I signed up for invisible aligners (ie: braces) two weeks before I decided I was going to cut single-use plastics out of my life. I have banished so much plastic from my home and my habits—all while wearing plastic aligners on my teeth. The absurdity is not lost on me.
Disclaimer: I am cautious not to become a purist or a zero-waste evangelist. I have alienated too many people too many times just by sheer enthusiasm and I am not inclined to do it again. I want to see more people reduce their waste and consumption, but also: You do you. I am not judging, Besides, I would not be able to work at my cafe every day if it weren’t for my ability to live in the hypocrisy and dissonance—plastic bags around loaves of bread and take away coffee cups and so so so many gloves.
I am not perfect; I’m not even good, but I am in search of a better way to live my life.
I want to live lighter on the earth.
I want to be fully present.
I want to own every decision I make for my life.
I can’t send back the box of aligners that perfectly fit my crooked (but getting straighter!) teeth. If I could go back and start my plastic-free journey two weeks earlier and not be straightening my teeth I would absolutely do that, because it turns out this really matters to me.
Instead I am embracing the choices I have already made and forging ahead with this experiment anyway—starting with my groceries. I grew up weighing items from the bulk bins and going to u-pick berry farms and watching my mom and aunt take an entire day to do the canning and dehydrating. Food was made from scratch—from memory. Finding my way back to the bulk bins and the berry farms is helping me find my way back to me—to a younger, happier version of myself.
I haven’t had enough time in several years to show up to the farmer’s markets and berry farms and bulk bins. I have been striving and fighting and achieving. I have been feeding an ego that told me I could be bigger, better, faster—that I could say yes to everything and be indispensable and wildly ambitious and someday that would make me important and respected and loveable.
Ha! My ego is an idiot. I’m not bigger, better, faster or more important.
I haven’t earned all the love I was striving for and it has left me feeling pretty empty.
I don’t have more time all of a sudden. I’ve just decided I don’t really feel like keeping up anymore. I don’t feel like feeding my ego a steady stream of what-ifs and should-haves and FOMO.
I made a new list of things I want in life:
- More sleep
- Time in the woods
- To live lighter on the earth (low waste, less plastic, less consumption)
- To grown my own food
- To know, serve and commune with my neighbors
- Rest (different than sleep)
I don’t really know what I’m doing. But I’m enjoying it anyway.
I started with a quest to live lighter on the earth. To live my values out in real, tangible ways.
But I have been finding something else along the way that is even more meaningful and sustainable. I am discovering mindfulness for the first time. I am becoming more engaged and aware of my surroundings and my choices and I like who I am becoming in this process.
Before this all sounds just a little too idyllic let me tell you this work has been hard. I have to say “no” more often. I have to plan ahead all the time to make sure I avoid purchasing unnecessary plastic. I have to choose to turn off my phone to make time for rest (seriously, that part is really hard). I have to choose to go to bed on time. I have to choose to dig around in the yard when I would rather be binge-watching The Office.
It has been difficult and it will probably not get easy anytime soon. And I love it anyway.