No Connection

The night before last, my internet connection suddenly stopped working at my house. Unfortunately my service is through Comcast, so it still hasn’t been fixed despite my attempts over the phone to receive assistance. At first, I felt utterly lost and helpless without YouTube and Netflix. While I do have data on my phone, I live in the middle of the woods so, as you might imagine, I don’t have great signal.

While this all is very inconvenient and frustrating, it has also been a blessing of sorts. Being forced off of the internet for over a day has been therapeutic. Initially, my stress level went through the roof, but after a while, I adapted. I dug out my old laptop with all of my saved music and video files to supplement my normal background noise. (Some habits are hard to let go of.) However, despite using my computer for ambient noise, without the internet offering up unlimited possibilities, I didn’t feel as tethered to my screens as I normally do.

In fact, it actually allowed me to spend a lot more time outside, where I want to be spending my time. Normally there is an internal struggle as I try to decide whether or not I want to pause my internet browsing to go do my yoga and meditation practice outside, or go for a run, or do yardwork. Even though I know how much I always end up enjoying myself when I am in the fresh air and sunshine, there is still a lot of anxiety around the act of putting down my technology to do so. Yesterday that struggles was gone. Why shouldn’t I go outside? Finally, there was nothing holding me back from the reawakening world outside my door.

It felt so good to feel the warm sun on my skin and smell the wind. I pulled up all the weeds from my flowerbeds, which I was surprised to find brought me great enjoyment. It was so delightful to feel the cool, damp earth and the soft, green leaves between my fingers. It’s easy to forget just how immersive the outside world can be. There is so much to explore and examine even in the relatively bland nature surrounding a house. No matter how much time you spend in the garden or the woods, there is always something new to discover. Yesterday I was overjoyed to come across a strange long blade of what appeared to be grass with a small plump green bulb dangling off its tip, as if barely connected at all. I have no idea what it is, but I’ll definitely be checking back in on that plant to try to find out.

For days now I have been anxiously dreading the chores I had to do in my yard, but somehow without the internet to beckon to me from inside, I had one of the best days I’ve had in awhile doing so. I was even enjoying myself so much that I ended up doing more than I planned on. I got out my weed whacker. I started some seeds for my garden. I set up some simple décor on my back porch. I cleaned off my trampoline and swept the sidewalk. I even strolled through my yard and collected patches of moss to put in my potted plants. Something I have been wanting to do for awhile in the hopes it will help the soil stay moist and suitable for my succulents.

All of this time spent outside, especially gathering the moss, left me feeling so happy. It reminded me of being a child again. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I used to imagine one day I’d be a flower arranger or design landscapes for gardens. In preparation for this, I would gather moss, wildflowers, pretty stones, and any other attractive, interesting things I could find around my yard and create small little arrangements with them. I like to think they were the original fairy gardens that have become so popular now. Finding myself outside gathering moss again allowed me to reconnect with that childlike wonder and joy that has remained dormant in me for so long.

Thanks to my yoga and meditation practice, what once would have been an absolute nightmare of an experience, leading me to a total meltdown with lots of hysterical crying and complaining, actually turned out to be something to be grateful for. It has even been empowering in a way. It feels good to know that I don’t have to rely on the internet for enjoyment and entertainment. I have more than enough within me to make my own contentment. It also reminded me of the peace that this lack of technology allowed. Things seemed quieter before the internet. My mind seemed less busy, less distracted. And with that focus, with that stillness, came a simple serenity that now seems lost to us.

While the internet and our other advancements in technology have made the world a better place in a lot of important ways, it has also robbed us of a lot of what we once had in life. Somehow by providing unlimited possibilities we have surrendered our freedom. I can’t help but wonder what the world might be like if it had stayed the way it was when I was a child. I have to imagine that my, if not everyone’s, mental health would be much better off. Perhaps humanity would have been able to remain at least a little closer to nature and one another than we are now.

I’d like to say that this experience will cause me to take regular breaks from my devices in order to remember this newfound freedom, but I don’t know that willpower alone will be enough to break those chains that tether me to technology. As for now, all I can say is I am in no hurry to fix my faulty internet connection. I am more than happy to spend a few more days disconnected.

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Coming Back Home

This life is so beautiful. It’s amazing how easily I am able to forget that. I always get caught up in the little things. For me it’s always been easier to worry endlessly than to pause and enjoy the present moment. But of all the suffering I’ve experienced in my life, I’ve been the source of the vast majority of it. It is hard to accept that and not condemn myself for it. It’s actually a great gift to realize that strange fact. Because it means that I can also be the end of all of this suffering. I just have to keep reminding myself, especially when it’s hard.

