Starting Over – Letting Go of the Shame

Everyone is doing the best they can with what they know, and we are all here to learn and grow.
— Alaric Hutchinson, Living Peace
A couple of years ago I was feeling very passionate about helping the planet. Diving straight in, I attempted to produce as little trash as possible. I would regularly drive with my mom up to Fort Collins, CO to hit up stores so that I could get certain unpackaged products. I even attempted to get cheese and meat put into jars. Didn’t happen.
I had become friends with a woman at a cheese counter and had told her about my aspirations on living Zero Waste, which is basically to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle or rot anything you can to avoid throwing it away. By now I had purchased a few items like mason jars, cloth bags, reusable cotton rounds to remove makeup, some hankies, a bamboo toothbrush. I had also scouted out some bulk bins. I had seen founders of the Zero Waste movement fitting several years’ worth of trash in a single jar! I figured, if they can do it, I can do it; but I missed that they had to go through the same process that any newbie has to go through. It takes time to learn, to find resources, to acquire a few necessary tools, and to start a few new habits.
I had attempted to change everything at once. In the end, this made me resent such a radical life-change. A radical change leaves no time to adjust to new habits. So I gave up and went straight back to what I had always done and hardly tried for 2 years!!! Sheesh. Talk about all or nothing! I felt an immense amount of guilt and shame. I had announced to people my intentions and now I had given up. I’ve felt so guilty that I avoid the cheese lady like the plague when I go to that particular store. I’ve purposefully avoided the cheese counter, and when I see the her throughout the store, I’ve even dodged between isles, hoping she didn’t see me! Don’t get me wrong, she has always been super sweet and kind, but this experience has taught me what deep shame can do to a person.
You will never find shame or blame on this blog, only encouragement to do what you can. If you already know how to recycle and just haven’t gotten around to it, start there. If all you do for now is refuse a straw at a restaurant, great!
“Everyone is doing the best they can with what they know, and we are all here to learn and grow.”
Note to self:
  • It’s ok to go slowly. Be kind to yourself. Anything you do is awesome. Be DANG PROUD of any little thing you do! This experience has been the inspiration for my blog, to show others the little steps it takes to create less waste. Living sustainably can to be sustainable for you. It is entirely possible for almost everyone in the world to significantly lower their footprint, but it takes a little time.
  • Let go of the shame and go talk to the cheese lady.

Aligning Our Values & Actions

What would my actions look like if I consciously chose them according to my values? Well, I can tell you, they would look way different than they are right now!
Surprisingly, the things that I really care about, and that leave an emotional lump in my throat, seem to be the things that don’t come naturally to me. I have to really work at them.
Some of them include:
  • A healthy planet.
  • Simplicity.
  • Kindness.
  • Health.
  • Family.
I’ve heard, and believe, that one of the best ways to create the life you really want is to think of your death bed. Depressing, I know. But honestly if you were to imagine yourself on your death bed, what do you honestly think you will regret? What are you going to regret if you don’t do it? Spending more time with family? Leaving a massive pile of trash in the world? Learning to take the time to be patient and kind – because patience and kindness are skills.
Taking only a few minutes to ask ourselves this question can be a key to creating fulfillment, and like a potter and his clay, masterfully designing and molding the life we REALLY want.
If I lived according to these values I might …
  • Walk to class; put my produce in a cloth bag; use a reusable water bottle; learn how to garden. (A healthy planet)
  • Get rid of one thing I don’t love or use every day; put things away when I am done with them; spend quiet time in nature; be grateful for five things I already have; encourage my daughter to romp outside instead of watch TV. (Simplicity)
  • Listen to my daughter before I speak; shovel my neighbor’s sidewalk; think of what is right rather than looking for people’s faults; locate a soup kitchen, call them and offer help. (Kindness)
  • Add a vegetable to my breakfast; walk rather than drive; sit on the floor and stretch; keep sugar out of my house. (Health)
  • Go for a walk with my mom; keep a gratitude journal about a loved one; let my daughter cry, and let her know it is perfectly okay to cry; do something that she wants to do; let my family know regularly how glad I am that they are my family. (Family)
It takes a TON of energy NOT to live according to my values. I know I’m not going to be perfect, but the ripple effect of one small conscious act at a time may lead to something amazing. I’m ready to start taking responsibility.
If the planet is unhealthy … if the planet is unlivable … none of my other values are possible. None of these things that I care DEEPLY about could even exist!
What ONE value could you act upon?
It only takes ONE DECISION to create a ripple effect.
Photo by Miriam Espacio on Unsplash