I truly believe I can choose to be happy my younger self was always so there was innocence and joy in each breath I loved everyone and the world at once my heart was full of gratitude But somewhere along the way my soul got bogged down with disillusion bitterness encroached upon my heart like blight creeping through late fall crops all of life turned sour for awhile Now I struggle with these separate shades of self I know deep down that pure love and light remain still it feels like a denial to turn toward it and away from who I've known myself to be as I've grown into the person I am today This anger and violence I've harbored for so long grip me so much tighter than childhood pleasures to let it go feels like a refusal to acknowledge my own pain to surrender to a delusion that it never existed to favor a false sense of all pervading peace My precious passion has turned to poison through years of focusing on the wrong things an all-mighty wave of indignation rises up to consume the small voice inside that pleads for the path towards gentle gratitude and humble happiness Can I really learn to reconcile these two opposing forces? Can the soft thread of unconditional love truly overcome the violent force of white knuckled hatred? I'm afraid of who I will become if I am unable to turn from my current path, led by self-righteous ego Still there is a quiet hope that stirs within that there is still time to reclaim my one life and use my precious gifts to create light instead of adding to the choking darkness that tempts me and ties my hands When I succumb to the swirling torment that tells me happiness is not my nature I will strive to remember my soul's complexity and call out for the small child that once embodied the brave wisdom of a wide open heart
I used to think it was a sign of weakness to be tender and loving in such a cruel world I saw my own innocent moments of vulnerability taken advantage of and wielded like weapons to be strong, I thought, must mean to harden to shut away my heart for safe keeping I spent years closing myself off, savoring cynicism scoffing at anyone who allowed themselves to be seen Now I see they are far stronger than me they were never ignorant of my pain, they knew it well but chose to lay their souls bare despite it to allow themselves to feel fully even in the face of fear A powerhouse of patience and persistence to love each moment freely and completely is the ultimate act of courage in this world when it's so much easier to hide behind hate
A Woman’s Right to Choose
This past week, I met an amazing 16-year-old girl. She was charming, beautiful, intelligent, and interesting. Unfortunately, when I meet a kid, it’s usually because something awful has happened to them. This girl was no exception. Perhaps just exceptionally unfortunately for the story she came to tell. The fact that she had been through so much made her all the more incredible to me. She has no idea how much her bravery and resilience has moved me, and so many others.
This girl was subjected to constant bullying by her peers. It was heart breaking to see that she had really taken to heart the terrible things the other girls said to her. Although she was absolutely gorgeous and adorable, she genuinely thought that she was weird and ugly. The bitter jealously that surely inspired the harsh words hurled at her would result in a severely damaged self-image for the rest of her life. If this weren’t enough, her boyfriend was terrible to her as well. In addition to just being a general dirt-ball, piece of shit, he also drugged her and raped her one night.
The universe saw fit to withhold all mercy from this poor girl. After this heinous incident came to light, she discovered that she was pregnant. Understandably, being a 16-year-old rape victim, she couldn’t bear to go through with the pregnancy. Thankfully her mother supported her through all of this and took her into the nearest city, over an hour away, to get an abortion. After all that she had already been subjected to, she was traumatized yet again on her way into the facility. Consider for a moment the monsters that had the gall, the self-righteousness, the ignorance, to shout at this terrified, emotionally devastated, victimized, CHILD as she went to seek a legal, morally sound, medical procedure, that if not performed would have shackled her to her rapist for the rest of her life.
As my heart ached and my blood pressure began to rise, I waited in silence to hear what the CPS workers would say about this whole situation. My area is very conservative, so it’s never easy to tell who supports women’s rights and who doesn’t. Thankfully, all of the case workers believed that this young girl did the right thing. However, much to my chagrin, they seemed to only feel this way because she was raped. Otherwise, even though she is only 16, they would have demonized her for making the perfectly valid decision to have an abortion.