I just have to remember that this life is so much bigger than all of my petty little problems. What an insane, incredible, amazing thing it is that I exist at all! That there is so much right in front of me to enjoy, to be grateful for. This miraculous body that I inhabit, this home that shelters me, safe and warm with my loved ones, the ability to breathe the air, to feel soft pleasant textures against my skin. I am happy. I am free. I am alive. Right here, right now. Life is good.

Under all of my anxiety lies the fear that one day I won’t be able to take it anymore. I’m afraid that all of these tiny worries will pile up around me until I can no longer bear it, that I will somehow be consumed. But I don’t give myself enough credit. I am far more powerful than I realize most days. Sometimes I am tempted to allow my worst fears to become reality, just so that I can show myself that I will still be okay. When the darkest moments come, it is the smallest things that save me. Everything that I truly need is within me, it is me.

This breath, this deep, intangible, limitless love that I hold inside, nothing can take that away from me. It is forever mine. These things are always here for me. There is an immense power that emanates from my soul. A power that I can connect with whenever I need to. A power that I don’t use often enough. But nevertheless it doesn’t leave me, even when it remains dormant.

On days like today, when I stop and really contemplate existence, I want to laugh hysterically at the beautiful absurdity of it all. I want to cry from sheer, inexpressible joy. I want to shout thank you, thank you to whatever it is that has allowed this all to be possible. I want to take my anxious mind into my arms and coo to it softly, “don’t be so silly, there is no need to be afraid, I love you, I am here for you, everything is alright, it has always been alright, it will always be alright, trust me, dear one, shush now, I’ve got you.”

What more could I possibly want? What else could I even have asked for? This life, this world, it is all so beautiful. It is absolutely perfect. Even the messy parts, even the scary parts, they are all gorgeous and necessary to create the fullness that is this existence. I am so lucky. I am so grateful that I get to be a part of this. My heart feels so full. It is overflowing. I want to fill every empty space with warmth and love and light. I want to give and give until there is nothing left of me but pure glistening bliss.

When I begin to feel like I am fraying at the edges, like I won’t be able to hold myself together, I want to read this and remember that I never have to fear coming apart, because I am already a part of all that there is. I am forever whole and complete and at one with everything. I don’t need to cut out the bits of me that feel afraid or anxious or upset, those parts of me are fine just the way they are. There is nothing wrong with them. There is nothing to fix. When they start to feel too heavy, all I need to do is put them down for a while. All I need to do is image whatever it is I’d like to be feeling instead. “Not anxious” isn’t something that my heart can understand clearly enough to provide for me. Rather I should ask it for joy or love or comfort or peace. These are things that the heart remembers well. I am always capable of returning to these emotions. Because they are my natural state.

It is no wonder that I get tired, that I feel exhausted with living sometimes. It takes a lot of energy to keep myself so far away from my very essence, to deny myself so often. It’s as if I am using all my strength to hold a door closed inside of me. Behind that door lies this unending love and happiness that is my true nature. That beautiful, bubbling light that we are made of. An energy that is beyond logic, beyond reason, beyond definition, beyond even consciousness. I don’t need to understand it. I don’t need to search for it. I am it. It is me. I am the answer. I am the joy and the love and the safety that I seek. And it’s okay if in an hour I’ve forgotten once again. Because this is where I will always inevitably return. I can come back again and again, as many times as I need to. This light within me will always be here waiting.

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Sitting In the Sun

I can only hope to some day find the same satisfaction of a cat lying in sunbeams as they pour through the window. Even my dog, sweet little oddball that she is, loves basking in that warm glow. They always look so peaceful. You can almost see them savoring each delicious moment as they doze on the edge of consciousness. Perfectly peaceful. Precious angels. If only they could tell me their secret to serenity.

The closest I ever came to this simple bliss was one summer evening at the peak of an acid trip. I forget what my companion was doing at the time. They must have been absorbed in something inside that didn’t interest me. I had decided to go outside just as evening was giving way into another luscious, humid summer night. Summer nights are my favorite. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps they remind me of being a kid, watching fireworks on the 4th or catching lightning bugs with my sister and grandma. Or maybe it’s my teen years, sneaking out to meet friends, having midnight swims, trying my first cigarette as the rain drizzled down lazily, drinking by a fire in a friend’s backyard. There was always a certain excitement saturating summer nights, a sense of danger and adventure. Hedonism and recklessness and youth.

