Soften you heart and breathe deeply now is the time to rest in the warm security of our bountiful harvest To surrender to the stark contrast of the snow beneath an inky black sky to snuggle close together with the ones we love in warm stillness, in sweet silence Winter is a time to slow down to reflect on and rejoice in all the year has given to us to gather our blessings and give of ourselves Allow your heart to open to fill and be filled as we give thanks and gather together to welcome another new year
Nine years ago today, on my eighteenth Easter, I began the transition to a vegan diet. It’s always tough for me to know what to say when people ask me about when I became vegan. I probably wasn’t actually fully vegan until a couple of years later. More like a vegetarian, trying to make it to vegan. But I still want to give myself credit for those years I spent figuring things out. I’m not sure if other vegans count that transitional period as part of their vegan life or their pre-vegan life. I suppose some people might not have stumbled so much in the beginning like I did either.
My point is that I think intentions matter. I’m not trying to justify the support I gave to a monstrous industry out of personal weakness. I’m just saying that as an online community, vegans can be pretty ruthless to one another. I use to be one of these more ruthless vegans. I couldn’t help but lash out at vegetarians or vegans with “cheat days.” When it comes to such a serious and heart-rending issue as the lives and wellbeing of billions of animals, it’s only natural to get a little heated. However, it is also easy to turn a blind eye to our own past failings.
This post isn’t about calling out other vegans or myself. It’s about reminding myself and other long-time vegans out there not to forget where we came from. After nearly a decade adapting to this lifestyle, it can be easy to forget how impossible the change once seemed. Even though now it can be frustrating to hear people asking you the same ridiculous questions that they always have, keep answering them kindly. Keep being patient, even when you’d rather scream. A kind, thoughtful answer may not make the questioner go vegan, but a harsh response is guaranteed to turn them away from the idea entirely.
If you’ve read my other posts you may wonder why I even bother to care anymore. After all, I’ve said many times that I believe it’s too late to save the planet and life on earth as we know it. So why continue being vegan? Why do I care if other people go vegan or not? The simple answer to that question is suffering. I have always been sensitive to the idea of suffering. The mere existence of it is what caused me to lose my faith in a loving, all powerful god. And if there is no god to protect the innocent, I will. Or at the very least, I’ll do my best not to contribute to their suffering.
The crazy thing is that it doesn’t even feel like a conscious effort any more. I think one of the hard parts about going vegan is making that mental connection each time you decide what you’re going to eat or buy at the store. In the beginning making the right choice causes you pain because it makes you reflect on your impact in the world and the immense suffering and injustice that exists all around us. It is tempting to turn away, fall back into old habits, avoid thinking about it entirely. However, once veganism has become that comfortable, familiar habit, these painful feelings are reversed. The other day someone asked me if I would ever eat meat again. The idea alone left a bad taste in my mouth. I can’t even bring myself to look at the meat section in the grocery store. Those “foods” are a painful reminder of the atrocities humanity perpetrates on our innocent brethren. To eat a piece of meat is to eat a piece of flesh. It would be a willful decision to cast aside everything that I believe in in a way that it never was before going vegan. It would be simply impossible for me, painful even.
This drastic shift of consciousness that a vegan lifestyle elicits can make it hard for us to relate to the meat-eating masses. It’s tempting to try to forget that I was once one of them. When people ask me, I want to tell them that veganism was never a difficult choice to make, that it was always easy. But I am always honest instead. I tell them that it was hard for a long time. I tell them that I initially transitioned for selfish reasons, not out of a moral obligation to the animals I was eating. I tell them about the foods I miss eating and haven’t been able to replace. I let them know all of this. But I also let them know that despite all of that, becoming vegan was worth it. Becoming vegan was the best decision I ever made in my life. I would say I’m proud of that decision, but it just seems ridiculous to take pride in not harming others when that should be the default.