I simply CANNOT wrap my head around this. People seem to think the militant pro-lifers that make no exception for rape or incest are worse than the ones that do, but at least the former have some sense of logical consistency. All of these people try to pretend that the question is: Is this a baby, a human life, or not? If you’re truly against abortion because you believe every single zygote is a human being with rights, then what difference does it make how that life came to be? If your stance is that a fetus is a baby, it’s still a baby even if it’s the result of rape or incest. It’s not the baby’s fault. Why does this “life” no longer matter when the mother was raped?
No, this is where the true colors of pro-lifers really start to be revealed. For most of these people, whether they are consciously aware of it or not, the question has never been about the humanity of the fetus. It’s always been about punishing the woman. In the conservative mind, pregnancy is the price you pay for having sex. If that pregnancy happens out of wedlock, all the more reason the woman should suffer by being forced to raise a baby on her own, in their minds. They feel it’s “cheating” if women have the bodily autonomy to avoid this “consequence” of their “immoral” actions. Therefore, if you have voluntary sexual intercourse that results in a pregnancy, it’s a life. BUT if you became pregnant without consenting to sex, then it’s not a life, because you don’t deserve to be punished.
This abhorrent logic is also the reason the question of life is never posed to fertility clinics that have freezers full of fertilized eggs that will be quietly disposed of. No one is demanding that these fetuses be implanted into a woman and birthed. When a fetus is separated from a woman, no one cares. Because it’s never been about the fetus. It’s about controlling and penalizing women.
So returning to this brave little girl’s story, a few questions remain that I would have liked to ask these CPS workers and everyone that thinks this abortion was only okay because she was raped. Before all of this, the rapist was this girl’s boyfriend. They were dating. She freely admitted that she had had sex with him multiple times before he drugged and raped her that night. There is no way of telling if this conception happened because of one of the consensual encounters, or because of the rape. Statistically, it’s probably less likely to have been the latter. What then? Was the abortion okay, or not? What the hell difference does it make if the fetus was there before or after the rape? It’s absolute madness to imagine that detail is relevant to the morality and legitimacy of her decision. Yet, to millions of people, it is an important distinction.
I don’t know what will get through to people about the topic of abortion, but I hope that at least one person reading this has come away with a deeper understanding of the complexity and real-life significance of this issue for women. I also hope that if anyone who has protested outside of a clinic before is reading this, that you feel utterly ashamed of yourself. Let this be a lesson that you have no idea what someone else’s story is, nor do you have any right to make such an important decision on their behalf. With the treat of banning abortion resurfacing in the United States, I believe it’s more important now than ever for people to share their thoughts and stories about this devastating reality so many women face every day. While I am no less passionate about this issue because of it, I am so inexplicably grateful that I was lucky enough to have a doctor to perform a sterilization procedure on me at such a young age. I knew it was only a matter of time before this right was stripped away from me, and I won’t be a human incubator. Like so many women who have come before me, I would rather die. Surely we will come to realize that there are many more woman today who feel the same when women once again start dying from botched abortions in back alleys. Pro-life is just a dog whistle. It means anti-women.
Advocacy vs. Activism
The word “activism” is described as: the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. “Advocacy” is defined in a slightly different way: public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. While these may seem like the same thing at first, I would argue that they are very different. Here are my definitions:
- Activism: fighting against policies or practices that one considers harmful or unethical.
- Advocacy: fighting for individuals or communities affected by harmful policies or practices.
I consider both of these to be valuable, necessary contributions to the betterment of society. However, that doesn’t mean we are all suited for them. Some of us may be more capable of handling the consequences, whether they be physical, emotional, or mental, of activism more so than advocacy or vise versa. For example, maybe someone finds it easier to go to protests and lobby their government than personally supporting victims. Perhaps they have a lot of passion for a given issue, but it is more painful to see the end result of those affected. This would be someone better suited for activism. As an advocate, I find it easier to support and care for the individual than to fight against what has harmed them. Then of course there are those that can’t bear the weight of either one, and that’s perfectly fine too. In order to make the most of our energy and make the biggest impact, I think it’s important that we honor these personal differences.
