No, this isn’t a transgender confession. At least not in the traditional sense – just read on.
Last month I posted my dismay at our planet in peril. Since then, I’ve been working steadily at becoming a lower impact individual and all I can really say so early on is this will certainly be an intriguing journey.
First (and in no particular order) I’m surprised at the times I feel foolish embarking on this journey. There’s the fact that this it is SO obvious that I should be further along on being low impact. I watched An Inconvenient Truth. What’s taken me so long?! I’m slightly embarrassed to talk to my activist pals about how I’ve discovered the method of doing my dishes more efficiently (two tubs of water – one for soapy, one for rinse – start with glassware – then move through cutlery, dishes, pots and pans – saves lot of water). The word paltry comes to mind. But alas, we must crawl before we walk. And this parody on the comedy site The Onion helps shore me up.
I’ve also found myself embarrassed to be low-impact in public. I took my groovy tin cup along with me on my recent driving trip to Maine (I’ve been failing miserably on the carbon emissions front) so I wouldn’t waste disposable cups at rest stops. I’m embarrassed to say I was too embarrassed to ask Starbucks barristas to use my cup instead of their paper cup (although I asked them to refill three of my water bottles with no trepidation – go figure). The outcome turned out to be MORE impactful though, because I chose no coffee over coffee in a paper cup. It just points out to me how insanely consumerist our culture is – and how we are ALL caught in that system in ways we can’t even imagine.
Second, I HAVE unearthed the makings of a lower impact lifestyle and how that brings intimacy to my interactions with my people, my stuff and my food. Doing dishes (as above), turning off the water while lathering in shower, sharing paint, supplies, tools with neighbors. My cabin walls are now painted a lovely combination of three yellows donated to me by Bill and Lisa. I’ve discovered how effective and non-toxic vinegar and baking soda are at cleaning. I realize that thinking about every action that I take and the way that I take it slows me down, makes me think, breathe, consider, be grateful, be careful, be sweet, be gentle. Also, be funny. Check out this Brazilian video about how peeing in the shower saves water:
The third even MORE surprising outcome is how this journey to low impact is helping me redefine was feminism is and what it should be. There was an era of my life – one friend calls calls it My Life As a Man – when I thought the key to being powerful as a woman was to act like those whom I perceived as having power – namely white men. As a television director I was often the only woman in a crew – and I usually covered stories about “powerful” white men. I was clear I wasn’t going to be anyone’s mom, girlfriend, sister, whatever. So I intentionally didn’t ask questions of others, launched into my own stories without prompting, had little empathy for myself or anyone who might be lagging on the shoot and developed my own special form of misogyny toward women who weren’t strong, couldn’t give good directions, and couldn’t weave a really good tale. I finally had a wake up call after I decided that I, like most men around me, would not pick up my dishes after a meal at someone’s house. The problem was – all those really nice ladies who had prepared the meal were now having to pick up after me. Yuck. That was enough. I realized that this form of feminism was as destructive as the existing misogyny that wouldn’t let anyone – men or women – become whole. So if feminism isn’t female misogyny – what is it?
My low impact adventure helps answer this question because I am finding intense power and connection in these acts I find myself performing. These humble, simple commitments of service are opening a door to understanding that there is little in this world more powerful than collective and incremental action. I can’t save the planet. I can only begin to do my dishes differently and I am dependent on the wisdom and action of others for that one small act to become large. This is not the way those whom are considered powerful in our culture act. They expect others to clean up after them – while they single-handedly sweep-in with brilliant solutions. Hello BP. Feminism to me redefines what power is – appreciating, embracing the powerful smallness of women, men, old, young, quiet, gentle… you name it. You get it. All of it. All of our power.
Water. Wind. Soil. Air. As we seek to lessen our destructiveness on these powerful, vulnerable things – they become metaphors for so many others. Tell me your low impact tales. I’ll print them here.