Stick the kettle on, pull up a chair, and sit with me while I work this through.I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Wabi-sabi. The revelation that it is something other than the crazily hot green stuff that comes with Sushi lunchpacks in M&S has blown me away. And not only is it not wasabi, but it’s a concept that really seems to speak to me too.
If you missed my last post, the definition of Wabi-sabi is:
“A Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is ‘imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete’”
I love the idea of seeing beauty in the imperfections, but my attention recently has been focussed on the incomplete aspect of it.
I am pretty sure that I am not alone in feeling like whatever I do is never enough, is incomplete.
I never play enough with my kids, I never spend enough time really listening to what my husband says, and I very definitely never do enough housework. And I feel bad about it (actually, the housework not so much). We look around and superficially, on social media at least, everyone else is doing enough. Everyone else has wonderfully behaved children, and spends their time with them doing stimulating, educational and fun stuff; they go on date nights regularly with their adoring partners, rather than just slumping exhausted in front of the TV; and their houses are spotless.
I get that this isn’t real. That these are the bits they have chosen to show the world, and that they also have scrunched up insides, and big piles of dirty laundry just out of shot.
I’m starting to reconcile myself with that, and to be ok with it.
But as someone who cares about the planet and our impact on it (What should I call myself? An eco-warrior? An environmentalist? A green? – I think we can all agree that that sounds like a bogey. A hippy? All of these terms turn me off hugely-we need a better ‘label’) I have an extra layer of guilt. A whole other stick to beat myself with, and to feel like I am never enough. Or maybe not so much that I am never enough, but that I never do enough.
Plastic Free July is a brilliant example of this.
I already do the easy stuff, or the ‘Big 4’: the reusable shopping bags; the reusable coffee mugs; no bottles of water; and we have even bought stainless steel straws for the boys to use.
I went a step further and have taken some big steps to reducing the plastic in our bathroom, with my homemade soap, and deodorant.
We get a veg box delivered, so this also cuts down on plastic packaging, and I have had several attempts at making my own yoghurt (with variable success).
But instead of focussing on the successes, I can’t help but feel so guilty about the things I haven’t done.
I haven’t been able to find a replacement for our plastic bottles of milk;
I’m never brave enough to take my own tupperware with my to the deli counter at the supermarket (and instead just stand there wincing inside as they use umpty nine sheets of plastic to wrap the things in);
I still baulk at spending twice as much on standard pasta in a box than organic pasta in a plastic bag.
A Plastic Free Life is very firmly in my ‘too hard’ basket. And because of that, I’ve stopped trying to make further changes. I’ve reached the point where further change becomes uncomfortable. I’ve stopped trying to change, to move forwards, and instead I’m standing still and feeling guilty.
And so I don’t join in with this brilliant movement, as I feel like a failure before I even start.
And of course, I feel bad about that.
Do you think it comes with the territory? Maybe being an eco-warrior/environmentalist/greeny is like being a mum, and is automatically accompanied by a side order of guilt.
Whatever we do, it feels like it’s never enough.
There is always a contradiction, a hypocrisy.
And there will always be guilt I think, no matter what we do, and a feeling that it isn’t enough.
But maybe a little bit of guilt is a good thing.
I think it can be quite a powerful motivator.
When we first had kids, I wanted to use reusable nappies, but I was overwhelmed by the enormity of being in charge of keeping a whole other person alive, and for the first few months we used disposable nappies. And I felt this nagging low level background guilt each time I put one in the bin.
Once I started to re-surface from the shock of first time motherhood, I began to investigate alternatives, and before I knew it we had a whole pile of reusable nappies, and the guilt was gone (probably replaced within about 5 seconds by something else to feel guilty about, but hey). Without that guilt, I don’t think I would have acted.
So actually, perhaps it’s about Wabi-sabi. It’s about accepting the incomplete nature of our efforts, and that feeling of never doing enough. I don’t think it will ever go away, so maybe it needs to be embraced, much like our imperfections. We need to embrace it and use it as a positive force. Change happens when it becomes more uncomfortable to stay in the same place, than it is to move out of our comfort zones.
We are enough. As parents, as children, as carers, as partners and employees or employers. We are enough.
But we can always do more, do better. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s just a fact. It shows an awareness of the world around us, of how our actions affect other people and the planet.
It’s a good thing.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and to explore it more together.
I’ve written this post about five times, thinking through the whole thing aloud (or at least on screen). It’s taken for a good couple of hours or writing and deleting and editing and deleting again to arrive at this conclusion. Do you agree?
Do you feel like your ‘green efforts’ are never enough? And is that a motivator to keep making change, or is it paralysing you and dragging you down?