It’s nearly the new year, it’s the come down after Christmas, and for me that always involves a lot of thinking. Some who know me would argue that my entire life is burdened with (over) thinking… yes I suppose it’s true, but at this time of year particularly so. (Many apologies to those around me during this time.)
My intense thinking period usually begins around November when I’m deciding what to make for Christmas gifts. That gets me thinking about how I can teach the girls to care and understand the plight of other people (not just think about what presents they are going to get), how we can avoid the onslaught and pressure to buy everything at this time of year, why we celebrate Christmas (given we are not religious), what we value and then of course how to support those values in our everyday lives which therefore equals what we want to align ourselves more closely with and how we should try to live in the following year to achieve that. With me so far?
KB and I both give ourselves a small fortnightly allowance to spend on things like coffee and books and individual pursuits (mainly so we don’t argue about who has spent more on takeaway coffee: sideways glare) and for a long time I have been looking for a cause or an issue close to my heart to donate to. In the end I chose an organisation that supports women and girls, with a focus on birth control and sexual protection and education, as having three little women of my own it’s an issue I understand and strongly support.
While exploring and flipping this way and that in my mind, I realised that no matter what the cause, the issue or the side of the fence I sit on, there’s always going to be evidence to support my point of view, as well as the opposing. I could sit around for years thinking “will I or won’t I?” but there comes a time when I need to stop reading books and articles and watching TED talks (guilty!) and just decide one way or another where I stand in that moment. Sometimes it won’t be the “right” side of the fence and I may go through a period of discovery. Sometimes thoughts on an issue might change. But if a decision isn’t made at some point the danger is that I will just continue passively reading and observing and sitting on the fence and thinking things like “Oh, that’s terrible,” or “But the issue is just too big for me to have an impact,” and not actually take any positive action. Making a decision (even if temporary) means that for now, someone benefits from my decision in some tiny way, and if it should change in the future then so be it. And please don’t mistake what I am saying: I don’t believe you have to donate money to an issue to have an impact. Every step you take, every purchase you make (or don’t make), everything you eat/wear/say/do can have an impact – good or bad. It’s your choice as to which way you go.
Christmas day was a fantastic day for us. Since having children we’ve slowly been embedding traditions that sit with our values around Christmas time: thinking of others, making that the real meaning behind Christmas. This year the girls chose a gift for a child in need and that process of going to the shops, choosing a gift, purchasing it and writing a card was really tangible for them, as opposed to donating online. Every year I feel more and more uncomfortable about the consumerism surrounding Christmas, and every year I desperately try to balance it out by continually coming back to our values around Christmas in the best and most ethical way I can think of: by making gifts, by making thoughtful and ethical purchases, and by supporting others as best we can during this time which is not always pleasant for everyone.
Our lives are very short. Personally I feel that I have a responsibility to educate myself and make decisions about my values as a consumer, as an employee, as a mother, as a human being. If I change my mind in the future, if I learn something new that changes things, that’s ok too. The important thing to me right now is to take action in the best way I possibly can without entertaining any illusions that I need to be perfect or make the perfect decision. I don’t want to stumble blindly through life.
Are you searching to make some positive change in your life in 2016? It might not be about a charity or a cause or a political issue, it might be about a way of life, a way of eating, or to shape a thought. If you are interested in the things that I’m interested in, you may like the following websites, blogs and documentaries that I have enjoyed this year (just some super light holiday reading/watching for you…!):
// 80,000 hours: how to make a difference with your career
// The why and how of effective altruism: TED Talk
// Give Well: top charities
// Down to Earth: simple living
// Cowspiracy, Mission Blue, The True Cost and Chasing Ice: my favourite documentaries of 2015
I hope that wherever you are, and whatever you believe in, you are happy and well.