I just got back from a week on the East Coast doing book promos and visiting family, and all I got was this stupid Facebook photo…
Two days ago, my sister Ellen posted that photo and caption and tagged me. It would have been funny, if it weren’t my Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup can. My first reaction was utter embarrassment (for being caught eating out of a can lined with BPA or some other mystery chemical and even more, for eating Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup in the first place), and I asked her to untag me. Instead, she posted a comment: Just kidding! That’s my soup.
But it wasn’t her soup, it was mine. Granted, I didn’t buy it — I found it in a cupboard in my dad’s house — but still… how can I go around advising people to avoid BPA-lined cans if I can’t always resist them myself? So, after untagging myself and then feeling all weird and guilty, I suddenly realized… or maybe I should say remembered… that it’s precisely those times when I feel weird and guilty that I can learn the most about myself and human behavior and motivation.
See, anyone who has read this blog for a while or who has read my book knows that I never claim to be perfect. I’ve confessed all kinds of eco-“sins” along the way. Binging on flamin’ hot cheetos during a road trip with my dad. Taking long, hot showers. Eating too much bread. Craving fast food. Buying new stuff. (Hmm… I just realized that many of the items on that list involve food. Interesting.) And I’m nothing if not honest about my short-comings because pretending to be “perfect” doesn’t help. In fact, I think it’s counterproductive.
But somehow, with the publication of my book this year and subsequent media attention, I fell into the frame of mind that I have to be the expert and that I have to be perfect — or at least appear to be perfect — at living without plastic. Even while I’m assuring other people that they don’t have to be. Even while writing that guilt doesn’t help because it creates the illusion that we are separate from the rest of the world, wrong, at fault. That guilt can subdue us into inaction, causing us to hide our perceived faults instead of trying to figure out the root causes of our actions.
So here’s my confession: My childhood comfort food — which I still occasionally indulge in when I feel stressed out or depressed — is this trashy combination: Pasta or rice covered in a mixture of tuna, cream of mushroom soup, and American cheese. My siblings think it looks like vomit and have teased me about it since I was a kid, but it’s just an easy version of my mom’s tuna casserole that made me feel safe and loved. Nowadays, I use plastic-free cheese and grains or pasta from the bulk bins. But the tuna and soup come in cans, and the soup has to be Campbell’s. (Yes, the same company that refuses to reveal what chemical they are going to use to replace BPA.)
My primary solution is meditation. On the days when I sit and meditate for at last 15 minutes in the morning, I’m much more mindful during the day, less likely to get stressed out, and less likely to do things that really don’t match my values. But on the days when I skip meditation… like every day I was in Maryland with my family… I’m more likely to forget who I am and fall back into old patterns. Throw a hurricane threat on top, and anything could happen.
Good thing I’m leaving tonight for my semi-annual meditation retreat. Three days of silence, stillness, and noticing my own breath. And being as honest as I can possibly be.
Do you have any secret vices you’d like to share? Go on. It’ll feel good to unburden yourself. Or at least make me feel better. :-)