As the sun’s warmth still lingered in the soft air, I went out to use my newly set-up trampoline. I’m certain I would have appeared insane if anyone had been around to witness the sight. A young woman in her mid twenties, alone, at night, laughing her head off while jumping on a trampoline. I have no idea how long I was on that thing, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt like a kid again, with all the innocence and sheer joy I once knew.

When I finally got tired of that, I got down and sat breathless on my back porch under the stars. I think back to that moment a lot. Ever since I learned about yoga philosophy, I can’t help but think about it when I trip. It’s always funny to me how simple and true it all feels when I’m in that altered state. I see it all so clearly. It feels like I’ll be able to keep that insight and inner peace with me when I wake up the next morning, but of course I never can.

This evening as I sat there alone, I felt more alive and safe than I ever have before or since. I breathed in the thick air of that summer night slowly and deeply. Enjoying every subtlety of this slight movement as the air passed through my nostrils and expanded my abdomen. Feeling this oxygen infusing me with precious life. In that moment I knew everything I needed to know. There was no grasping or worrying or fear. I was truly at peace with myself and the universe. I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be. I knew that I was one with everything around me. That this whole universe was a part of me and I a part of it. I felt the lines of the self blurring into eternity. Anything that I could ever need or want was already a part of me. It was all so beautiful. I could have sat there, utterly content, forever. Everything is as it should be. Never had these words felt so poignant and true.

If nothing else this experience stands as an example of the power of perspective. Nothing has changed since then except my state of mind. Things that felt so simple then have reassumed their complex and elusive nature. That peace that felt ever-present now escapes me. Even the memory can’t compare to the perfect state I was in that night. My brief moment in the sun has now passed. Yet still, the residue of that moment lingers within me.

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Routines

Last night I had a dream that I was a child again. I was in my old rec room at my parents’ house. There I sat behind the couch with my Hamtaros, playing. I hadn’t a care in the world. For what reason did I decide to go back there and play? What signaled me to stop eventually? Why, my own desire, my intuitive self, that thing I was once so in tune with without even knowing. There is such a gentle flush of comfort and peace when I imagine being that carefree child again. I was able to do whatever my little heart desired.

It is not as if I don’t have the time or the freedom to do as I please now. Sadly, I just don’t know how to do that anymore. I could do whatever I like today, but what would I like? I have lost that precious connection with my own heart, my own desire. My intuition has gone silent. When did that happen? When did I change? Now each day is so rigid and unrelenting.

There is a certain comfort in routine. In the beginning that structure feels satisfying, productive. I seem to always notice a “sweet spot” where I am enjoying a routine to its fullest. It feels like I’ve found the perfect flow. However, nothing lasts forever.

Eventually that same routine that gave me so much joy, become suffocating. I feel caged by it. Unable to escape my rigid schedule for any reason even though it no longer make me happy like it once did. I don’t know if other people experience this, but it is very frustrating. Everything in life is a cycle. I know that. I see it everywhere I look. It can be a beautiful and awe inspiring thing. Yet I can never seem to find my way through my own cycles.

When I try to imagine how I would move through my day without following these ingrained routines, I am at a complete loss. I have no idea what I would do. Therefore it is always so much easier to just give in and do things the way that I did the day before. It seems like only a huge change that is out of my control is ever able to shake me from my pattern. Like with any big change, especially when it isn’t a choice, I am petrified at first. But there is a sort of aliveness in that terror, in that uncertainty. For a moment I almost feel free. Free to start again. That is when I am able to form new routines and thoroughly enjoy them for awhile. Unfortunately that period of peace never lasts long.

I am constantly clinging to my old habits and resisting change. Perhaps OCD is partially to blame. I get fixated on doing things a certain way, in a certain order and then can’t bear the idea of things being any other way. Even when the way things are now is no longer serving me. I am afraid to change. But I am also afraid to stay the way I am.

As neurotic as it may sound, maybe I could attempt to plan change. I could schedule my own cycles. Perhaps that would give my brain the structure it craves while also providing it with novelty and freshness. Or maybe I could regularly phase things in and out of my already established routine. Maybe I’ll start reading some books about connecting to your intuition. Even though it seems like that little voice of passion that once pushed me towards certain things has gone completely silent, I know it is still there somewhere. I hope one day I am able to find it again.

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An Overwhelming Age

In one of my psychology classes in university I remember learning that one famous psychologist suggested an interesting correlation when it came to freedom and happiness. I tried to look up who it was, but I wasn’t able to settle the matter with any certainty. My best guess is that it was Erich Fromm.