So if you are reading this post and you are not vegan, know that I don’t harbor any hatred or resentment towards you. I certainly don’t consider myself better than you, like a lot of people assume vegans do. What I hope you take with you from reading this is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Choosing a salad instead of a steak at a single meal is a reason to rejoice. Deciding not to add cheese or a creamy dip or adding a non-dairy creamer to your coffee or switching to a plant based milk at home, these are all wonderful, meaningful steps to take that make a difference. And I don’t mean make a difference for the world necessarily, I mean they make a difference for the animals. It may seem like an abstract statistic when we think about meat and dairy sales, simple facts and figures. An output two digits smaller than the year before may seem utterly insignificant, but just remember that those numbers are lives, sweet, precious babies, like the pets your have at home. And these small choices make a difference to them. So just do your best. Do whatever you can, no matter how small. If a mentally ill, eighteen-year-old can go vegan on Easter and still being going strong nine years later, anyone can do it.
This morning I woke up to the most wonderful gift I will receive this Christmas, the news that my coworker got her Covid test results back. She was negative. I am so relieved. I couldn’t be more grateful to know that I will be able to have Christmas with my family again this year. I was expecting to spend the holiday alone for the first time. I’m glad I held out hope and still wrapped all my gifts and prepared just in case. Sometimes we all need a reminder not to take these small moments together for granted. I know I am going to have an extra special Christmas this year now. Each second I spend with my family will be saturated with gratitude. I am so ready so soak it all in.
My grandmother was the main reason I was going to stay away if I had been exposed. I would never put her at risk. Yet, at the same time, I was also extra upset about having to stay away this year because of her. She is about to be 90 years old. Although she is shockingly healthy, I don’t know how many more holidays we will have together. I really didn’t want to miss a single one, even if it was to protect her. I am so glad that now I don’t have to. However, it still breaks me heart that I won’t be able to hug her and hold her tight when I see her this Friday.
My grandma understands that we are keeping our distance more than usual because we don’t want her to get sick, but I think it still hurts her. I’m sure it is hard for all elderly people these days. Loved ones want to keep away so they can live longer, but then we also run the risk of missing their final days, months, years on this earth anyway. I don’t know what I would do if my grandmother died even a natural death in these dark times. I might not be able to bear the knowledge that I wasn’t able to hug her, kiss her, hold her hand in her last days. God forbid she be hospitalized. Forced to spend her final moments making the decision of which single family member she would like to have by her bedside.
I don’t like to think about my grandmother passing away. But that grim reality gets closer every year, and eventually I will have to face it. This year has made that harsh realization clearer than ever. But sometimes fear, impermanence, uncertainty, make moments spent in happiness together all the more poignant. I am not going to take this Friday for granted. In the place of hugs, I am going to pour my heart out in warm words. I am going to write my love into each card I give. I am going to vibrate with an energy so strong, so grateful, so loving that it will touch everyone around me even if I can’t touch them myself.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas. I know I will.
Even though I am a summer person and generally prefer warm weather and sunshine, there has always been a special place in my heart for the Christmas season. I haven’t been religious since I was in middle school, but I’ve never lost my love for Christmas. It seems like it has lost most of its religious significance in modern times anyway. It is a heck of a lot more focused on consumerism and commercialism. However, for me, it’s always been about coziness, togetherness, and family. There is just something so inexplicably satisfying about being warm and safe and close to the ones you love when it’s so cold and grey and inhospitable outside.
Whereas spring and summer are full of activity and exuberance, the fall and winter months are more suited to the quiet stillness of going within. They are a time to rest and be mindful. A time to pause and reflect on all that we are grateful for. It is a time to hold your loved ones close and give thanks that we have all made it through another long year together.
My family isn’t really very affectionate. We don’t give tons of hugs and kisses. We don’t have many heartfelt conversations. I’ve always been envious of other families in that regard. I am an affectionate person, but I feel my ability to express that has been underdeveloped after living amongst such closed off people my whole life. For me, Christmas is an excuse to really lay my love on thick without feeling awkward about it. It feels like grand emotional displays are more acceptable during this time of the year. It gives me the courage to let myself be truly vulnerable. This holiday makes my heart feel so open.