Today I wanted to take the time to offer some suggestions for those of you, like me, that find your energy is best spent doing advocacy work instead of activism. First, I think it needs to be reiterated that both of these are amazing and much needed. Regardless of what or how often you contribute, know that your efforts matter. I’m only focusing on advocacy because I feel it is the lesser understood of these forms of social justice. For organization sake, I am going to break down my suggestions for advocacy by issue. I also want to stress that whatever you do, no matter how small, is something for the world to be grateful for. Maybe you feel you can’t be vegan yourself, but support the vegan movement. You can still donate to sanctuaries, share information, foster shelter animals, etc. Maybe you’re too afraid to leave a toxic religious organization, but you want to support others who are. You can still help in creative, even clandestine ways. So don’t be discouraged by anyone who says it’s not enough. However much you feel you are able to give is enough. And maybe you don’t feel like you have anything to give at all, even then, you can share these resources with others who might be able to offer more. That too is a great help.
- Volunteer Clinic Escort: I just recently discovered that this is something you can do at Planned Parenthood. Instead of arguing with misogynists online, trying to make a difference in the collective consciousness, why not make a guaranteed difference in at least one woman’s life? Rather than raise your voice to shout down the hateful, ignorant protesters outside these clinics, let your voice be the gentle one at a fearful woman’s side championing her onward and wiping away her tears.
- Abortion Fund Donation: If you’re able to more easily give money than time, try donating to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Their mission is “to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by centering people who have abortions and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice.” Often the women that most desperately need to terminate a pregnancy are the ones least able to afford or access services. The procedure itself can be expensive, but now with abortion rights being threatened in more and more states, there can be added fees such as out of state travel or hotel stays. Donating to these funds is an excellent way to make sure that we are helping the most vulnerable maintain bodily autonomy and their human rights.
2. Religious Freedom (Freedom from Religion)
- Support Recovering From Religion: This organization offers people leaving religion dozens of resources to help them cope in this new phase of their life. It also offers supportive counseling for anyone who would like it. You can help by volunteering your time for this counseling and/or you can offer a monetary donation. Often when one leaves a very toxic religious group, it can be insanely difficult to adjust. Some churches completely cut you off from friends and family still involved with the church, leaving you with no support system at all. This is obviously an intimidation and manipulation tactic that organizations like Recovering From Religion help combat.
* I actually had a much more difficult time finding resources for this section than I imagined. Another great way for you to contribute would be by adding new resources. You might work to start a non profit or make your own fundraiser to support people leaving religion in various ways. Also if you know of any other organizations or sites offering help to people escaping from religious groups, leave them in the comments. I’m happy to update this post as often as needed to incorporate new resources.
- Black Lives Matter: At this point, I’m sure I don’t need to explain what this group is to anyone. However, even after hearing so much about this movement in the news, this is the first time I actually went to their website. There are a lot of amazing resources and information on there. You can sign up for their newsletter to stay updated on information and events. You can volunteer your time by helping to report misinformation on social media. And of course you can donate or purchase merchandise to help the group financially.
- Educate Yourself: One of the most important things that all of us can do is educate ourselves about the history of racism in our country. I think even one individual making an effort to absorb this knowledge is a step in the right direction. No matter how much I think I know about the oppression of black and brown people, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes of searching to find out about even more horrors. The more we know the better we will be able to support and show respect to our black friends and the black members of our community. Here is a list of resources you might find helpful in your pursuit for understanding. Just make sure that you are doing the work of educating yourself. Don’t burden you black friends/acquaintances with the job of educating you.
- Support Black Creators: I learned just the other day about the way social media algorithms actively suppress the voices of black creators. They are less likely to be recommended or broadcasted on the platform, therefor much less likely to be visible. If you use social media, you could make an effort to follow more black and brown accounts. You can also make the conscious choice to seek out movies, shows, books, etc. that were made by black people. In this way, we are not only offering financial support, but broadening our perspectives by exposing ourselves to more diverse content.
