Whilst thinking about writing this blog, I was pondering for how long I have had a problem with waste, and I would say that it has been for well over twenty years. I’m basing that mainly on the fact that I can remember being at work twenty odd years ago and putting up a sign by the industrial photocopier encouraging people to do double sided photocopying so that they didn’t waste paper. I remember signing my note ‘on behalf of the trees’ but if I was truly honest, it wasn’t on behalf of the trees, it was on behalf of me, because when I was given handouts at work which had only been printed on one side it really annoyed me; not because it was a waste of trees but because it was simply a waste.
Now it would be very easy for me to validate my dislike of waste. I could talk about how wasteful we are as a society and about how much waste goes into landfill. I could talk about how our waste is a symptom of our lack of responsibility and how we only consider our immediate needs – and much of that is indeed true – but there would also have been a certain level of dishonesty for me to be able to share in such a way.
You see, my struggle with waste has felt almost pathological. It has been all consuming at times and it’s true to say that it has caused me more strife in my life than almost any other single component. I have despised waste and that loathing has had a very significant effect on my behaviour and how I have felt, which in turn has affected those around me.
I couldn’t even begin to imagine how many times my issue with waste has affected me; how many times for example I have eaten something that I haven’t really wanted to eat, simply to avoid throwing it out (and that includes food that has been going mouldy or that I have dropped on the floor). Not only that, but I have used my power over others to force them to eat food that they have clearly not wanted to eat, purely because I haven’t been able to handle the prospective anxiety that I would have felt were I to throw the food in the bin.
I have sat in team meetings and thrashed around when presenters have handed out wads of paper printed on only one side. I have painstakingly re-used plastic sleeves for documents rather than simply getting new ones. I have spent a long time trying to put broken sections of staples into staple guns, rather than simply getting a brand-new strip and fitting it with ease.
I go around the house moving rubbish from bin to bin, rather than run the risk of a bin going out that is only half full. It makes me anxious when people put something in the bin that could have been recycled. If someone throws the toothpaste out before I have had a chance to run the straight edge of the toenail clippers along the tube to methodically get every possible squeeze of paste out of it, then it really annoys me. I turn all bottles upside down before throwing them out, just to make sure every last drop has been extracted.
I can’t bear people running the dishwasher or putting the washing machine on unless it’s full and I remember violently lunging towards my son as he was about to start the washing up because I anticipated that he was about to use too much washing up liquid! Do I need to continue? No, not really, you get the picture – my pathological dislike of waste has infiltrated every single area of my life and pretty much every relationship as well.
And if I justify my dislike of waste as being ‘right or appropriate or even desirable’ then it prevents me from seeing the destructive effect that it has had on me, as well as on those around me and on Life as a Whole.
You see, now I know that it is what we feel in our bodies that gets registered. We like to think that if our “intentions are good,” or if our “heart is in the right place,” then this somehow makes it all ok, but this is simply not true. What gets registered by The Universe is what we feel in our bodies, therefore on all the hundreds of thousands of occasions that I desperately tried to avoid waste, what got registered was a rather distasteful cocktail of anxiety, annoyance, anger, frustration, intolerance and at times out and out rage. That was my contribution to Life in those moments and there is no getting around it by dressing it up as some environmental crusade.
And it is the knowledge of the absoluteness of this fact that has helped me to prise the fingers of this behaviour off my life because when I feel myself going into the well-worn grooves of my lifelong dalliance with waste then, to the best of my ability I choose to not entertain it. What this looks like practically speaking is for example, not eating food simply to avoid throwing it out, not opening the pantry at work with the intention of inspecting the shopping for excessive purchasing, putting a wash on before waiting for a full load, etc. Basically, registering when I am about to contribute an emotional and contracted body to the “All that we are” and consciously choosing not to.
Our bodies are an intrinsic part of the Universe –– a Universe that is made up of the collective consciousness of us all. It is therefore our individual responsibility to consider, at any point in time, quite what it is that we are contributing.
By Alexis Stewart, disability support worker, yoga teacher, massage therapist, mother, partner, self-appointed cheerleader for humanity, fragment of the Universe