I was planning to write about DIY hair care products this week. But so far, my experiments have been less than successful. Take, for example, the sugar water hairspray, exhibit left. Here’s the recipe:
Dissolve 1 tablespoon sugar in a cup of water. Boil 3 minutes. Be sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Add 1 tablespoon vodka and 2-3 drops essential oil of your choice for scent. Pour into a spray bottle.
The instructions should also have said, “Keep out of the reach of ants!” But then, I guess the writer figured most sane people are aware that sugar attracts ants. Just to clarify, this hairspray ant invasion happened a month BEFORE last week’s sugar incident. You’d think I would have learned. And you would be wrong.
So, about the hairspray. It didn’t work anyway. Still looking for a plastic-free alternative. But that’s not what I want to talk about in this post.
What I want to talk about is letting go of the struggle against reality, accepting things as they truly are, and finding ways to work with the world rather than against it. As I mentioned in my post about the ant invasion, constantly spraying them with vinegar was not working. I was in a never-ending battle with these creatures that was overwhelming and disheartening.
First of all, killing living beings every day is not fun. I’ll admit there’s a certain satisfaction in wiping them up and washing them down the drain. But it comes from a very dark place, the same as pouring salt on slugs and watching them sizzle or teasing tigers at the zoo. It doesn’t make you a nice person. And an FPF reader, who also is one of Michael’s co-workers and a Buddhist, was kind of horrified at the idea of mixing borax with sugar. Her reaction made me seriously reconsider anything lethal.
Second, the ants weren’t actually invading me. They were trying to escape the rain. We know this because during normal dry weather, the ants disappear from my kitchen and stick to farming the scale on my potted citrus trees. (Ew!)
Third, the ants were in my cupboard and last month all over my hairspray because that’s where the sugar was. Perhaps if the sugar were somewhere else…
So I did try the measure that I mentioned in my post: putting a cup of sugar in the cabinet under the sink to attract them away from my countertops and food cupboards. And guess what. It’s working! The ants are all over the sugar under the sink (where I can’t see them and they can’t hurt anything) and almost completely gone from everywhere else. I guess once the rains have stopped for good, I’ll start moving the sugar towards the back door and try to lead them back outside. Or maybe they’ll just go on their own. We’ll see.
Humans have different ways of describing the experience of living with reality rather than the fantasy of life as you wish it were. Going with the flow. Following the tao. Byron Katie, author of one of my favorite books, calls it loving what is.
“Loving what is” doesn’t mean that when we see injustice or harm occurring in the world we sit passively by and do nothing. What it does mean is that we can work with things as they actually are rather than how we think they ought to be. Instead of thinking, “These ants should not be on my countertop!” I can say, “These ants should be on my countertop because that is what ants do when it rains outside and they have no other source of food. So I’ll put some food for them down below and leave my countertops free for my own food.” Or some other solution that recognizes the nature of ants rather than the idea of how we wish ants behaved.
Okay, so I learned this lesson a second time this week with my kitties. They are not allowed into our bedroom at night because they chase and bite and wrestle on top of our heads. (Why it is necessary for the wrestling to happen on our heads, we do not know.) So every morning, there are kitties outside the bedroom door scratching and mewing and oh so excited for us to come out and be with them, or at least give them food. And every morning, when I open the door, these kitties rush past me into the room and under the bed, where I spend many minutes trying to coax them out.
Why are they coming into the bedroom? Don’t they know I’m leaving the bedroom? Don’t they know the food is in the kitchen? Are they stupid? These are the kinds of grumblings that were running through me each morning. Until finally, I realized that I was expecting my kittens to think like people instead of kittens. So instead of trying to coax them out of the bedroom, I simply left them in there, closed the door, and walked away. It only took about 5 seconds before they were scratching on the door to be let out. And zero frustration for me.
So what does this have to do with plastic and environmental issues? Here’s the thing. Plastic exists. People use it. People throw it away. It harms animals. It’s also extremely convenient and useful. It is reality and no amount of wishful thinking will change that. If we’re going to create a world without harm, we somehow have to work with reality the way it is and go from there, rather than grumbling and mumbling and getting angry with people who don’t agree with us.
What does that mean? I don’t know. I’m trying to figure it out. I do suspect that fighting doesn’t work and that there’s no winning “the war against plastic” any more than “the war against drugs” or “the war against terrorism.” There’s only seeing the world as it actually is, working with reality, and creating change from the inside out, starting with ourselves.
It’s as my meditation teacher said at the last retreat pointing to his noggin, “The real garbage is in here.” Perhaps once we realize that, the rest will come easily.