Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Baby Steps

You can't change your beliefs about something without also changing your actions in order to match up with those beliefs. In psychology, that's called "cognitive dissonance". We feel uneasy when our actions are out of alignment with our beliefs. So we can do one of two things: we can close our eyes, plug our ears and say "la la la la la" so that we can keep doing what we want to do and not feel any remorse - or we can open our eyes and accept the fact that something needs to be done, and start making changes that allow us to live more authentically.

The trouble with change is that it's a slippery slope. You start making changes in one area, and then realize all the other areas of your life that also need to change. You're never quite sure where it all ends, and feel like a hypocrite if you don't do it all at once.

My catalyst for change was the Oprah show on "Going Green". I realized that what I was doing, or rather not doing, was having a serious impact on the health of my family and our planet. I knew that I had to start making some changes, and quickly.

I immediately ordered Shaklee's "Get Clean Starter Kit" that was shown on the Oprah show. The thought of using toxic chemicals in my home for one more day was enough to make me nauseous... so I boxed them all up and got them out of my house as quickly as possible.

I decided that disposable diapers were inexcusable. Not only were they clogging up landfills, but they were made of toxic plastic, and were filled with a toxic gel that was against my baby's skin. I immediately ran out and bought the best cloth diapers I could find, and swore never to put a disposable on my baby's bum again.

I then focussed my attention on the personal care products we were using... shampoo, conditioner, lotions, baby body wash, toothpaste, etc. All of these things were laden with toxic chemicals too, and here I was putting them on my children, letting them absorb these things into their tiny little bodies. How could I have done such an awful thing?? Well, because I didn't know - or rather didn't want to know what was in all that stuff. When you know better you do better - and now I definitely knew better, and could no longer ignore it.

I did the same with organic food. I stopped buying regular old, pesticide-laden, non-sustainably grown food, and replaced it with organic alternatives.

I quickly realized, though, that our budget couldn't sustain this level of change. Nor could I - my head would spin whenever I would think of all the things I still needed to do. When I had my "awakening", I reacted out of fear - and probably moved much too quickly. Our budget took a pretty serious hit. I was throwing things out (and giving things away) left and right- but I didn't care, it was for our family's health and our planet's survival. I was spending money that we didn't have because I felt I had no choice, now that I "knew better".

I have since learned that it's okay to take baby steps. That we didn't get here in a day, and we certainly aren't going to cure it in a day. That even though my life is not yet in perfect alignment with my beliefs, I can wake up every day and know that I am moving in the right direction. It's okay, and probably even better, to make one tiny change each day. Tiny changes, over time, add up and become big changes. I could work the changes into our budget bit by bit. I could learn how to make more things myself, and avoid spending money on them altogether! What a novel concept.

One of my favourite quotes is "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" (Confucious). What I have learned on my journey thus far is that every step DOES make a difference, and that each step brings me closer to where I want to be.