Anyway, the idea was that while having no freedom leads to unhappiness, too much freedom can as well. We feel powerless when we don’t get to make any choices for ourselves, but we also begin to feel overwhelmed and distressed when we have too many choices. This idea has stuck with me ever since.

I truly believe that in our modern age, most of the world has started to experience that unhappiness due to too much freedom. Never before in history have we each had so many individual choices to make each and every moment of every day. We are constantly being advertised to, we have twenty or more different options for each product we need to purchase at the store, and we have an unlimited number of options when it comes to the internet which is now an integral part of our everyday lives.

I personally feel paralyzed with indecision on a daily basis. And it has certainly only become worse as society and technology has progressed in my lifetime. I am mentally exhausted from weighing endless choices. Most of the time all I can do is try to shut it all out and do nothing. I used to think this was solely due to my anxiety disorder, but it does provide some comfort to know that this effects everyone to some extent.

It brings to mind a quote by Sylvia Plath that has always deeply resonated with me:

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

I have felt this way all of my life, yet never could have created such a splendidly perfect metaphor. I am not sure what we as a society can do to address this problem though. It certainly seems wrong for the government or some other entity to limit people’s freedoms in order to protect them from being overwhelmed by choices. But I do often long to have been born in simpler times. While I am grateful for all the freedom I have, I am also somewhat fearful of it.

Reproductive Rights

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In the recent political climate, I have started to become increasingly anxious about my access to reproductive healthcare and my rights in this country as a woman in general. Despite the progress we have made in the last few decades regarding gender equality, it seems like things are beginning to slip backwards as the conservative sects and corruption in this country push back against these improvements.

While the religious right may think that women view abortions like going to the dentist, I (and I’m sure most other women) have always been terrified of the idea. However, this was always a less terrifying alternative than having a child if by some unfortunate mistake I became pregnant. Although I never wanted to have to abort a pregnancy, the knowledge that that option was there for me if I needed it was always a comfort.

In the last few months, I have seen the state governments of Ohio and West Virginia start to chip away at that right. West Virginian’s voted that the state has no obligation to make sure a woman has access to this right. Ohio recently passed their “heart-beat” abortion bill that will prevent a woman from having rights over her own body as soon as a fetus has a detectable heart-beat. This can be as early at three weeks after conception, before most women are even aware that they are pregnant.

It sickens me to see our society telling women that they don’t have autonomy, that they don’t have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies. Even worse, to say more children must be born into this world to parents that do not want them or cannot afford to care for them, while there are already so many waiting to be adopted or living out their lives in the foster care system. I didn’t plan on waiting around for a terrible fate to befall me because of my gender. I’ve never wanted to have children, so I decided it was about time to make sure that I wasn’t able to anymore.

In my wildest dreams I never thought I would be lucky enough to find a gynecologist that would be willing to sterilize a woman as young as myself, who is unmarried, with no children. I decided I may as well start asking around though. To my surprise, the gynecologist I only recently switched to last year agreed to help me!

I simply could not control the smile that spread across my face when she said that I was an adult and had the right to make decisions about my own body. “After all,” she said, “women don’t have to have children.” I could have cried with joy to know that this woman respected me and was giving me control over my own life. Better yet, she told me that my insurance would likely cover the costs of the surgery.

After reading about the simple procedure and contacting my insurance company to discover that they would cover 90% of the costs (leaving only around $400 for me), I scheduled my laparoscopic tubal ligation. The surgery took place one week before Thanksgiving. Never before had I had something to be so thankful for on that day. It was an outpatient surgery that took only around 15 minutes to complete. There were no complications and I recovered in record time, no scarring, no pain meds. After four days I was back to doing my hour-long H.I.I.T. workouts and advanced yoga practice daily.

I no longer have to poison my body with hormonal birth control pills. I don’t ever have to feel fearful after having a sexual encounter. I have never felt so joyous and free in my entire life. I hope so fervently that any other woman that wants to have this procedure done decides to ask her primary care physician or gynecologist. I hope that all doctors would be willing to respect a woman’s decision about her own body and reproductive health. I am eternally grateful to my doctor for giving me my freedom and my body back.

I wanted to share my story so that other women would know that it’s possible to make the same decision for themselves. There are so many good reasons not to have a child. I hope that other women that don’t want to have children will find reassurance in my story and know that they are not “heartless” for not wanting a baby. They don’t have to stand being belittled with the infamous “you’ll change your mind.” We are not objects to be used by men or humanity as a whole. My body is mine and mine alone.

