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Sunday, January 31, 2010

An Interesting Dialogue...

As you know, I have been encouraging any readers out there to write me with any feedback/insights/opinions etc.  Well, today I received a very interesting comment posted to the blog that is more than worthy of opening a dialogue...

Cheryle writes:
I must say, good for you Maren, for pursuing this interesting goal! Life is way too short, and I feel it is imperative to do what you must in order to be happy and enjoy every single day on this planet.

Do you ever feel sometimes though... and I mean no disrespect whatsoever by tabling this, it's just something that I have struggled with for years... that society and the world in general is on a progressively downward spiral... and that a single person's positive, well-intended efforts, while totally admirable, are mostly futile? That's the biggest challenge I face, when it comes to me personally dialoguing with myself about 'living with less'. I am a responsible, hard-working adult with no serious accountability to anyone but myself (ie no kids, no husband, no pets, not even a houseplant!). If I want to buy something or travel somewhere, I just do. I have a hard time justifying denying myself the things I like, especially since I am a healthy, educated, tax-paying, contributing member of society. Now, you know how Todd and I live - and it's definitely not to excess. But we certainly do not go without... meaning that we each have the usual material possessions (a house - small, and a vehicle - economical) and we make the most of our vacation days every year. And yes, we also eat ALOT of meat (which we actually buy from a local organic farmer, and overall it is MUCH cheaper, not to mention healthier, than buying from a grocery store). Truthfully, I don't feel bad about my lifestyle.

I'm not saying that I agree with wasting non-renewable resources, and just dumping garbage freely, and not recycling or anything like that... we are humans, with cognitive ability, not animals... But the reason I have a job is so that I can live life to what my version of 'its fullest' is. I am curious to know if you ever feel torn? Because really (and this is merely my opinion - like I said, I've struggled with this for years), unless someone is going to move somewhere and 100% live 'off the grid'... like almost completely disappear... we are all negatively impacting the earth, whether we like it or not.

Your thoughts?

See?  Great insights and questions!  I only hope that I can be half as concise in trying to respond. 

In response to the issue of a single person's actions being mostly futile - to some point I agree... and it can be maddening to work so hard at something, and have others efforts practically reverse your efforts right in front of your eyes!  Let's take recycling for instance.  Every other week, us country dwellers have the privilege (not) of frequenting our local neighbourhood waste transfer station.  Week after week, I bring my carefully sorted and cleaned recycling materials in blue bags only to put them on top of bag after bag filled with recycling that is ALL SCREWED UP (and manky, and stinky, and... well, you get the picture)!  Honestly people!  An extra 5 minutes here and there and you could do it right too!!!  So, yes, when I watch my beautifully sorted bags go right in there with the disgusting ones, I will admit that it does make me a little crazy.  However, the way that I look at it is this: just because those idiots choose to do it that way, doesn't mean that I have to, especially when it is an act that requires virtually no skill, money or effort to do correctly. 

As for the rest of your comments, I think that I need to be more clear about something.  There are three reasons that I started down this road: 1) to save money, 2) to try and reduce my spending to only those products that we actually need and 3) to reduce my environmental impact by doing so.  In other words, #3 is more of a bonus side-effect of committing to #1 and #2.  I also should clarify what sent me over the edge and started all of this as well:  EXCESS.  Now that I am a mother, it has really caused me to try and see the world from Chephren's eyes, and I realize how much impact that I have on what he sees.  I feel that if Chephren sees his mom and dad being happy with what they have and spending their money responsibly and efficiently, then he will come to value these lifestyle practices as well.  When I look around at other children out there, we have started them on the path to excessive greed and consumerism practically from birth.  Now, I am not saying that I want Chephren to 'suffer' or anything, in fact it is quite the opposite.  Like any parent, I want Chephren to have the things that he enjoys and will make him happy, however, I also want him to find more value in people and experiences than in the material world.  So, if I truly want these things for Chephren, I needed to start leading by example, which is really what I am trying to do.  So no, I don't think that my actions will impact a huge number of people, but if they impact my son, than I do consider that a huge benefit.

