Saturday, August 8, 2009


*cartoon by Nataliedee
Here is an article about "green" impulse buys. It bothers me. I don't think buying more stuff is actually Green. Do we need more stuff? Even if it's green? And it's women who make these purchases. . . I don't know what the items are, but they must be pretty tempting.

One of my goals lately has been to go a whole week without stepping into a regular store. We get our food from various farmers' markets or from farmer friends and if we plan well, we only need to go to a larger store for other perishables (like toilet paper and dish soap) a couple times a month. I also have the privilege of Mr. Green doing most of the shopping, which totally works for me. Somehow, not shopping gives me a sense of freedom. Freedom from consumerism. I don't need anything. I have clothes. We have a home. We have all the creature comforts necessary to live a comfortable life.

And now this idea of not really needing anything has a label and a vocabulary, thanks to Lynne Twist, the author of The Soul of Money. It's a great concept. It works for me. It's the concept of "Enough".

While on vacation in Ketchum, Idaho, Mr. Green and I purchased a CD by Lynne to listen to on our long drive through Nevada back to San Francisco. It is called Unleashing the Soul of Money. I haven't read her book, The Soul of Money, but Mr. Green has and he's been considering a re-read.

Mr. Green was driving, two days later, when I put the CD in the player. Lynne is pleasant to listen to and the subject matter was certainly engaging. I don't remember everything about the CD but I do remember the part that "stuck". It was this concept of "Enough".

At this time, in the U.S., people are considered consumers. We "consume". That is our purpose according to mass media, the banking system, our government, etc. Everyday we hear about the consumer index and whether or not we are buying - buying homes, buying cars, shopping, shopping, shopping. It's a bad day if no one buys anything. This has always bothered me. Makes me feel like a locust. One of the many.

Yes, I do buy things. And some of the time they are things I don't actually need, but just want. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. What bothers me is senseless buying. Buying with out consideration or thought. I've done it. I've come home from the grocery store and taken something out of the bag and thought "What the Hell did I buy THIS for?!"

And yet, I gave up on being a super-consumer a long time ago. Long before I got rid of the huge storage room of extra "belongings" that I had amassed through raising two kids and moving three times, I decided I didn't need any more stuff. Looking at the stuff in my storage actually used to make me feel sick. I would get queazy and headachy in anticipation of dealing with all of it and at some point deciding was important enough to keep. I hoped it would all just disappear.

Unfortunately there was no act of god and when it became clear that my stuff was overstaying its welcome in it's free home in the basement of a building that belonged to a friend, I finally went through it and got rid of about 75%. I gave it to good will. Books, furniture, clothes, nick-nacks, gee-gaws, yard tools, sports equipment - you get the idea. Do I miss any of it? Hmmm. Let me think. NO.

Lynne mentioned that we used to be called "citizens" instead of "consumers". Citizens are responsible. They take care of, and care about, their country. I'm never a fan of stepping backward to some idealized time. It feels like regression to me. I believe that the concept of being a citizen has a new meaning now. Think about it. Not only do we care about our country, we care about our world. And there are a whole pile of us who want to take care of our world by not consuming it.

Next Lynne started talking about considering the possibility that what we have right now is enough in a different way. That we are enough, what we do is enough, who we know is enough, what happens around us is enough. That it's all enough. Whoa! This startled me. If what we have in this moment, in this bigger concept, is enough, what is there to strive for? Why bother to go to work in the morning? Why create anything new? If the universe meets my needs, exactly, right now, what's the point of doing anything besides laying in bed all day waiting for the universe to provide what's next?

I was totally resistant to this idea that it was All Enough. I kept listening but the little voices in my head had grown huge and were screaming, "No!" "It Can't Be Enough!" "You Will Die!" I could barely hear the world around me. I kept listening to Lynne and to the voices and I have no idea what she said, but suddenly I got it.

It's not about there not being enough. There is plenty of everything for everyone. Yes, the portions are screwed up and that's something to work on, but there really is no scarcity on the planet. We can choose to frame it all differently. Right now in this moment. To put it in the context of contribution and passionate living. Everything we do, we do because we want to. Not because someone told us to. Or, because of the almighty dollar.

I can spend my day working in non-profit making a buck, or I can spend my day working in non-profit being a contribution to the mission of the organization. Let me tell you, the latter makes the work much closer to play and much more rewarding. All those phone calls? The outcome is what it will be. The contribution is making the connection with another human who also wants to be passionate about the choices they make.

I already knew this. I've worked in non-profit for years. What is new for me is holding the context of Enough everyday. It's changed the way I make choices. It has lowered my stress level. It has shifted the lens through which I view life. As odd as it may sound, it's made my life better. Easier. More focused on passion and acceptance and caring. I'm more thoughtful about the choices I make.

This concept is important. It will change the world. If it's all enough, why would we want too much? Why would we hoard anything? We won't. We will share. We will put our resources where they are most needed: to support our families, our communities and our world.

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