Stay strong, sisters.

It’s Flu Season (For Non-Vegans)

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Around this time of year I always notice those around me beginning to sniffle, cough, and miss work or school. This used to make me quite anxious because I knew that I would soon be next. I can still remember as a child getting sick in a seemingly continuous cycle throughout the year. At the time I viewed this as a normal part of being young. I couldn’t wait for my immune system to finally build defenses against these different illnesses so that I could stop wondering when I would find myself once again writhing in discomfort from another stomach bug or sore throat.

As I got older, I did begin to notice a decrease in the frequency of these illnesses. But still I could have never imagined making it through an entire year or more completely healthy. The worst part was that I didn’t think much of this at all. I thought getting small sicknesses regularly was normal. I didn’t think there was anything to be done about it except to deal with the symptoms when they arose.

Now that I have been vegan for a significant number of years, I’ve begun to notice that I don’t ever really get sick at all. I can’t even recall the last time I had a stomach ache. I used to dread the days I would inevitably spend immobilized in bed, trailing back and forth to the bathroom in an aching delirium. Now it is very rare that I even have to deal with a slight cough. I began a new job over a year ago now and I have yet to take a single sick day. While when I was in school I was guaranteed to miss at least a few weeks each year.

I will never cease to be amazed at the incredible transformation I have experienced in quality of life since transitioning to a vegan diet. It honestly saddens me that so many people will never know just how good it feels to be alive in a fully healthy body. I feel as if I could almost compare it with taking a psychedelic drug. Not in sensation of course, just the sheer wonder of discovering a completely different physical and mental experience that previously you had no idea your body was capable of.

It is becoming more commonly known that a vegan diet can improve longevity and long-term health. The World Health Organization has stated consuming processed meats is just as cancer causing as smoking cigarettes. Yet we continue to permit parents to feed these products to their children, while any parent offering a 5-year-old a cigarette would be considered appalling. Child services would certainly intercede on the child’s behalf in the latter case when really both are the same in effect. Human beings tend to be quite incompetent when it comes to following scientific information to it’s logical conclusion in practical application. We also seem to have a difficult time delaying gratification in order to obtain an ultimately much more gratifying reward in the future.

I wanted to write this post to perhaps help give more people the motivation to try a vegan diet if not for the sake of the animals and our earth, then for their own benefit. If you are young, avoiding heart-disease, diabetes, and cancer most likely isn’t something you are too concerned about at the moment. But the health benefits of eating plant-based, whole foods may be appealing to more people if they knew that there was more to it than that. It is hard to express how different and pleasurable it is to just be in my body now. It almost feels as if the universe has given me a magnificent gift for doing what is right. I hope more than anything that some day we will all live in a vegan world where so much suffering will finally end.

I have often wondered what effect consuming so much pain, fear, and stress hormones has on the body. As far as I am aware there have never been any studies done on something of this nature. It’s important to remember though that the animals most of humanity eats are not healthy. They are sick, tortured, miserable beings, many of whom have never had good food themselves or even felt the sunlight. I truly believe that this must have some consequence and I think that consequence is the way I used to feel and the way so many still do. My friends, I desperately hope that you will feed your body with love and not violence, and receive the rewards the universe has in store for you.

Live fully. Live vegan. 

Cast Your Vote

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Ever since I was very young, I was taught the importance of voting. In school we learn about how hard our country fought for individual freedoms and the ability to choose those who govern them. We’re taught that even though we are only one person, our say matters and can lead to change. These values are the heart and soul of the United States.

However, it seems that this principle applies in many other areas of life outside of politics, but continues to go unnoticed by many. What else has history taught us? That money makes the world go ’round. Therefore, as individuals and as a society, we need to pay attention to and be cautious of what we spend our money on.

For each item that you buy, you are casting your vote that you would like to see more of this product and everything that went into making it and getting it to your local stores. In this way, becoming a vegan can make a practical influence on the world. This is the connection I think many people are failing to make. It may be easy to love animals, yet still find it easy to eat meat because there is such a large distance between the practices of factory farms, the act of killing an animal and seeing its pain and suffering.

Sadly, ignoring the harsh realities behind the steak on your dinner plate will not make them cease to exist. Each time you stop at McDonald’s, buy deli meat, or pick up some bacon for your breakfast the next morning, you are casting your vote as a citizen of this society. You are saying you approve and support the product and its means. We can never expect these horrible atrocities and business practices to stop if we continue to finance them. We need to stand up and make an effort to produce the change we want to see in the world.

Don’t vote for violence. ❤