I have a friend that always writes a lot in every card she gives you. They are always beautifully worded outpourings of genuine love. For years now I’ve made a tradition of this for myself. Every gift I give for Christmas has a least two parts: the physical gift, as well as a poetic verbal summation of my profound love and appreciation. My family has come to expect these tear-jerking messages each year. I always joke about the way people cry whenever they receive a gift from me. I’ve learned that no matter how wonderful your gift is, nothing can compare to putting your love for someone into words.
Even if you think the person already knows how you really feel, don’t hesitate to tell them whenever you find a chance. Kind words can mean so much. I save every heartfelt card I’ve received from my friend over the years. I read them over whenever I stumble across one, and they never fail to cheer me up and calm me down. I treasure them more than any physical gift I’ve received from her.
Writing a personal card for someone can also be a great alternative to buying a gift. Especially with the financial insecurity this year has brought, it’s comforting to know that you always have something you can give: your love. You may be surprised to find this warm gesture is even more significant than an expensive gift would have been.
I hope that you can also use this season to open your heart and share that deep well of love with the people around you. It is a beautiful thing to witness yourself learn to shift your focus from receiving gifts as a child, to giving them as an adult. It’s hard to decide which phase is better. The excitement of waking up to presents under the tree as a child was amazing, but I think I may prefer the soft, deep, reverberating warmth of being able to give to those you love even more.
The holidays are a perfect microcosm of some of the underlying reasons most people find veganism unappealing. As someone who thinks from a very analytical and logical perspective most of the time, it is hard for me to accept some of the more social and emotional considerations people have surrounding veganism. I can understand these factors, but in my mind they hold absolutely no weight in the matter.
I adore food and the days centered around eating as much of it as possible are some of my favorites. So I was not immune from the initial hardships of a vegan lifestyle. That first vegan holiday will be hard. You’ll have to give it a bit more effort. Finding new recipes to try or cooking your own dishes when you’d normally have everything prepared for you. Maybe there is a particular dish that represents a lot of tender memories that you can no longer enjoy with your family.
Every year I still go out of my way to put on a good show for the holidays. I pull up pictures of past Thanksgiving meals on my phone to satisfy the many questions I’m sure to receive from friends and coworkers. What do you eat for Thanksgiving? You don’t have turkey?? Yet no one ever seems happy with my reply. I can’t tell if they are disappointed I was able to show them an immaculate meal, calling into question their own commitment to a meat filled holiday, or if they still find my meal sad and feel pity for me.
To be honest, this part of my holidays is harder than my dietary restrictions themselves. I detest playing the vegan emissary. Answering the same questions, hearing the same responses and comments year after year with a stiff smile. I feel it’s my duty to at least give a good face to veganism. Even though I know it never changes anyone’s mind in the end. I know it would be worse if I gave them a reason to believe a vegan holiday was desolate and pathetic or that vegans are hostile, angry, or unfriendly. Most people are dying to believe those things already.
However, it makes me sick to play the part of the happy, welcoming, friendly vegan. I don’t want to have to cater to people’s childish, selfish concerns about a vegan diet. In my mind what I eat or don’t get to eat for holiday meals is totally irrelevant. Sometimes I just want to shout: Animals are suffering. Animals are dying. For a fucking meal. Its absurd. It’s horrific. It’s an outrage. Why are we talking about if I miss my mom’s homemade stuffing?! Even if I ate the paper plates on Thanksgiving, it doesn’t give anyone the right to murder another being.
