Trust Tending Kindred: Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens

March 9, 2012

Rowdy Kittens Sketch

This week kicks off a new series here: Trust Tending Kindreds. Each Friday I’ll share an inspirational sketch that introduces a blogger whose work is kindred to my own and expands on the theme I explore on Monday and Wednesday.

Today, Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens is with us. Tammy is a writer and tiny house enthusiast who blogs about living simply and taking small, daily steps to live a happy, healthy life.

I love Tammy’s work, and even more so the icon her life has become for all of us. She and her husband live in a 150 square foot home, and got there not through some dramatic, over-night purge of possessions, but a years-long process of asking again and again, What makes us happy? How much [clothing, appliances, books, furniture, you-name-it] do we really need?

By asking their questions and acting, day by day, on their answers, their lives have become a larger-than-life…or, in the case of their home, smaller-than-life :)…demonstration of where happiness is and isn’t truly rooted. By their very presence, and the writing Tammy offers through her books and blog, they inspire our own question-asking, shake up our assumptions, and hold space for us to move incrementally in their direction. (Jen Lee has a great little video exploring this service that icons inherently offer.)

More often than not, trust is grown by means of small steps over time, and Tammy’s work is a wonderful reminder of that.

Recently Tammy joined Courtney Carver of Be More With Less to create a resource called Your Lovely Life – all about cultivating beauty and joy every day. Part of that venture is to offer 3-week mini-courses on a variety of related themes, the first of which is called Create Space, and starts March 19.

I hope you’ll check out Tammy’s (and Courtney’s!) work and find it as trust-nourishing as I have!

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Sustainable Living

March 7, 2012

College was a fan for every idealistic flame in my body. I loved it. I left there eager to roll up my sleeves and take my theories to the streets. My husband felt this, too (we married at 20).

With great delight we took jobs at a small non-profit after graduation, doing community development in low-income areas of Fresno. We lived in one of the neighborhoods where we worked, and voluntarily ate beans and rice for most meals, shared a car between us, and netted 14K combined. To our hearts and minds, life couldn’t get more romantic.

I loved some aspects of that season. Topmost was the chance (I’m an adult! I’m out of school!) to go whole-hog on putting my values to action.

What I didn’t love, however, was the wistfulness I felt sometimes about living more comfortably, and the twinges of condescension and jealousy, both, that I felt around friends whose values and lifestyles were different from mine. These feelings became a weight that I carried, goading me to keep working at my all-out life for fear of a) losing sight of my ideals and b) being judged by others in my field (i.e. people trying to live simply and do social good) in the same way I judged those outside of it.

That was 1998, and since then American culture – at least huge swaths of it – has shifted dramatically toward more sustainable living. “Living simply” has become much more mainstream, and the notion of spending less on “things” and giving values-based thought to the stuff we DO buy a given in many subcultures.

The nature of human egos hasn’t changed, though. And I’d venture to say that the same ego-weight I carried as a young adult is weight many of us carry to this day.

Whether you live in poverty or material wealth, chances are that your efforts at living well in a values-based way – whether that means giving time or money to those in need, eating raw or meatless, riding bikes instead of cars, maintaining a spiritual practice, shopping used rather than new – whatever values-based living means to you, you probably know its joys as well as its shadows.

And as I think on this, I want to call out an entire system that our egos bolster every time they turn our joys to weights – a system that’s all about rights and wrongs and grades when it comes to living well – or even just when it comes to defining what living well means (we all have our ideals, even if we don’t live them out, and are that skilled as to turn the mere existence of them heavy).

That system is a zero sum game. It rests on the fact that there will always be people “failing”, always people “failing more than me” and always people doing far better. It’s inherently stressful, and fills us with shame when it isn’t loading us up with the weight of pride and condescension or, conversely, the fear-based drive to do better.

In short, it’s a fear-based game. I’m far more interested in what it means to trust. When it comes to fuel efficiency, trust burns FAR more cleanly.

So I propose the following. These apply to those trying to live sustainably, but just as well to any values-based life:

I propose we shift our sights entirely from a good/bad spectrum, stepping off of that tightrope as often and as nimbly as we can. Falling on our butts as we dismount (e.g. disappointing or scandalizing people; losing status among the elite in a given group, etc.) is entirely acceptable.

I propose we step onto a wide open plain of being human together, growing at different rates, learning lessons that aren’t always the same. A plain where we live out and intentionally share what’s important to us without assuming everyone else needs or wants to or even should become more like us. Others’ roles in The Big Scheme of growth, or even just their own path of it, may be shockingly different than what you or I might script for them. Humility is absolutely called for.

I propose we call out fear every time it drives us to do anything – from recycling to meditating to social action to anything at all that’s values-based – and do the (sometimes challenging, sometimes exhilarating) work of learning what trust would do instead.

I propose that as we seek to live more sustainably, we simultaneously find ways to unburden our inner selves, again and again (and again!), from the weight of our egos – and the jealousies, judgments, shame, and condescension involved with that weight. I propose that we ask what it means, again and again (and again!), to live, in all ways, from places of trust.

My hunch is that, if we learn to do these things – replacing our ego weight with a lighter and more sustainable state of trust – we’ll create internal sustainability for the external sustainability we’re working so hard to create.

Have you experienced ego-weight in your efforts to live well? Have you discovered helpful ways to unburden yourself from it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related posts:

  1. Seasons are universal; treat yours uniquely
  2. Small steps into the wilds
  3. On Interconnection
  4. How nature heals us
  5. Living outside the lines
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