star but some of these hills are tough on my 4yo. Luckily, we can get to the park and the pool easily enough, walking or biking, so I think we'll make that a goal for the summer - to NOT drive unless going into Boulder. Hooray for bikes!

Green Bean said...

Gray: Thank you. Most of my changes, especially in retrospect, seem so small yet I feel so completely different - better - for having made them.

Jennifer: I love how, if we just stick with things (like baking bread or gardening), we eventually get the hang of it and it becomes second nature. Try something once or twice and it will always seem difficult. Happy baking!

Hatchet: Thank you. Nothing makes me feel better than to think that someone was inspired to try something because of something I wrote! Yes, bit by bit, nudging our comfort zone, I think we are making big changes. Good luck with the family.

Debbie: What a nice thing to say! How do I deal with family and friends on a different path? Why, ignore them, of course. Actually, I try not to preach but just drop in comments here and there about something I've enjoyed or how something or other seems like not a great idea. Regardless of what I do or don't say, it seems to mean much more when people read about some change I've made in a magazine or something. They think I'm crazy for line drying or going to the farmers' market and then Vanity Faire says what a good idea and I think the combination makes them think a bit more about living lighter.

Ellen: It's hard for me to bike with my boys too. First of all, I'm totally uncoordinated so I wouldn't jeopardize their safety at this point by attaching them to me in any way shape or form. I try to bike when I'm not with them and, when we are all going somewhere, they take scooters or go in the stroller. That said, hopefully I'll one day be able to manage a bike and a kid. Working toward it.

adrian2514 said...

I'm glad you've become comfortable with your committments toward a green lifestyle! Keep up the good work. Earth day is very important to me and I did my part to show my support for a cleaner environment.

I am still trying to find some easy, simple things I can do to help stop global warming. Have you seen the is promoting their Earth Day (month) challenge, with the goal to get 1 million people to take their carbon footprint test in April? I took the test, it was easy and only took me about 2 minutes and I am planning on lowering my score with some of their tips.

I am always looking for places to find more tips for living more environmentally friendly. If you know of any other sites worth my time let me know.

Melanie J. said...

I wandered over from Two Frog Home and feel like I've found a new friend. What a fantastic post! Made me think hard...I used to bike, fell out of practice for years, and now ache to get back to it with gas prices being so abysmal. Such a simple and productive pleasure...thank you!


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