Like a Dog With a Bone…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about courage, about what it takes to keep going even when things get difficult.

As many of you know, I’m like a dog with a bone when it comes to environmental issues. And because I believe in the maxim, Think globally, but act locally, I’ve been trying my best to effect change at my community level.

I’ve been:

  • plalking — picking up plastic garbage while walking (similar to plogging, but slower-paced)
  • pleaking — speaking up (politely, despite my inner seething) about egregious plastic use (bottles, bags, utensils, straws…)
  • pliting — writing far-too-earnest emails to principals and PTO parents who simply do.not.get.it.

The first (plalking) is easy: just remember to bring a bag, because otherwise your hands will become too full and you’ll have to leave stuff behind.

The pleaking and pliting are much harder.

I’m not trying to ruin a cashier’s day (I swear I’m not), but why (WHY?!) does a customer need her spool of thread bagged (in a minuscule this-bag-will-never-be-useful-for-anything-else-and-will-be-immediately-garbaged type of bag) when she has a GINORMOUS purse slung about her body? Why can people just not see these things?!

And the pliting…good god, the pliting…

The pliting is the (main) reason for the radio silence on this blog.

It seems I spoke too soon when I talked about the success I had had when I advocated for change during PTO meetings this past fall. Indeed, my efforts to raise awareness of environmental issues at my 13-year-old son’s school have gone south in a stellar, shit-hitting-the-fan, okay-that’s-it-I’M-DONE kind of way.

Except…

After calming down…

I’ve decided I’m not.

Done, that is.

I refuse to be done.

Because sometimes things are just too fucking important.

So I’m going back. I will keep trying. I will speak, even though I will be sick with anxiety, even though I feel abandoned by an ally who has seemingly given up, even though I feel intimidated and unwelcome, even though I have little hope of succeeding, even though it seems no one else cares.

I’m telling myself this dog-with-a-bone refusal-to-give-up is what courage looks like. And I’m telling myself I have no choice but to keep at it. My children are watching, after all. My 13-year-old son, who painted the Keep Calm and Carry On sign that sits in my kitchen. My 19-year-old-son, who when he heard the saga, told me I should take it to the board. My 21-year-old daughter, who wants to make it her life’s work to look after the environment, who told me she now looks at pregnant women and wonders, How? How can you possibly think to bring a baby into a world like this? (The hope of a deep-thinking/all-seeing child/adult is a fragile and heart-wrenching thing.) And I’m telling myself I have to do this for other people’s children as well. For the many children in my son’s school who plastered the halls with hand-drawn and coloured posters prior to Earth Day. Because even if their parents don’t seem to care, they should know that other adults do, and that despite the odds, these other adults will keep trying.

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14 thoughts on “Like a Dog With a Bone…

  1. Oh, Marian. I’m sorry to hear that it’s been so rough, but I do hope you keep fighting the good fight. For all the reasons you list. I waged a few wars I knew I was going to lose just because my kids were watching and I wanted to set the example that you have to try. (And also maybe you should do what your son says?) I, too, have a child who thinks it would be only selfishness to have a child, primarily because of the environment but also because of many other things, as well, and, yes–that is heart-wrenching. It wrenches my heart that we are leaving such a mess to our children, much less theirs.

    It was nice to see a post from you, though. I’ve been wondering how you’re doing. I swear I’m going to write one of my own one of these days, but life’s been too much of a whirlwind for too long. Not sure how to catch everyone up.

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    1. I’ve been wondering how you’ve been doing too, Rita. I hope you’re making progress on finding a new home? I know exactly what you mean about the difficulty of catching people up after a long absence—it’s hard to know where to begin…

      I’m going to keep your words in mind as I go forward (because it helps knowing you’ve done the same—fought what you knew were losing battles). Because the principal clearly made a statement of intent at the last meeting, I feel like one more try at the local level is necessary before I escalate things to the board level. I’m painfully ill-equipped for this kind of thing, but giving up/giving in to intimidation feels worse 😦 .

      (Also, just wanted to tell you I’ve finally taken your advice. I’m two sessions in, and I’m hoping it’ll help.)

