The Green Monster (Part 2 of 3)
I am a Green Monster. Other people knew this before I did. Years ago at my sister-in-law’s house we were cleaning up after a large party and I said about some plastic containers, “Let’s just throw those away. It’s ok sometimes.” And a friend of hers replied, “Oh, if she thinks it’s ok, then it must really be ok!” So my reputation for someone who cares about the environment precedes me, I thought. What does this mean, having this part of my identity?
It is true that I make efforts to live simply, to use what I need and not much more, even before I met up with the Sufficiency conversation. This is very confronting for me because I also like beauty and pleasure, and there are a lot of beautiful fun things to have and to do. Living in a culture that collapses beauty and pleasure with consumption and ownership, well, it becomes confronting for the people around me too. I am sensitive to this. I am committed to living as sustainably as I can in any given moment, and I am also committed to inclusion, acceptance and connection. This breeds tension sometimes.
Take said sister-in-law who is now at my house helping clean up after a party. I catch her cackling about something and inquire, having some sense it has to do with me but wanting to test it out. I am right. She says, “We are making fun of you.” I ask, “About what?” “Oh, paper towels.” Ha, ha, tee-hee, she continues. I reply, “There’s a roll under the sink.” Her face changes and a pout moves over her expression, “Oh, don’t take away our fun.” My reputation persists, but I’ve been experimenting with the tension, trying on ways to have both, connection and values. So, before the party I put the paper towels that are usually on the counter – and that we use sparingly (and I hardly at all) – and put them under the sink, knowing that between sister-in-law, mother-in-law, and mother, that one roll wouldn’t be enough for a day of celebration. Being seen as a Green Monster connected my sister-in-law with my mother, and my mother with my mother-in-law. It just left me out.
There was the time the Green Monster asked my friend for the pharmacy bag that contained her kid’s emergency meds so I could use the bag for a leftover muffin. (Thankfully, that ended well because I caught my compulsion early and we both had a laugh.) There’s the time the Green Monster helped doctor a cup of coffee at a friend’s house, and became so concerned with using more milk and sugar than I needed, I actually poured some coffee out, coffee I thought I wouldn’t want to drink, so as to not use so many resources. Ummmm… excessive?
Yes, the Green Monster is excessive. Excess in the form of time and conversational breath over a few drops of milk and crystals of sugar. Excess in the form of hording bits of paper I’ll someday make into art and plastic spoons I must reuse enough times to justify my error in forgetting to carry my own utensils. Excess in the form of scarcity – not enough paper bags, not enough trees, not enough air and water, that I could use a napkin to wrap up a muffin to take home. Excess in the form of eating food I don’t need or want because I don’t want to be wasteful. Excess in the form of values getting in the middle of intimacy.
The Green Monster is a collective voice. One I heard on the train a couple years ago talking to my cousin about leftovers, in fact. A man sitting nearby reading looked up and put his 2 cents in about what he thought he heard, with complete seriousness to a stranger, “It’s terrible not to eat your leftovers. That’s wasteful.” He fit the style and tone description of a righteous leftie, and though I had the impulse to reach several miles away into my fridge to pull out a container of old Chinese food to dump on his head, I actually felt a pang of compassion for the movement to the Right who ignores, denies and sabatoges the messages and efforts of environmental movement. If I was feeling defensive when I actually agreed with this person and am willing to make behavioral shifts, I can only imagine what it must feel like to be someone who is skeptical or not ready yet to deal with the consequences science is telling us.
Shame is the wopping #1 Weapon of Scarcity. The Green Monster is a shaming mechanism and it works internally as well as externally. It’s a righteous voice and it works from scarcity, even in the name of sustainability. I want to publicly apologize for ever shaming anyone into acting differently than they feel, for imposing my values on them. Living simply, living sustainably, living sufficiency is a personal journey. And my commitment is to love and accept people for their stand on their journey, and to love and accept myself – even the Green Monster.