Confidence in my values

To keep me company last weekend while driving to and from Mendocino alone, I picked up a book on tape at my local library. I wasn’t terrible excited about it but had heard of the book and decided to take the risk.

The book, No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process, follows one man’s (and his wife and child’s) efforts to live without a negative biological footprint for one year.  I’ve largely stopped reading books like this. I’ve become tired of the whole one-year experiment, get a book-deal thing. But…it’s what was available at the library.

The book turned out to be really well researched and thought out. It was a bit sappy at times, but it took an honest look the planet and the actions we take for granted on a daily basis. What struck me the most, however, was how hard it is to live this way. And not how you think. It’s not difficult to stop using plastic, to compost, to ride your bicycle everywhere. No. That can be managed. What’s difficult is living outside of society’s norm. This is something that I’ve been struggling with and listening to this book helped me put a finger on it.

You see…for the last couple of months I’ve been researching opening a fabric shop. I love fabric.  I’ve always wanted to run a business. And I’ve been wanting to find a role for myself besides mom and wife (see previous post).

So…fabric store. Our favorite, local store just closed, and I thought, “Hmmm…I could do this.” The thing is, opening a store totally doesn’t mesh with how we want to live right now. Margie I and value locally and seasonally-based home cooked meals eaten together; spending time out of doors; being with our children; fostering creativity; living without too much waste.  We also try to limit our spending. We have to think before we make our purchases and decide what else we won’t be buying.

It would be one thing if both of my kids were in school full-time and I had a bit more time to spend at a store, as well as cooking meals, cleaning the house, and being home with the kids when they weren’t in school.  Or if Margie was no longer on furlough pay. But my kids aren’t in school full-time and they won’t be for another 3-4 years…and we can’t afford to be mass consumers.

This fabric store idea followed closely on the heels of my last great idea, which was to turn our backyard into a little homestead (see this post). Yeah…a store doesn’t really jive with running a homestead, either. So, why this store? Why now? Why not be content with my previous, awesome, value-supporting plan?

A fabric store—a business—is mainstream. I’m putting money in the bank (well…after a few years, hopefully). It’s not granola. It’s not counter-culture. It’s economy-enriching. It’s material based (literally and figuratively).

Turning my yard into a homestead with a flourishing and productive garden, chickens, fruit trees, composting, water saving, and the like isn’t mainstream. It’s doesn’t pump money into the economy. It doesn’t support industry. It places me more in the fringe.

Listening to this book made me realize that I have some unresolved issues with this. I don’t know why. But now that I’ve identified the real motivation behind the store—not to be different—I’m at peace with not opening the store and focusing on my homestead. I’m okay (at least tonight…sigh…I won’t always be) with being granola. With living frugally and sustainably.

I grew up at a time when our society didn’t understand the ramifications of waste and over-consumption. That was also a time of economic growth and relative wealth. Things are different now. We know that there’s too much plastic in the world and that way too much petroleum and coal is being pulled from the earth—from both resource depletion and climate change perspectives.  We also know that middle class families like ours can’t spend money with abandon. Not if we want to keep roof over our heads and send our kids to college. And my kids need to know and understand these things.

My actions and my families’ economic decisions may be only one drop in a very large bucket. But…I don’t care. I feel better about myself for living this way. And that’s all that matters.

For now, I’m going to try to be content with not being a consumer. And with not encouraging other people to be consumers (by opening a shop). Some days this will be easy. Other days—when I really want some new fabric or a great pair of shoes (which, umm…is right now…I have a couple of dress-up functions coming up)—it won’t be. And one day this may all change, and I’ll open the store. But, for now, homestead, here I come!

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I could go on in this post to discuss the negative impacts of commercialism, media, and industry. At some point I might. But for now, this is enough.

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4 thoughts on “Confidence in my values

  1. i can tell i want to start trying to convince you to open the fabric store. :o)

    that is more telling of me than of you of course.

    loved reading this. thank you amanda!

  2. “What’s difficult is living outside of society’s norm. This is something that I’ve been struggling with and listening to this book helped me put a finger on it.”

    – Sometimes I struggle with this notion of living on the outer edge too, which is why I seek out and maintain relationships with people who fall more to the edges of American culture. It helps me feel less like I’m the weird one.

    Spending a lot of time in a school as I do, I’m mostly surrounded by society’s norm. For a while it was lonely as the sole hippie, but I have slowly gotten used to it. I’ve also instilled some of my values into my classroom and connected with those who share some of those. Slowly but surely some folks are coming around – at least a little bit. And others are coming out of the old school hippie closet and telling me stories about how things were when they were my age. Love my friends in their late 50s and 60s!

    I’m sure there would be much community support for a fabric shop run by you. I’m imagining high quality materials, out of the ordinary prints, community classes and a warm homey atmosphere. Some day… or not.

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