Was talking to my friend Chris Courtney this morning about living our values. What we discovered as we have been moving more toward living in accordance to our personal values, is that there is fear in taking that initial step.
A lot of my fear is (was) economically-based. Personally, it took me time to unravel myself from working at an investment bank (on the metals and mining team no less), when I had dreams of a more ecological existence. I consider myself an extremely independent woman, yet, under the guise of safety and security, I married a man who put me down for being a rock-n-roll singer, who questioned me when I put on make-up, and who thought my dream of having a garden was childish. It was through that marriage and the job that I had to ask myself, “Is it really easier to fit in and be someone I am not so that I can feel safe, sane and “secure”? What are my values anyway – and do I live by those values?”
I value creative exchange of ideas, love, affection, respect, responsibility, freedom, music, art, literature, learning, sharing. I value the planet, fresh air, fresh water, the right to grow my own food. I value the idea that we are affected by the 7 generations before us and are responsible for the 7 generations to come after us. I value living honestly. I value a life with open laughter. I value freedom of expression (not OPPRESSION). I value being inspired and inspiring. I value diversity in people, animals and plants. I value happiness. I value health. I value these things for everyone and everything.
I value my life. When I realized that I was dying to live(!), I knew that I had to quit the job and leave the marriage. I was weary of being reprimanded daily, of questioning my own feelings, of trying to convince myself that my misery wouldn’t last forever. I needed to get fresh air, see some mountains, to believe that my new experiences were happening because of love rather than fear. I realized that by acting out of fear, I dishonored myself. I had lost my value.
I made the choice to live. It was exhilarating and scary. My friends told me I was “brave”, I responded that I had no other choice. It was do or die, and either way, I was afraid. I made strong decisions, and, I didn’t lose all my friends, I didn’t become homeless, I didn’t disappear. In fact, my friends really stepped up and embraced the “real” me. I knew I was going to be ok.
When I first left my previous life, I spent a lot of time walking in the woods and noticing the world around me. I didn’t want to fall into the same behaviors that would lead me to the same problems, I knew I had to put my values into action. I developed ideas about how I’d like to live that reflect my values (ecologically, economically, creatively, intellectually, spiritually, sexually, nutritionally, sustainably, etc) – and some of the ideas are manifesting. The experience of my life, my friendships, my work have shifted. More and more I ask myself, “Does this work for me? Will it work for the next generation? What am I feeling right now? Am I happy?”
The discussion reminded of a book I’ve been reading by bits and pieces. The Good Life, by Scott and Helen Nearing, is practically an instruction manual on how to live according to your own values even when society might have you believe that it’s impossible. (In fact, they were “cast out” by their particular society for their beliefs). It’s also their story – and it begins around the Great Depression. I’ve got to get back to reading it! I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a way to slow down and simplify. They are clear thinkers, and they value a good life. Come to think of it, so do I!