Thursday, April 22, 2010

Small New Leaf on Earth Day

Little leaves
On the tip of my finger the tiny leaves of the feather dalea
(Click any image to view much larger on Flickr)
West Odessa, Texas

After my Spring month of renewing, I am renewed. Have you heard of Transition Towns yet? If not, you will. Me, I am embarking on becoming a Transition Person.

First let me tell you my story.

For twenty-five years I worked as a computer programmer with decent salary. I drove 24 miles to arrive at the office, where I spent eight hours sitting under florescent lights, solving unending technical problems, and frequently enduring immense stress. Then I would drive 24 more miles back home to hopefully find a free hour or two to enjoy the parts of life that make it worth living. By most standards, it was a good job. A good life.

Last October, I was laid off due to the economic downturn.

Not surprisingly, since then I've had time to do some thinking. I've been thinking about the decline of my health due to lack of exercise, fast food, and continual stress. I've been thinking about all the apparatuses that it took to keep that commuting job -- the clothes to buy, the vehicle to ever maintain, the need to pay others to do what I didn't have time to do or learn to do myself, and even the medical expenses related to poor health maintenance. Saddest of all, I've been thinking about how during most of those hard-working years, I was raising my children, children I didn't have time to give enough of the simplest and most important thing of all -- my patience, my attention.

I wasn't unaware of my predicament. I simultaneously dreamed of getting out of that work-spend cycle and was also terrified of doing so. Inside me, though, was a young 70s chick who never stopped dreaming of a simpler, more valuable life. The dream included time to garden, to crochet, bake bread, learn about plants, read a book a week, know the seasons intimately and not just from a glass window. More importantly, my heartfelt dreams included time to listen and to love. Somehow I did squeeze in a few of those things through the years, but time was time stolen from housework or from sleep.

Everything has changed. Not only am I off the treadmill -- it basically took my getting kicked off to get here -- but I don't want to get back on.

My helping handMy story now is that my children are grown, but my grandchildren are very young and live just a mile away. Another "small new leaf," the one pictured on the right, is my grandson, Little C Man, helping me with some garden chores. I want to be the grandmother to my grandchildren that my grandmothers were to me -- patient, loving, and bestowing ancestral resourcefulness.

Now I'm almost 51 years old but my "Real Age" is a shocking 9.2 years older than my calendar age. The good news is I have time to focus on taking care of myself with exercise, giving up my bad habits, and eating better. I have plenty of time in the day to do these things and I might end up having more time in my lifespan if I do.

Even the Internet is something now added to my personal equation of changes in my life, although not all that new. Still, it's a fabulous tool, and getting fabulouser all the time. With it we can now can research any subject, any problem, any plan, and seek out like-minded others with no more than a few keyboard clicks.

My past is indeed gone. Gone is youth, but also gone are old fears. I like being here now. I like being one of many Americans prepared to change. It's exciting and promising to begin my conversion to a Transition Person, transitioning away from reliance on fossil fuel. We have traveled so far on this road that it won't be easy. Luckily, we also live in a time of great ingenuity and connectedness. Besides, hasn't the most precious collections of wisdom -- those of religion -- emphasized exactly that? In virtually all religions you will find the premier lesson that ease is not equated with quality of life, with quality of spirit. Some struggle and a lot of honest work is good for us.

Rest assured, I don't plan to regale you with thoughts on being against anything. We're all more than a little sick of that. I'll be focusing on what I am for. I'm for having more time to be in the moment, more sense of global responsibility and fairness, more physical exertion, more abilities that are resilient against down-turns or corporate strategies, more empowerment. And at the heart of it, I'm for more optimistic action to improve quality of life for this and many next generations.

But I don't plan to talk much more about the idea of what I'm doing either. Yawn. Instead I'll be writing about how I implement changes. I'll be thinking this through more thoroughly in the days and weeks to come. Questions I'll be asking myself are: How exactly will I measure my reduction? What is a measurable goal? How do I simply not trade one pollutant for another? How do I improve my health sufficiently to become physically able to do the things that will need to be incorporated? How can I reduce my own piles of stuff without dumping in the landfills? How to stay focused on facts, not politics? And even how will I financially support myself in a way that is in balance with these goals?

A tall order. And just the kind of thing I've always wanted to do and be.