During this past 5 months of my own challenge to live a more sustainable life, I let go of some addictions, habits and attitudes. I stopped buying any paper products, magazines or most all food with packaging. I have reduced gasoline, electrical and water use. Some of these changes were, like the paper use, easy to give up. Other things are not easy.
When I quit smoking 5 years ago I made this realization. My biggest trigger was being uncomfortable. Be it feelings of stress or anxiety or getting too hungry or being too cold or hot, tired etc. My cigarette addiction had lasted almost 40 years and I’d worked up to almost 3 packs a day. Smoking was my form of self-medication when I was uncomfortable. Now as addictions work, I used tobacco when I was feeling great too. Anything can become a justification. But, the thought of quitting a habit brings a dread, if not fear, of being uncomfortable.
This has been true throughout my life when I gave up beer, coffee, sex, marijuana, diet pills, cheetos, television and meat. Even though some of these things I allow back in and then some out of my life again, I am reassured by this realization that after an initial period of being uncomfortable – it passes. The greater truth is that there is a real freedom in being flexible. Whenever I conquer my fear of discomfort, I am free.
Right now my challenge feels like a dress rehearsal. Don’t get me wrong, I take it seriously. I am earnest and work towards consistency and conscientiousness. I have made allowances, like eating meat when I go to my son’s restaurant. Meanwhile, I know that there is a growing urgency to act now on all fronts with all people and not wait for the forced reductions to come. But, we who have had this dress rehearsal will be better able to anticipate post-oil living over those who know it only as an intellectual exercise.
Myths America includes the terrible horrors of withdrawal from some of the above addictions. There are chemical issues, mental issues and socialization problems we are told and we dare not take these on without professional help or supportive products or groups. All of these things seem to work in concert. In my own humble opinion, that approach has manipulated us, to make us all fear giving up things (economic threat). In hushed tones of concern we are told to take it easy and not try to do too much, too quickly, too soon or all at the same time. Most all of that in my life has been bullshit. It is a way to keep one using, buying and fearing. This is a great state of being for market interests, insurance companies and the status quo. It is also less threatening to those not ready to make a change yet.
Today I am calling bullshit on fears of being uncomfortable for another reason. There are millions upon millions of people around the world who would adore our discomforts as a giant step up from the real pain and comfortless life. In light of those realities, we are chastened to ignore / excuse / rationalize; I can’t defend my own reluctance to take on my next challenges.