Now comes the part where I deep-sea dive off of my large and over-bearing pedestal and qualify all of the above statements.  Trent and I aren't undergoing any major life changes here, not really.  We are not living off the grid (at all!) and still use natural gas and electricity to heat/run our home.  I drive a fairly large gas-guzzling vehicle and regularly fill it up and take it in for oil changes and other maintenance.  We are still planning on taking vacations, as we always have and still love to do, but this year (at least) we will just take less of them.  We are also going to be building a house in Nordegg this summer - also a huge expense and not high on the list of things we could do to save the natural environment!  I guess what I am trying to say is this:  NO, I am certainly not perfect, and I could even give you the names of several of my friends who are doing it better than me.  BUT, I do feel that for me, personally at least, the changes that we are making (however small), are improving not only our quality of life, but have given us a sense of purpose and a new-found resolve to meet the challenges that we have set for ourselves.  Frankly, I can also tell you that in one year, when the challenge is 'up', our future lifestyle will probably fall somewhere in the middle between the way we were living before and the way we will be living for the next year.  Even at this early stage, I can begin to see which new behaviours will be here to stay and which ones probably won't make sense for us in the long-term. 
So Cheryle, I would say 'you go girl' when it comes to living your life in the way that you are choosing to do so.  If the choices that you and Todd make are the choices that are making you happy, than you are truly living your life authentically (which is far more than I can say for a very large majority of people in our society).  In fact, the lifestyle that you and Todd lead is one that Trent and I have often envied - who wouldn't want to take the kind of trips that you guys take, and do the kind of rad stuff that you guys do?  I truly admire you for following your dreams and living each day to the fullest.
Thank you so much for your comments - and I hope that you don't mind that I highlighted them in this blog entry.  I really do feel like they were a great way to get a dialogue going, and I would even say that this has helped me to clarify some of my own feelings on some of the 'heavier' stuff.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius (Who Me?!)
And tomorrow is another day :)


  1. Thanks for the great response, Maren! You are very smart and insightful, and I appreciate you taking the time to go into more detail about this entire experience. Your honesty and candidness are refreshing, yet not naive; it's really too bad more people don't approach their child raising (and life in general!) with the same whole-heartedness and simplicity that you and Trent are doing. And your point about doing what you can, in spite of others' shortcomings (ie ensuring your recycle items are tidy and organized even if nobody else's are), is a point well taken. Sometimes I just plain run out of patience with the folks who don't give a second thought to anything. Maybe that's what has jaded me over the years! Heh heh
    Again, kudos to you for seeing the world in such a positive light, and for taking measures to make it the best place possible for you, your family and your friends!

  2. I realize that I'm really late to this party as this post is over a month old, but I still want to offer my perspective as one who has been living simply for 20 years now.

    I didn't start down this road because I thought it was somehow "moral" or "doing the right thing". I got here because trying to live up to the expectations of the corporatocricy was killing me.... literally. I mean I was so miserable and felt so much like I'd never be able to measure up that I literally tried to kill myself. Granted it was a pretty laughable attempt, but it made me realize that if the lifestyle I was trying to live was making me so unhappy that offing myself really seemed like a viable alternative, then I had nothing to lose by trying a different path.

    I think I'm probably an extreme case. I have so little tolerance for BS, and social climbing, and all of the other "trappings" of modern society. But I can honestly say that living simply has made me about a zillion times happier than when I was trying to "make it" in the rat race.

    In fact, I'm able to not have a job (I have a few business ventures here and there to make a few bucks, but no bosses or people who "own" me in any sense). My time is my own, and I really don't want to spend it dealing with clutter, or buying things, or the hassle of traveling, or keeping up appearances, or any of that other stuff.

    I get to have a full nights sleep every night, I get to eat healthy, homemade and ususally home grown food every day, and I have the joy of living with freedoms that most people in this society will never know.

    Not that it's all been easy. In fact, one of the main things I discovered is that living in a frenzy as most people do is a fabulous way to not feel things that make you uncomfortable. When you strip away all of that stuff, you end up having to face yourself, and that can be the most difficult (although most rewarding) part of the journey. But there is enormous power in accepting yourself for exactly who you are and freeing yourself from the need to "measure up" or the need to stay busy so you don't have to feel uncomfortable things.

    So... I guess my answer to Cheryle's question is that yes... one person can most definitely make a difference, especially for the one person involved!

    Don't know if that makes any sense at all, but that's my take.
    Best to All,

  3. Rebecca,

    Thank YOU for sharing your very honest, insightful and personal story about living simply. I completely agree with you about feeling 'a zillion' times happier and I have only been at this wholeheartedly for a few months. My husband and I have 'dabbled' in the simple life a few times in the past, but we were always removed from the 'real world' while we were doing it (living in a van, backpacking, etc.), but everytime we came back to live in the 'city', I honestly felt like I was having a personal crisis! It was ridiculous. I didn't feel like I was enough just being who I was. I found myself comparing myself to other people, women in particular, who I felt like I just didn't measure up to... and why? Appearances usually. Now, when I think about it, it makes me a little sad to think that I spent so much time and energy worrying about something so utterly STUPID! I am so much happier now than I have ever been. Letting go of wanting to be 'more' than who I really am, has allowed me to be just that, a better version of myself. Ironic hey?

    Thanks for reading and keep up the great tips and comments, I really appreciate your feedback!

    Best to you as well,

    Maren (aka Marebare)

  4. Hey Maren,

    Your comment about appearances made me chuckle. I didn't watch the oscars last night, but friends were chatting about the gowns and dresses, so I had to check out some of the photos. EEE-GADS! Hard to believe anyone would pay a designer to make them look so bad! The next library book in my queue is going to be Naomi Wolf's Beauty Myth!

    Thanks for your kind words and best to you,

  5. Thanks for the tip on the book - I just read a review and it sounds like a must-read for me too!