There are some moments in life that you try to tap back into every now and again. To ground you, to remind you, to bring you back to where you want to be.
To what you believe might be your best life.
I am sitting on the rooftop of my host family’s house in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Springtime sun is doing what it does best in the Himalayas: shining relentlessly, never burning, with blue sky as far as you can see. No clouds, no breeze. It’s not hot, though. It’s just perfect. My host mother and father sit on woven mats in the sun, legs crossed, large stainless steel bowls in front of them. My host mother strips leaves off long stems of greens that they have brought up from their garden, discarding the stalks. My host father washes the leaves, clumps them together to drain out excess water and places them in little piles on a plate by his side. They move on to the cauliflower. My host mother tears off the big leaves around the floret and cuts them into strips, and passes the rest on to her husband, who begins to separate the cauliflower into small florets. Nearly every part of every vegetable is used.
I recall this memory often for its sheer joy: the sunshine, their relationship (“It’s time for us to talk and spend time together”), the colours of the sky, the mountains in the distance, the noise of the city far below where I sat. The mood of this memory, is simplicity. There was no rush, there were no gadgets, no screens – not even a kitchen. My host parents worked purposefully and methodically. They just did what needed to be done, but they also found joy and peace in the task.
And I recall this memory when I feel myself falling into the pit of consumerism and convenience. What do I mean by this? I mean, when I know that I am choosing the easiest path – at some cost to the environment, when I could just do a tiny bit of work to avoid that cost.
When I buy shredded cheese because I can’t be bothered grating the block. When I let a vegetable go moldy and chuck the whole thing in the compost when I know I could have saved some of it, or made a stock. When I take the disposable wipes instead of packing some washers to use. I try to live a simple life. I try to keep my cycle of produce and waste pretty tight. I use a moon cup, bamboo toothbrushes, I am an avid recycler, I use cloth nappies.
But also, I am a working mum (two under three) and a busy person. Do I have enough time to bake my own bread and hunt down packageless pasta? Not always… but am I doing my best? I am!
It’s been said that maybe we can save this planet by a lot of people doing a lot of small things; rather than just a few people being zero waste. So sometimes, we need to stop berating ourselves for the times when we take the easier road for the sake of our own health and sanity. Maybe we need to stop and ask ourselves: what are our wins? I’ve been using homemade hankies or washers instead of tissues. I made my own pizza dough last week. I’ve just torn up some pizza boxes and a milk carton and have them soaking in water – hopefully to become smushy enough to throw in my compost. I try to be present and mindful with my kids. I enjoy moments with them, reading and playing in the garden. I try not to rush. It’s usually at the times that I feel myself getting too busy to focus, too frazzled to relax and enjoy an outing with my family, too snowed under by work to remember why I am a teacher, that I stop to recall that day on the rooftop in Kathmandu.
There should always be time to slow down. There pretty much always feels like there isn’t time, but I am trying to make time. The closest I have come to Zen-ness has always been my nappy time, folding and stuffing with a cup of tea or glass of wine. After returning to work, with the two kids needing daycare bags, complete with nappies and wetbags ready to go, and the constant subconscious lesson planning for my school day occurring in my mind – and oh my god I need a shower – even this task is often hard to enjoy. But I force my slow time upon myself, enlist my partner to pack some bags and lay out clothes, take some deep breaths and focus on what I actually really do delight in: arranging my cloth nappy stash.
In this time that could go down in history as one of revolutionary change – with millions marching in the streets demanding action be taken to preserve our planet – take stock of your wins. If you are doing your best, you are doing well. You are setting a great example for those around you every time you make choices that lessen your impact on this world.
Enjoy the sunshine this Summer: Slow down and tap into your happy place – even if it’s over a bowl of vegetables while you are preparing dinner.
Written for RAWr Nappies by Jacqueline Damen – Education Professional and Cloth Nappy Enthusiast.