There are stressful times in our lives—whether personal, national, or global—in which changes are pushed upon us from outside rather than welling up within from quiet reflection. The book that’s useful to us in an externally-driven vs. internally-driven context is very different. I can’t predict which book we’re going to need next year.
If major action begins being taken to halt climate change, if the current U.S. trend away from the rule of law is stopped in time, maybe an updated book with lots of tips about how to handle household clutter and time management and lifestyle optimization will be exactly what we want. But even if it is, I do not believe our lives will be like they were in 2011 when the first edition of Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff came out. It’d be good to know a little more about the world we’ll be in before writing a new edition.
If local and regional disasters continue to rock the planet—and there is every reason to expect we need to be prepared for those at least in the short term no matter what we do on climate—then it’s the emotional journey of surviving loss that we will want to understand better. If places which were once safe to live in become more dangerous—whether due to influenza or intolerance—then it’s the practicality of protecting self and family which is the first priority. Others have suffered loss, bigotry, and displacement beyond my experience. Theirs are the voices we need to hear in such times.
At the end of 2016 when massive political change came to the office of the U.S. presidency and the magnitude of climate change was becoming clearer, I heard the good advice to think well in advance about what your lines in the sand are. At what point are we way past the range of normality, such that you’ll need to consider new options? In the months since my last post we’ve crossed several of my mental lines in the sand. It’s a new world and everything is up in the air. The 2020 U.S. presidential election is going to alter the path of everyone in the world, not only impacting whether the system of checks and balances in the U.S. governmental structure is abandoned, but whether the massive U.S. economy and patterns of consumption are diverted away from the path of further accelerating climate change.
None of this is normal. And we can’t go on pretending it will get better on its own.
We need to care for ourselves and manage our stress to get through these times. Sometimes creating order in the areas under our control is a big part of that. After a particularly bad news day, I’ve definitely resorted to organizing a drawer or decluttering a closet; and given the past four years, my house is looking pretty fantastic. But we shouldn’t be like the woman in The Day After who is still trying to make the bed when the missiles are flying over Lawrence, Kansas. We need to use some of our energy toward solving the real, much bigger challenges.
These massive challenges can be solved; humanity has gotten itself out of much worse situations.
It doesn’t take all of us devoting all of our time every day to it, but it does take most of us devoting a major chunk every week to it. That chunk needs to be action, not observation. Watching or reading thoughtful political analysis, while nice, is not action. It’s actions like volunteering to register voters and calling elected officials to advocate for policy changes to reduce carbon outputs and connecting with neighbors to make a plan for accepting refugees into your community which will make the difference.
Once you’ve done your chunk of work, relax. Take care of yourself. Avoid inflaming your system with shouting pundits on television and social media. Create calm and time to be thoughtful, so that you can maintain your values and kindness.
Once you are in that place of kindly calm inside, then look at what you’ve got on your ‘to-do’ lists, actual and unspoken. What can wait? What doesn’t move you or the world in the direction you want to go? What is it the wrong time for?Release yourself from those expectations and cross them off the list, or park them elsewhere in a “look at this next year” document possibly with a note on your calendar to remind you it exists.
If we’re lucky and work hard together, we can come back to those things with renewed possibility in our lives. For now, the path is narrower and lightening our loads is the way to move forward.
Here by the side of the path I am setting down the Discardia Patreon community and the writing of a completely revised edition of Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff. After all my volunteer work and self-care—I do administrative support for major Get-Out-the-Vote team and have an autoimmune disorder I’m working on getting into remission—I hope to pick them up again in 2021.
One of the advantages of being a long-time Discardian is already having a model for this. Every year when the big family holidays approach, I’ve gone through a mini version, making notes for myself to look at in January after all the travel and social occasions.
Along with Let It Go, Discardia teaches us Set It Down.
Let’s all give ourselves the breathing room to do good things for ourselves and our world. Be well, be kind, and get involved now.