In her young twenties, writer and activist Eileen Flanagan spent two years teaching English in the country of Botswana, neighboring South Africa and Zimbabwe. She ate, lived, and slept in a 180 square-foot mud hut and was quite content. Then life got a tad more complicated … she married, had kids, and eventually found herself in a three-story house packed full of stuff: Barbie condos, heelies (sneakers with wheels), Wii games, electronic guitars, and microscopes. In her engaging new book, Renewable, she writes about her path back to simplicity and integrity—becoming a person whose decisions reflect the values she holds.
I was especially moved by her first “awakening” in the middle of the night, when she realizes her ideals are not in sync with her lifestyle, and feels the knot in her stomach that so many of us experience when we spot a place in our lives where integrity is missing.
She had been on Google Earth and looked up Bobonong, where she lived in Botswana. She saw the rivers were all dry, a result of global consumption. She thought about a dear friend of hers there, and how her children were just a few years older than her own. She writes:
“At 3:00 am, I stared at the ceiling, tears streaming down my face, as Tom slept next to me under the down comforter. I looked in the dark at our ceiling fan, larger and classier looking than the one in our old house, and I wondered: How the hell did I become a woman who has a big house, a chemical peel appointment, and stock in a fracking company? How did I become so sucked into the American mainstream, and what can I do to create the kind of life—the kind of world—I really want?”
I had that same sort of epiphany two nights ago.