Between Everything and Nothing

There is a space between feeling that we can accomplish everything and that we can accomplish nothing. I have been to both extremes and am currently trying to figure out how exactly to settle in that middle space. It is the space where we accomplish something. I am actually finding this more and more difficult to figure out.

Generally, it happens like this: I watch some documentary or hear about some cause or get some random and brilliant idea. Then, I get excited. It is a motivation that springs up from somewhere in the depths of my being and I never knew it was there. Due to this excitement, this spring from which I had never realized I could drink and feel alive, I set myself on a path towards a new kind of excellence. I go gangbusters. Then, I stop. A dead stop. Because it is too much that I have tried to take on and accomplish. I am simply overwhelmed by my zeal.

This is what I mean. This is the space where I try to accomplish everything. I try to take on what seems like everything in the whole world. Every good cause, every fight against injustice, every measure to save the earth, every plight of sorrow, every move towards better health, a better tomorrow, a better me, etc. You see that this is clearly too much, right?

In the dead stop that my overwhelming zeal causes, I meet the space where nothing is accomplished. This space has its own set of problems, as well. Most of which are obvious. The ultimate issue of doing nothing, however, is actually the deadening of my own spirit. It is not that I instantly become a bad person. Not at all. It is that in this failure that has come from my overwhelmed zeal, that is exactly what I end up feeling like: a failure.

When we feel like failures, we do fail. Unfortunately, it is a law of nature. Productive people usually feel more productive and have more energy (within reason), thus creating for themselves a cyclical productivity. People who feel like a failure, feed their failure. Thus creating a similar negative cycle.

The key is recognizing what you are able to accomplish and what matters enough to you to actually move toward it, and then balancing the two. There are many things that my eyes are now opened to that they never have been before. Some of these things excite me to the very core. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a part of whatever movement is happening. The struggle for me, however, is that I tend to lose sight of the fact that I can’t win every battle or I approach every issue as if my life depended on it. Do not do this (unless, of course, your life really does depend on it).

Please do not misunderstand me; there are many things worth diving head first into and giving your all to. What I really mean is that it is more important to take a step in the right direction and keep walking than to run straight into it, only to be flung back to your starting place. There is no shame in not giving your all to everything. However, it is worth considering if you are giving nothing of yourself to anything worthy and good, whether for yourself or others.

Progress and balance are key words. Keep moving forward, keep finding good things to give yourself to, but maintain your balance along the way.

The space between everything and nothing is something. You may not be saving the world, but doing something is still something. It is still a step in the right direction. Maybe there will come a day when you realize that your balanced progress has come so far that you are actually accomplishing the everything you once dreamed of.

Recycle, Damn It!

Today I went for a stroll around my sometimes lovely, sometimes seedy, neighborhood. While I was out, I grabbed an iced tea from a local place. It made me wonder why more “to go” cups aren’t labeled with a “Please Recycle” reminder.

At least this is one thing Starbucks has going for them; they do what they can to make their waste as earth-friendly as possible (by instilling the 3-bin system). Then I wondered, why aren’t paper and plastic cups a little more demanding? “Recycle, damn it!” is what I would choose. Obviously, this is not your poor recyclable cup’s fault. We can look to big business here. Actually, big or small, choosing cups with a simple reminder cannot be that much more expensive. Or can it?

Then again, I wonder if a printed reminder really helps at all. Those who recycle do not need a reminder, and those who don’t need a swift kick in the ass probably won’t. However, there are a few in the crossroads who may be persuaded by this friendly printed reminder. So, perhaps, this post is actually just a reminder, to those of us who care about the cause, to be a little bit louder (notice that I did not say “obnoxious”…) to our friends in the crossroads about the reasons that recycling really matters.

Happy recycling!

love the earth.

I am a fan of using things until the last drop. I am also a fan of using things that are left over in creative ways to make something new. This is how I try not to waste. A long time ago the phrase “Haste makes waste” popped into my head. I’m not sure if it was original or stolen from someone else. The point is, it is true. The more often we slow down, the more there is left over. I find this concept to be true whether I am eating (fast eaters tend to consume more food in less time) or just truly waiting until everything in the jam jar or shampoo bottle really is gone before throwing it away and buying another or even taking an extra minute to clean out a recyclable instead of throwing it into the trash. What’s interesting about this is that I am not an environment freak. Up until about 3 or 4 years ago, I barely even thought about recycling. Well, except when I was a kid learning to “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.

In 2008, I lived overseas in a community (with a bunch of other Americans, primarily). We were from all over the states and a few from the country I lived in. But they all had different experiences with things like composting and recycling. There was one girl who was avid about the cause and it leaked into our community in the best possible way. Since then, it has become a natural part of my thinking. And as of about a year ago, when I moved to a much more environmentally focused city, I began my own practice of recycling. I also began working in the food industry and was basically disgusted to see how much food was unnecessarily thrown away because it was just for knife skills practice or wasn’t made exactly correctly. And it went in the trash.

While I was growing up, I was told to try everything at least once. I appreciate this now. When I was eating Three Bean Salad at age 10, not so much. But I digress. I was also told that I had to finish everything on my plate. As an adult, I realized there were many things about these seemingly small mealtime rules that formed many things in me. On the negative side, I became an over-eater whose eyes were bigger than my stomach. But on the positive side, I learned to become an open-minded eater who also, over time, learned to take a little less. I could come back for more if I wanted.

These experiences are culminating into something now. They are re-creating me into someone who cares about the end result. I was thinking earlier that humans are wired to want ‘more’. We are drawn like a magnet to money. When we can’t pay our bills, we look towards the time when we will make more money so that we can meet our needs. When we finally get there, we want more so that we can entertain ourselves. And it grows and grows from there until we lose it all or die. Or, for the fortunate few, until we finally want ‘less’ because we know that too much may eventually ruin us. I wonder when we will finally look around at what we have and think “it is enough”.

I think this is where I am going. Learning to be content even when it may feel as though I don’t have enough yet. I think this is the basis for loving the earth. We don’t need Hummers and extra portions of cow on our plates and throwing away the shampoo bottle with 5 washes left in the bottle because you want a new kind. I am not going to say what kind of way you should live. Except to say that we should all be trying our best to live rightly, love the earth and be content to say that “it is enough”.