- Vegan Outreach: This is one of my favorite vegan organizations. Founded in 1993, Vegan Outreach is a nonprofit organization working to end violence towards animals. They “seek a future when sentient animals are no longer exploited as commodities.” Their website offers a lot of different ways to get involved. You can join their vegan mentor program and give helpful advice to people just starting out of their vegan journey. You can assist them in offering vegan food to local communities during Covid-19. You can even do something as simple as reviewing vegan foods through an app called abillion. In doing so, the app will automatically donate $1 to Vegan Outreach for each review!
- Make Vegan Art: What is more prevalent in today’s day and age than memes? Why not try your hand at creating some new catchy vegan slogans or images to share online? Currently this is the route my vegan advocacy is taking. There is no need to share the art you create on your personal accounts if you’re trying to avoid confrontation. You can simply publish them on your blog or even in chatrooms. Who knows? Maybe one will go viral and make a huge impact!
- Donate to Sanctuaries: Farm animal sanctuaries are doing the important work of protecting animals that have been rescued. Obviously it takes a lot of money to house, feed, and care for these animals. Donations are a great way to ensure that they can keep doing so. You can even start your own fundraiser or volunteer at a sanctuary near you.
- Foster an Animal: Veganism isn’t only about helping farmed animals. It’s just as important to do our part for the various other types of animals in shelters around the world. You can always donate to your local non-kill shelter, or offer to foster animals until they are able to be adopted.
- Share Your Food/Recipes: This is a little bit trickier given the pandemic, but as long as you take the proper precautions, sharing your delicious vegan food with non-vegan friends and family can be a great way to bolster the vegan movement. One of the main things people fear about veganism is not knowing what they would be able to eat. Everyone loves good food. Even if sharing your recipes with others doesn’t make them go vegan, it can lessen that fear of the unknown. In addition, it may keep an animal off of their plate for at least one meal, which is a win in my book. Sharing my vegan creamer at work has led to our non-vegan intern switching to it at home!
I hope that you’ve found these suggestions helpful and that you’ll give some of them a try. There are many ways to make a difference, so don’t get discouraged if activism is a bit too damaging for your mental health. You can always find new, creative, peaceful ways to help a cause that you are passionate about. Again, as I stated earlier, please let me know of any other resources you think I should add to any of the sections above. I would love to pack this post with as many options as possible to get people involved.
Testing My Compassion
I’ve written about my trouble with moths in my house on here before. Thankfully, I was able to pretty successfully get rid of them by placing lavender scented cotton balls throughout my cabinets, closets, and drawers. But now there is another plague upon my house: ladybugs.
My grandmother would often complain about ladybugs being in her house. I can remember seeing a few on a windowsill when I was a kid. I’ve also had a little trouble with them myself since I’ve lived here, but nothing too terrible. I’m not sure what has changed this year. Maybe it’s the weather or perhaps catching and releasing a jar full of stinkbugs from my room made more space for them, but they have absolutely taken over my home. I can’t walk through a room without seeing at least one. I brush four or five off of my kitchen counter and put them outside every time I try to cook. They crawl all over the windows. Dead ladybug bodies are scattered around the floor again a day after I’ve vacuumed.
I am really at a loss about what to do. And it isn’t just an annoyance. For me, it’s also a moral dilemma. At first, like the stinkbugs, I just found them silly, a mild inconvenience. But it’s really been out of control this year. I’ve started to look at them with anger and disgust. I feel hatred towards them. I have started to lose sight of the fact that they are living things. And I’m so ashamed of that.
I don’t want to feel this hatred. They don’t deserve my fury. They are just small beings doing their best to survive in this bizarre world. Just like I am. This has really been a trial of compassion. A test to see if I can maintain my connection with my heart as I move through my own home that’s been invaded. A test to see if I can show compassion to the very beings that have invaded it.
I have not intentionally squashed any of them and I don’t even plan on it. I simply couldn’t. Even if they do make me angry. I still feel guilty collecting them up to put them outside. They will most likely not be able to survive in the snow. But what am I to do? I know that in time, just like in the years before, they will dwindle and disappear again. I just need to be patient and cultivate my compassion until then.