Friday, August 14, 2015

Everyone, On Board! Eight Things We All Need To Do, Every Day

No big introduction, here; I'm just going to lay it all out like I see it.

1.  Recycle.

August 12th, 2015 was  "Earth Overshoot Day": that annual moment when humankind's use of natural resources exceeds the planet's ability to produce and replenish them.  See this post on Live Science, or the graphic-heavy National Geographic.

Slums of Mexico City
The absurdity, and the horror, of Overshoot Day doesn't even take into account the population explosion occurring.  What will the needs of an extra four billion people within the next twenty years do to our planet?

I blame two things:  our culture of incessant consumption, and that horrible economic practice known as 'planned obsolescence'.  Spending money, and spending it on poorly designed goods that won't last you a lifetime.

Antiques are good.  They were made before the 1950's, when 'planned obsolescence' really took root in manufacturing, so they presumably have more life in them than their original owners.  Acquiring a useful antique is recycling at its finest.

But what matters is that we all, each and every one of us, set aside a small fraction of our time to develop habits that will pay back in the future.  Even if all you do is crush up your eggshells and add them to your potted plants, those eggshells are not going into the trash.  There are hundreds of thousands of suggestions for ways you can recycle, from composting coffee grounds for earthworm farming to using old t-shirts for quilting.  

Atlantic garbage
Since you are reading this article, that means you are online, so run a search on recycling, and add just about any word you please after it.  Recycling paper?  Take up papier mache as an art form!  Recycling tires?  Use as a raised bed, or even as a small pond!  Recycling shoes?  Local homeless shelters!

Oh, and that photo is the Atlantic Garbage Patch.  Not the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, with an estimated 5.7 TRILLION pieces of plastic.

2.  Meditate.

Or pray.  Or breathe.  Or banish all thought.  I don't really care what you call it, but to sit while not-doing is a healthy thing.  To sit, deliberately planning not to throw yourself into your frenzied lifestyle for half an hour, is necessary for many reasons.

You can use the opportunity to expand yourself spiritually.  You can use it as an emotional 'time out'.  You can simply meditate by concentrating on breathing, especially if you sit hunched over a computer for any length of time.  Or you can just sit and relax after heavy activity.

Meditation is not 'wasted time'.  It's a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle, a retreat to recoup your thoughts, renew your physical energy, and recover your stamina.  It's good for what ails you!

3.  Educate yourself.

You may be God's gift to the world, but you don't know everything you need to know.  There's bound to be some skill, art, science, perspective, or social issue that you don't know everything about.

The internet is, currently, free, but that might change in the blink of an eye.  There are hundreds of free online university classes, either from individual universities or on aggregate websites, such as edX and Coursera.  There are undoubtedly millions of free websites and books.  Knowledge of all the ages is available to those of us wielding computers, cell phones, and tablets, if we only look for it.

So one day I may be researching free DIY greenhouse plans, and the next day I may be reading up on solar cookers.  That may evolve into finding free books on how to design a passive solar house, which helps me design The Perfect House.  This is a project I've been working on for twenty years because there's just so much to learn about what goes into a house, not to mention new materials being developed every day.

4.  Reach out.

I can personally attest to the devastation inflicted by the disease known as depression.  As a long-time sufferer, I have learned that very few friends will 'stick with you' when you find yourself constantly turning down their overtures to do things for which you have no energy.

As a result, one of the lessons I have learned is how important it is to reach out to people.  If I am in desperate need, I will reach out, but at this moment, I'm talking about reaching out to your family, friends, complete strangers, anyone at all.  For example, I have never understood why people avoid someone with cancer -- it isn't a communicable disease, for pity's sake!

You never know who might be hurting, who might be hiding behind a joke or a smile, or who might actually be contemplating their last moments on Earth.  Since I don't have a lot of energy to do social things, I try to make it a point to reach out to at least one Facebook friend, at least one a day, just a quick chat message:  "Hey, how are you doing?"  They know I will listen to them and try to help, so if they aren't doing well, they will unload.

I adore this image to represent depression.  Despite being on a beautiful beach on a beautiful day, this person doesn't have the energy to experience any of it.  I would have weeks of 'white noise', where I couldn't perceive anything more than a couple of feet away.  Depressed people cry because we don't understand what is wrong, or why we can't DO anything.  

Reach out, even if it's only to talk while they listen, or hug them, or snuggle in their blankie-fort with them.  Or reach out to the elderly -- bring them a meal, or take them out to dinner.  Listen to their stories, because in our youth-oriented and self-centered culture, we have lost the precious wisdom of so many elders.  Reach out, because we're in this all together, and you can never have enough people watching your back.

5.  Downsize.

We all have Too Much Stuff.  Maybe that stuff was useful, once.  But now, it clutters our lives and, even worse, reminds us of who we WERE.  So my question is:  have you grown beyond it?

