It still happens often that I ask myself what the hell the point is of the life choices we made. Why did we move abroad, why do we want to live off grid & zero waste? After three years of fighting, I found the answer.
‘Choose your battles,’ says Mark Manson, ‘The question is not; what do I want out of life, but, how much do I want to suffer for it? What pain do I want in my life? Because happiness requires struggle.’
Everybody wants to live under the sun, have fewer traffic jams, less life in the shadow of other buildings, less work and more time to do what they really want to do. It is easy to want that. But you have to fight for it.
That’s what we did in the last three years; battling several rounds with ourselves and the world because wanting all this requires a change of behaviour & consciousness. Putting our values in practice makes you quite emotional and uncertain!
Whoever stopped smoking or lost twenty kilos of weight knows what I am talking about: changing habits is a bitch. Do this tenfold- learning a new language, building new friendships, accepting another mentality, other food, and so on,… And chaos is complete. In the meantime renovating is renovating, marriage a marriage, bureaucracy stressful and making money boring. Asking myself if it’s all worth is a question that often popped up. I crashed many times.
A little luck
We will enter or fourth Portuguese summer soon, and it’s finally working for us to live with the priorities we had put first. We live quite zero waste and only need a small garbage bin per month for the two of us. I wake up (
Then, a kind of common sense emerged, which, for its part, shows us the bigger picture. And with ‘the bigger picture’ I mean this one, small insignificant life where we want to make most out of it.
Next, is a kind of earthly, non-volatile feeling that appears at the surface, which seems to be more continuous than a promotion, a new colour scheme for the living room or a three-star Michelin menu. Which in turn creates a kind of freedom or wisdom or space in your head that makes you happy with what you have. It’s easier not to swipe to the left on our smartphone where Google- the corporate society- is jamming their narrow world view down our throats. Instant gratification- which in the long run, absolutely changes nothing, becomes more like good satire, triviality. And if you think about it, that is exactly the opposite of meaning. Which we all seek for, meaning.
The changing seasons, an independent house heated by the energy of light and cooled by our water source, a meal straight from the garden, Portuguese conversations at the beach, long walks in the mountains and a house without storage systems is what makes our life meaningful again. This has absolutely nothing to do with changing the world, rather than changing our world view, our marriage. We are the activists of small things and big satisfaction.
And this is only the beginning: A change is about to come.
Mine, mine, mine
Another outcome of this ‘personal activism’ is that our world view literally changed. There is so much good to see when you feel fulfilled with life. We want to engage with the world instead of staying on our ‘Island of happiness’. Happiness also comes from sharing and we will share our property because who are we to claim this fertile piece of land with age-old oaks & river, to be ours? Pieces of land transformed into parcellations being claimed mine, mine, mine is a process I always found absurd, (and that process needs a mind shift too). Because everything is connected to everything. A lot of our veggies & fruit comes from neighbours who use a piece of ‘our’ land they can cultivate. This creates a kind of commitment & trust from the village, against individuality created by the rat race.
Sharing is getting more, not less.
And last: our relationship with nature changed. The more I live here, the more I realize how dependent we are from nature, from biodiversity. Water, fresh air, insects, and a whole chain of animals that keep the land and forest fertile. As humankind, that is where our priorities, knowledge, awareness and the personal challenge lies. Not the outdated laws, politics our techniques are going to save us. But biodiversity will. And our own activism of small things. We keep on underestimating our own acts. Elections don’t make a change but we keep on giving our responsibilities & our control ( and activism of small things) to politicians. They keep us going into the rat race instead of taking control over our own life.
Like I said; it took us three years to fulfil this understanding because ‘change’ implies a constant battle against the current. That’s not an elitist nor spiritual thing like some bestselling authors try to make us believe. Self-respect & self-knowledge is the foundation from where we look to our own world. And if you know what you want and do it, you will automatically resist against a society that makes you crave daily for things you don’t need to fucking live your life!
With being an activist of small things I don’t mean you should join a union or attend manifestations. It’s sufficient to just change the habits/ things we keep on complaining about, to adapt our expectations about life and to think about what ‘succes in life’ means to you. Money or being connected with family, friends and your lover? What are you afraid of when the mask falls? Loss of face? Or are you able to open your fragile heart to the world and see kindness? What’s your deepest desire and do you want to fight for it? Change your life for it? What did you dream about as a kid? What. Are. Your. Chosen. Battles? That is what we did here.
I wish all the labelled people ‘the rights’, ‘the lefties’, the rich’, ‘the poor’, ‘ the refugees’, ‘the locals’ exactly the same; find your focus, get out of your comfort zone and overcome your daily struggles. It becomes a powerful tool to not be fooled anymore by society, the media & industry that never prioritize mental health and being connected but prefers impersonal economy, which makes us fight for the leftovers ( the 1%, remember?) and divides us. That what nobody wants, but it’s an easy habit, right?
And that is why we did what we did: to create the possibility to be ourselves as a human. To be humane.