One of my highlights of this past month was living with an almost-two-year-old whose language growth is exploding--in both English and Spanish! Watching how totally relaxed and unworried he was about learning and communicating in two languages simultaneously was an amazing reminder of how we're hard-wired from the beginning to learn and enjoy learning, and how our smallest children are reminders to us of what is possible.
In the Resources section below, there is a link to a new blog post, and a new URL for my parenting website, Our Children Ourselves. Enjoy!
Carrying our load
Living in this world, it’s easy to feel overburdened. There’s so much to be done. How do we find our way amid all the temptations to blame, take on too much, and avoid things that seem just too hard?
I’ve come to the conclusion that blame is a pretty useless concept. Putting attention on what should have been done in the past just doesn’t encourage powerful thinking about the present and the future. If unmet responsibilities continue to impact our lives, then there is a whole spectrum of options for moving forward: live with it, offer a direct challenge, take on a project of changing the conditions for the future, work on opening the space for apologies and/or reparation, gather help to make the change, do it ourselves.
That said, it’s hard to discern what is fine to carry on my shoulders, and what is unrealistic, or unfair, or too much, or just not my responsibility. Recently, after completing years of hard work in a leadership position in a group, everyone just assumed that I would pick up leadership in another place that had need—because they knew I was capable. It made me mad. After several months of stubborn resistance, I realized that I actually had a vision for how to accomplish that piece of work, very different from how it had been done in the past. Seeing that I could give a gift that had value to me, I offered to take leadership if the group would join in my vision—which they did. Having found a way to freely choose that responsibility, from a position of power, my whole attitude about the work involved was transformed.
There’s a lesson here about choice, about taking off of our shoulders the responsibilities that don’t belong there (put on us by others when we were young, or assumed because there seemed to be no other option), and taking on what we choose in the present, based on our best thinking, our abilities, our love, and our vision for the future.
Then there are situations where we find ourselves with too much on our shoulders in the present and no way to refuse to handle it—the result of forces totally outside our control. In these situations, the big lesson for me is about getting help (a key missing ingredient when I was young). I would guess that one of the biggest difficulties many of us have with taking on responsibility is in imagining the possibility of getting the help we need.
I’ve recently realized that my feelings from childhood of being totally alone with tasks that seem too hard can get me into trouble. At times I feel so overwhelmed by a challenging demand that I try to avoid it altogether—like not even opening a letter from some intimidating bureaucracy. I’m trying to remember now, as soon as I recognize that familiar sinking feeling, to reach out and break the isolation, then do what needs to be done.
Maybe we all need to check what we’re carrying, dump out some of that heavy weight that doesn’t belong to us (like trying to make our parents happy), and pick up some of the pieces that lie waiting to be done. If we can remember that we have the power to make adult choices and get help in the present, everything looks more possible. I do believe that we all can find our way to carrying our piece of the world’s responsibility gladly, and without chafing at the load.
Airport run for my sweetie:
Not yet out of the neighborhood
someone walking toward me
a block away
catches my eye.
Something is so familiar
in the way he moves.
There’s time to wonder
Had I mistaken the time?
Did he tire of waiting, find a ride in?
As I approach
I see a man of quite a different age
I pass on reassured
by the mistake I didn’t make, about the time—
and the one I did.
Imagine: A new economy is possible!
In just a dozen years, industrial-powerhouse Germany has replaced around 31 percent of its nuclear and fossil fuel generated electricity with a dynamic, decentralized patchwork of more than two million small and medium-scale renewables producers — businesses, villages and towns, co-ops, individuals, green investment funds, and farmers — whose numbers grow by the month. Their output is distributed through a tightly-knit smart grid. The composition of supply changes from minute to minute depending on weather, demand, and other factors from one corner of the country to the other.
The evolution began in 1998, when the EU mandated the liberalization of Europe’s energy markets. Forced to unbundle production and distribution, the four dominant utilities relinquished control of the grid, and opened the market to a wave of new entrants. Then German legislation in 2000 guaranteed renewables a fixed, higher-than-market price for 20 years, and stipulated that grid operators buy green energy from producers as small as a Bavarian dairy farmer with a PV panel on his cow shed. With the phase-out of Germany’s nuclear reactors, it is (dirty) coal--and not (cleaner) natural gas--that has helped renewables cover supply.
Though a master plan never existed, this plan is working, Germany has one of the lowest rates of blackouts in the world, and is exporting more electricity than ever before. Thinking small might have cracked the renewable energy puzzle.
Some things that have made me hopeful recently
The support by Catholic Relief Services in the Central African Republic of a two-year program of Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities, a dynamic grassroots peacebuilding effort that has brought together perpetrators and victims in Rwanda, Burundi, Congo and Kenya—with transformative results. aglifpt.org/rfk/?p=406
Governor Cuomo’s announcement on December 17, of a ban on fracking in New York State.
A new collaborative venture, Fresh Start Foods West Philadelphia, which will provide fresh and healthy prepared meals for local schools while offering culinary apprenticeship jobs that provide living wages with benefits to out-of-work young adults. http://phennd.org/update/fresh-start-foods-west-philadelphia/
The Netherlands has joined Tasmania, Mexico and Russia in saying no to Monsanto and banning herbicides like RoundUp. http://inhabitat.com/the-netherlands-says-no-to-monsanto-bans-roundup-herbicide/
Recent posts on other web/blog sites:
In http://www.classism.org/gifts-american-dream/, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.
Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years: doingdemocracy.com/MB4PnJ02.htm (or just google the title)
faitheconomyecology.wordpress.com, a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives)
www.ourchildrenourselves.com, a home for all the parenting writing I've done over the past 20 years. NOTE THE NEW URL.
www.startguide.org. START: a way to study and work together with others to create a better world.
For earlier columns, go to www.pamelascolumn.blogspot.com. I'm currently posting at pamelalivinginthisworld.blogspot.com.