It seems to me that poor people have more stuff than wealthy people.  They cling to it, because they might need it someday.  I'm sooo guilty of that thought:  "Hey, I could use that in a project!"  But if I haven't used it in the three years since I acquired it, then what is the likelihood I'll get to that project within another three years?  So there it sits, taking up space, and especially, taking up my energy by reminding me that I'm Not Good Enough to get to all those projects I want to do, an insidious self-deprecation most people never realize on a conscious level.

I have taken to getting rid of, or recycling, one item a day. Today I threw out two yogurt tubs, half-full of yogurt that I didn't like very much.  They had been in my fridge for perhaps three months.  A small thing, but I don't need any more plastic tubs, and I haven't figured out how to recycle milk products yet without attracting rats.  (Time for #3 -- Educate myself!)

If you would like to be free of your stuff, there are many excellent articles out there to help you with the who-what-where-when-why's.  Jumble sales!  The Salvation Army!  Consignment shops!  My general rule-of-thumb is: if my house were to go up in flames, would I cry over this?

In addition, downsizing means: a healthier atmosphere (less to dust, polish, and clean); a greater appreciation for what you have (left); money from yard sales, consignments, or auctions; room to display collections you really love; ability to find what you need when you need it (important documents); less to move when you're redecorating or moving; a smaller house or apartment (smaller bills)....  All that, as well as less stress over worrying about your stuff!  Possessions possess US as much as we, them.  Heaven forbid a thief might steal my stash of crochet yarn!

6.  Document.

In this modern age, there are so many ways we can document our lives.  I think about how little we know of humans in the past, and how much archaeologists in the future will know of us!

I do admit that not everything is worth documenting.  I have a notebook for all those little business things that pop up of a day.  But what I really think we should do is document our real selves, so we can see how much progress we have made.  And that documentation should be unique to each person.

My friend Lisa Weston explains it well:  

Lisa and Emily Weston
There are many moments when we avoid having our photograph taken, with numerous excuses. My hair is a mess, I look horrible, I don't have makeup on (girls), I am too busy, I'm not in the mood...... How you view yourself is not how others see you, keep that in mind when your child, spouse, family or friend ask to take a photo with you. They don't see your gray or messy hair, wrinkles or clothes. What they will see is a wonderful memory with someone they love. Don't cheat them out of those moments.
I don't have the patience or talent for photography, so I write.  Each book says a great deal about me, but what I truly look for is my growth as a writer.  In addition, I have notebooks in three significant places -- by my bed (for dreams), by my computer, and in my purse.  These notes may not end up being significant literary documents for future fans, but like Carl Jung's Red Book, I am certain they reveal my inner gods and demons, my hopes and fears, my archetypes and symbols, to whoever might read them.

7.  Contemplate.

Or, as I would say if I threw all manners out the window, "Fer pity's sake, THINK, people!"  

Thinking is the only way to solve a problem, for example.  You may want to invent something that will take the world by storm.  In order to do that, you have to figure out how to fulfill a need people have.

But contemplation shouldn't stop there.  Think about how much you appreciate everyone and everything that surrounds you.  I KNOW the 'law of attraction' is indeed a law, and that everything in my presence exists because I deliberately thought of it.

My favorite, however, is to think about the future.  I will sit in my yard and contemplate what changes I might make.  Or I will sit with my computer and think about the book I'm writing, and how to present the next scene.  

Thinking is the key to success.  People don't just come up to you and say, "Hey, I like you, I'll pay you $80,000 a year to be my accountant," if you haven't put some thought into going to school and getting a degree in accounting.

8.  Grow food.

You don't have to have a big, complicated garden.  But you should know how to grow food, because you might desperately need that skill someday.  You can have a container garden, or you can re-grow from scraps.  I usually have sprouts of some kind growing, and I'm contemplating putting in a pear tree beside the elderberries.

The point is: you should have at least a small portion of your food supply under your control.  Why?  Because the environment is going crazy.  We are currently suffering the sixth mass extinction event in the history of the planet.  You can 'argue' whether 'climate change' is 'real' or not, you can even laugh at those who try to legislate the mere mention of it away, but you need to be prepared to grow your own food, regardless.  And also be prepared to share that food, preferably bartering for foods you don't grow on your own.

Oh, by the way: you may wonder why I wrote this article.  I was inspired by Inhabitat's recent post.  I plan to survive an apocalypse by doing every single thing in this article.  Daily.  I hope to see you on 'the other side'.

 ~ Namaste ~

Eva Caye, author of the To Be Sinclair series, can build a rocket stove, tat lace, handle a gun, design book covers and permaculture garden plans, and teach teenagers critical thinking, although her favorite activities include writing science fiction romances and playing with her doggies.  She currently lives in a tiny, century-old farmhouse with her magnificent husband and two marvelous mutts in Louisville, Kentucky.

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