I remember the first time I heard the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” in high school. Strangely enough, it came out of the mouth of one of the most judgmental, “high and mighty” teachers I’ve ever encountered. But, I digress. This KUWTJ mentality has followed me throughout life, whether I knew what it was called or not. I think, as Americans, we can all relate to this aspect of our society. You have to be a very strong-willed, independent person to not buy into it.
And I’m not that strong. One of my biggest challenges in life is trying to find the balance – of being content with who I am, how I live my life, and simply not caring what others think. I suck at it. You know who’s really, really quite good at it? My husband. I admire him SO much that he’s his own man. Whether we know where our future leads us or not, he’s confident in his own abilities and in the fact that happiness will find us no matter what. It’s something that I admire in him and, at times, it’s all I have to keep my head above water. That’s a good thing about our marriage – somehow, when one of us gets to the point of desperation (be it from any frustrations that may find us), the other one is buoyant enough to pick the other up.
Admittedly, we’re not a KUWTJ type of household. We live in a sort of protective bubble. It may be a slightly crooked, grass-too-long, cat toys everywhere sort of bubble, but it’s our escape and happiness from regular stresses. I don’t care what the neighbors do to their home; if I make a change, it’s for my OWN enjoyment. If I want to paint my shutters, sobeit, it’s because I think they’re shabby and am prouder of my house than to allow it to wear shabby shutters. (That’d be a good company name. “Shabby Shutters.” Hee hee.) But, when out of the house and in the “real world”, it’s easy to see what friends and co-workers have or do and feel a twinge of “I’m not good enough.” It’s not even that I want what they have; I’m not possession-bound. I’m more concerned about being judged for NOT wanting what they have. So…I’m quiet.
But, these days, there’s a new form of KUWTJ. It’s called KUWTG – Keeping Up With the Greens (or Greenies), and I’m not sure if it’s an actual term used out there, but I honestly just pulled it out of my you-know-what, so maybe thousands of other bloggers have discussed this already. Who knows? 😉
Regardless, thanks to the popularity of the green movement (which I fondly like to think of as a popularization of liberalism and hippiedom – perhaps it’s the only way to force issues without getting political or needing to back a particular politician?), any yuppie who can afford organic is all over it like that silly Juicy sweatpant trend from a few years back. I hate to be judgmental, but I can’t help but think that they’ll follow it until the next big thing comes in.
And, hey, maybe I shouldn’t be judgmental. Over the last year, I’ve made some life changes that, I’ve found, tend to bring everything from polite jabs to full-blown eye rolls. I have yet to get a true argument, but I’m ready when it comes. I tend to face the whole “going organic” thing (although we’ve by no means gotten to this stage yet — hey, we’re newlyweds, and have some debt we’re dealing with — all natural and hormone free is as important to us, right now, as organic) with some humor, mostly because that’s how I’ve learned how to deflect rudeness over the years. I think it’s amusing when my students catch me eating a slice of delicious non-organic pizza, and am ready to joke with them, mostly because they do it in a non-vindictive, “we understand that it’s how you are” sort of way. If only adults could be more understanding. Or, at least, all of our family. Some are very kind about it; others…well, they’re family, and we love them, even if they think we’re nuts.
So, there are two sides of the coin here: the judgmental, non-organic (or at least less understanding) side, and the “you’re not doing enough” side.
While I have yet to be TOLD that I’m not doing enough to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, the more research and reading I do, the more the Green Guilt sets in. I create garbage. In moments of weakness, I consume not only non-organic foods, but *gasp* high fructose corn syrup (although my body reacts noticeably to it and I feel completely sluggish and strange from that, and artificial preservatives; trying to finish off a 2-liter of cream soda my sister kindly bought for me has got me napping after school lately). I buy new rather than used. I. Fail. Miserably.
I’ve come to terms that it takes work to build up to a green lifestyle. As with all things in life, it’s about the journey and the learning process moreso than an end to a means. I mean, I don’t want to be Ed Begley about things, after all. I just want to do my part, live healthily and responsibly, and teach the same to my children. I’m not out to convert anyone (which is why I’d at least appreciate some understanding from loved ones); this may be part of our religion, but it’s not everyone’s, and I’m not out to make it so. I’d like to become more of an advocate one day, but I’m simply not confident enough a person to do so. Like I said, I just care too much what other people think.
So, I turn to my wonderful husband and remember that we’re a team here. It’s just us. Our life is ours to live, and if we inspire others, GREAT! But we’re not out to compete. We’re running a race together, slow and steady, and there’s no finish line to worry about. We’re proud of what we accomplish and shaking off the stumbles we encounter.