12 October 2011

Quote for today: Self-reliance isn't always easy

It's good to do uncomfortable things. It's weight training for life. – Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott is a novelist, non-fiction writer, and writing teacher, as well as also being a political activist and public speaker. In many cases, I find myself on the opposite side of many issues from Ms. Lamott, but some of her quotes ring true for me. Generally, I do my best to learn from others whether or not I totally agree with them; the Truth is wherever you find it.

In this passage (from her book, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith) she's discussing how her teenage son doesn't want to go to their regular church service, since it is "uncool" and requires some vulnerability. She concludes the passage as follows:
He does not want to have any hard work, ever, but I can't give him that without injuring him. It's good to do uncomfortable things. It's weight training for life.
Lamott realizes that it's important to push ourselves, to stretch into new areas and keep learning.

Such continuous learning is at the heart of self-reliance. We must keep look at our lives and finding out what more we can do for ourselves, or what we can do without, or what alternatives we can pursue. That's not an all-at-once process. It's little steps, across all aspects of our lives:
  • While brushing your teeth in the morning, make a note to find our how to make your own toothpaste.
  • When it's time for an oil change on your car, consider whether you can do it yourself.
  • As you go to the store, try walking or bicycling instead.
  • While shopping, think about buying ingredients to cook for yourself, rather than buying TV dinners or other premade food.
  • In calculating a discount at the store, figure it in your head instead of with a calculator, even if it takes a few moments more.
  • Instead of watching TV tonight, read up on a new self-reliant hobby you'd like to try.
Yes, these kinds of things will take effort. Being self-reliant is generally harder than "normal," and is sometimes very hard work. But, that's the investment required to achieve the freedom these skills will give you. Like Lamott said, "It's weight training for life."

Remember too that choosing to learn new skills doesn't automatically mandate their use in every situation. Just because you know how to can your own vegetables doesn't mean that you must only do so; you can still buy prepackaged food from the store if it works better for you. Knowing how to knit doesn't have to result in making all your own sweaters; store-bought ones might still make sense.

Of course, there may be some instances where you do want to keep doing things yourself. Maybe you do like your homemade mouthwash better than ones you buy. Perhaps you like doing the preventive maintenance on your car and the money savings that go with it. If so, great! You've improved things for yourself!

Either way, the main object is having the knowledge and experience to be able to do things for yourself when you want or need to. That's self-reliance... that's choice... that's real freedom.

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