      I hope you’re well, Rita, and that it’s been positive/moving-forward type things in that whirlwind.

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  2. Oh Marian, you are so brave. I, for one, take courage from your strength. I’m sure it feels like pushing a boulder uphill but I’m pretty certain that you are, in fact, influencing people and encouraging people to do better- this one person if no other. Your son’s sign is perfect in every way. Carry on. X

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    1. Thank you for this, Lynda. I confess I felt silly, almost, using the word courage. While I know (in my head) that mental courage is a real thing and something that shouldn’t be diminished, I feel like it often IS diminished, that people who are extraverted (or just very practiced), people who can go to meetings and easily face down stuff like this, simply have no clue as to how difficult it actually is for so many of us, that we quite literally cannot make ourselves speak, even when we MUST, even when our silence means lies and misrepresentations are allowed to go unchallenged 😦 .
      I really appreciate your words of encouragement — thank you, Lynda.

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      1. Hope all is going well there now. I spent the weekend helping to plant a brand new bee-friendly garden and teaching newbie gardeners a few basics- it felt great to do something so tangibly worthwhile.

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      2. What a fantastic way to spend a weekend! We’re still a couple of weeks away from having to get our veggie garden planted, which is a relief for me; we spent Sunday shifting stuff as our daughter had to move, yet again (nine moves in four years, counting all the ins and outs…sigh). It’s always hard for me to shift focus from the inside of the house to the outside, especially when things inside are in a state of upheaval. We’ve got one shrub blooming beautifully (a serviceberry) and the trees now have that lovely sweet green halo of new leaves — spring is definitely here 🙂 .

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  3. Cheering you on! Agree completely that we may lose a specific battle, but sometimes reframing our purpose (your example of speaking to be an example and let other children know you do care) helps us win the war. I know how tough it can be as an introvert – especially an INFJ – to speak amidst conflict. Keep carrying on, Marian. You inspire me.

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    1. Thank you, Kate 🙂 .
      It was actually YOUR words (via that “I am responsible for…” wheel that you sent me a picture of) that got me re-thinking my decision to wipe my hands of this mess. Because if I am responsible for my words and actions then it follows that I’m also responsible for my silence and my inaction. And because I’m so passionate about all this, that silence and inaction were really weighing heavily on me. But I do need to remember (and this has been a lesson I’ve been having to learn over and over and over again this year) that I’m not responsible for other people’s actions. I can present all the information in the world, make all the right arguments, but if people choose not to care, I can’t make them care. The Minimalists have this saying that I’ve been trying to incorporate into my thinking: raise your standards, but lower your expectations. In other words, I need to do the things I need to do to have self-respect, but I can’t necessarily expect those same things from others. (Well, I CAN…but that leads to disappointment and anger.)
      And yes, it is incredibly hard for an INFJ to speak amidst conflict!

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  4. I’m so so SO glad that the wheel of responsibility helped you find your resolve. You are absolutely right – our actions (and inaction) are on us. It’s both liberating and convicting and it has been so helpful to me when I’m feeling stymied, overwhelmed, or ineffectual. It reminds me I can do my part – even if I can’t do all the parts. I’m just glad it’s helping someone else too!

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    1. Yup, the timing on you sending it to me couldn’t have been better, Kate 🙂 .
      “I can do my part — even if I can’t do all the parts” — this is also a really good way of thinking of it, and yet another thing I need to take to heart. (Because deep down I really just want to somehow do ALL the parts, in order to fix things so the world isn’t the way it is…which is, of course, impossible, and a recipe for some pretty major anxiety…)

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      1. I wish I’d had these words earlier too, Rita.
        In case you’re not familiar with the wheel of responsibility (I hadn’t heard about it until Kate brought it to my attention), the full words are as follows:
        This is my responsibility: My words, my behaviour, my actions, my efforts, my mistakes, my ideas, and the consequences of my actions.
        This is NOT my responsibility: Other people’s words, other people’s mistakes, other people’s beliefs, other people’s ideas, other people’s actions, the consequences of other people’s actions.

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