So, you came into 2020 with a plan for change, huh? Me too.
I want big change, the blustery kind that closes highways and piles nasty habits and limiting beliefs against my front door. I try to open the door and feel the pushback. Where is my other glove? The snowblower hasn’t been by. I miss the desert. My shovel’s in the truck. This sucks. I’m not cut out for this.
Change is hard.
But, Nature has an idea.
January suggests I shelter in place, assess the situation and gather supplies. It says “pay attention to my environment” and to be ready for changing conditions.
OK, this was an actual emergency weather statement, but I thought it applicable to change work. It’s important I spend time on the inside before I even think about going outside.
So, I gently close that door to change (it was a little scary out there anyway) and take a JANUARY PAUSE.
Because you can’t just burst through the door and arrive at change. First, you get a good look at the thing. Poke it. Call it by its name and see if it responds. Get a good Look-See.
“Living naturally” is such a big thing I decided to explore it through food; perhaps my most direct connection to Nature. I begin this journey of a thousand miles with a single step; and reach my fridge.
What the heck. Do I actually believe a full fridge is a happy fridge? That an empty fridge is not meeting its full potential? Maybe food expands like goldfish to fill the space it lives in. Maybe someone filled it while I slept. Despite my love of “all things minimum,” my food-world is “all things maximum.”
I want to believe my food-stash represents an evolutionary adaptation to avoid winter starvation, but there are whispers from the crisper. You might want to call it a glut Kit. Or maybe a hoard. You know there are people who don’t even have food, right? Way to consume, Kit.
That would be Shame stinking up my fridge, and I tell it to chill. I’m looking, not judging. I know Shame. Shame is the biggest push on my front door, and it can stay in the crisper.
I turn to other chores. Garbage pick-up was delayed twice in December, so at the beginning of January, I see how my food and garbage is connected with 20/20 vision.
You say you love nature? What do you think actually happens to all that plastic whisked away in the pretty blue bag? Really? You’ve been working at this for 30 years, and this is it? This is the extent of your evolution?
I stand up straight and stare at Shame until it retreats. I slam the fridge door. NOT TODAY, SHAME. I’M NOT JUDGING.
The facts are right, but the tone is all wrong. I relax my shoulders, and go back to look again.
My behaviour is a teenage boy at an all-you-can-eat buffet, but my beliefs are a sophisticated academic who adds flax to her kale sauté. I would like us to be able to dine together; to sit down together as a family. This estrangement hurts.
These bags represent my failure to eat naturally, but I decide they will be my teacher. Take that, Shame.
Because I am pausing, I have time. Time to explore. To consider. I take a notepad to the curb and I poke at the thing. I try to see the issue with mother-eyes. The ones that love her child even as she drops a cellphone in the toilet.
I go inside and write about garbage and it’s connection to food for fifteen straight minutes. No stopping. I keep my hand moving; no over-thinking, editing or correcting. When I’m done, I go back and sort it, like I sort my waste.
What I write is mostly garbage (technically, I mean) but because I’ve done this before I know to look for recyclables and compostables, and expect I’ll find them.
So what are the “facts?”
I continue to have a pesky ice-cream habit, pet-food cans form the bulk of my aluminum waste and despite fighting to maintain minimalist principles, I once again over-consumed during the holidays. And I still can’t remember whether ice-cream cartons are paper or plastic.
Once I have these “facts” sorted, I ask trash to talk, but warn that if Shame gets out of the crisper again, I’m ending the conversation.
I start. I care deeply about the planet.
Garbage says my concern has as much staying power as a plastic spoon and the amount of my food waste going to landfill is directly correlated to the depth of snow in front of the compost bin. Meaning, ahem, I tend to take environmental action when its easy.
Somewhere along the line, I swapped real food for food products. Again. (I heard that, Shame) I often buy what I want, when I want it, because I deserve it. When it’s just me, I stop cooking. Garbage says I might have my wants and needs mixed up sometimes.
Although I’m not liking what I hear, Shame is mostly quiet. It’s true, my commitment waxes and wanes. It’s true, I don’t always have the brute force required to get the compost pile. And it’s true, there is something about deserving.
I decide not to buy any new food for the month. Not local, not any. I’ll just eat what I have. I’m quite sure I could do this for 6 months, but I’m just thinking a month. Not shopping buys energy to continue to assess and I’m learning a lot.
Pause asks me to turn from the “problem” to remember what I already know to be true. About food. It asks me to recall times I felt connected to food; nourished and alive.
I close my eyes and I’m at the farm. I walk through spring, summer and fall. I relax and take time to look at pictures.
Shame, frustration and disconnection make way for abundance, gratitude and connection. There is no garbage in Nature. The contrast etches itself on my spirit. This learning happens in my heart, not my head. There is no garbage in Nature. My heart skips a beat at the news.
Fiddleheads, blackberries, dewberries, dandelion greens, service berries, pin cherries, chanterelles and boletes, apples and plums. They all grow on the land. Beach and hazelnut, lion’s mane, St. John’s Wort and Hawthorne. So much medicine. Food-medicine. Medicine-food.
I remember the excitement of discovering a dewberry patch with my daughter, and can taste the dewberry crumble we shared with friends that night; all of us tired and sun-kissed from a day spent outdoors.
I recall a food-foraging workshop, trips to the Mabou Farmer’s Market and eating foraged food with passionate young people and friends who came to help on the farm.
I harvest wild blackberries with my daughter; our conversation as leisurely as our picking. I swing in the hammock on a hot summer afternoon, after picking pin-cherries.
It’s amazing to me, that both of these worlds are mine; the “modern” world, and the natural. I note how they war for my attention. I just want peace.
Before the month comes to an end, I put a lock on the crisper.
Shame has no teaching credentials and I’m not in Shame School. If I can just keep it in the crisper, I’ll be a more attentive student out there, in Nature’s Classroom.
It’s the last day of January, and I can’t stop raving about my pause. Because of it, I have learned many new things. It’s taken me on a much more organic change experience than the brutal annual lashing of a resolution.
Before I go, I just want to encourage you.
Don’t give up on that thing you so hoped to change. The Pause is Powerful. Maybe try it?
Let’s call it a pregnant pause, because it births new understanding of the thing. Or maybe a meno-pause because it means truly, and finally, entering a new phase in life; when one thing really ends, and another begins.
Either way, I’m pretty sure it’s an essential part of finding That Path to Change.
The Pause gave me strength, too.
So when the snow pressing against my front door didn’t actually melt, because sometimes it won’t, I was able to dig myself out.