I know most people’s minds are not so black and white. But to me it’s the most black and white issue there is. Nothing justifies unnecessary death. We can live perfectly happy and healthy lives without meat and dairy products. That should be the end of the discussion. There is nothing else to consider. Why must I dance around this fact with everyone I meet? Even trying to nail someone down on that simply fact doesn’t work. The mind is a slippery mistress. Even though I’m sure everyone can agree that killing animals is wrong, they somehow build a defensive, exclusionary wall around the killing they participate in. And that wall is impenetrable.
So today I prepare to play the “good vegan.” I will bring delectable dishes that hardly anyone will try. I will ignore the jeers and unoriginal jokes. I will avert my gaze from the body parts my family happily fills their plates with. And I will try to remember that I was once one of them. I will try to remember that the mind is fascinating and complex. It’s defense mechanisms are strong and enduring. And 2 + 2 does not equal 4 when it comes to human beings. Killing and eating animals is horrific and cruel, my family and friends kill and eat dead animals, but my family and friends are not heartless or cruel. Some days it’s hard for me to accept that.
In memory of the 56 billion each year, 153.4 million each day, 6.4 million each hour, 106,546 each minute.Carol Adams
When I started this blog, I intended to focus on veganism. I wanted to make a change in the world and help vegans in small areas of the country like me be successful. As you can see from the majority of my posts, I’ve all but abandoned that goal. I quickly grew weary of fighting what seems like a hopeless battle.
Yet I still have a small ember of that fire in my heart. I feel guilty about giving up on the billions of farmed animals that are alive and suffering at this very moment. I know that I should be fighting every day, every moment, with every breath I have. Even if it is hopeless. Even if I burn myself up in the process. Even if I lose my voice from screaming. Because who else will help them? What right do I have to live happily, to turn my head away, when they are still suffering?
When the holidays come around each year it gets more difficult to avoid these painful truths. There is a seemingly never ending stream of curious questions about what I’ll eat for Thanksgiving. Looks of mild disgust when I happily explain how yummy my tofurky always is. Looks of pity when they think about my holidays as a vegan.
I try to be a good example, give a good sales pitch. I try not to get annoyed when I have to answer the same questions for the 9th year in a row. That deep well of rage still simmers in my soul. Bitter outrage at the insanity, the inhumanity of it all. But after all these years a heavy sadness overwhelms that anger. A cold damp rain in my heart, threatening to extinguish that ember. A sadness about the ways things are, my inability to change this fucked up world, about all the lovely, innocent babies crying out somewhere in the dark.
There are very few things that can bring me to tears. Imagining the grand scale, the sheer magnitude of unimaginable suffering the human race inflicts upon these gentle beings is one of them. I spent my meditation today silently weeping for them. Saying I’m sorry, desperately wishing them some sense of peace, an end to their pain.
Maybe if I could shed these tears at the dinner table on December 25th I could finally get through to my family. Maybe I could show them the anguish I feel. The anguish they contribute to, are complacent with. The sickening absurdity of praying for peace on earth before carving up a corpse.
I know even that would not move them though. They would just think that I’m insane. Or trying to get attention. Because that’s how all vegans are seen. We are dramatic, attention seekers. We are arrogant, know-it-alls. We are despised and mocked. No one wants to confront their own hypocrisy, their own atrocities. And I can’t really blame them. It isn’t easy to live with this immense weight. This horrible knowing.
And so I prepare to share my table with death, with violence, with cruelty, with ignorance this holiday season, as I do every year. And I will swallow that pain with my red wine. I will pretend it’s all okay. I will close my heart to the bodies of my brethren laid before me with shame. Because I simply cannot bear to feel what I truly feel. I cannot bear to scream and fight anymore. And I am so ashamed. I am so sorry that I am not strong enough to save them.
I’ve always struggled with an all or nothing mentality. No matter what I do I’m either pedal to the metal or not even in the car. It is hard for me to find any grey areas or middle ground. I tend to fluctuate between pushing myself way too hard and crashing and burning for awhile. It’s a very tiring and chaotic way to go through life. Not to mention it leads me to always set myself up for failure.
There are a lot of things I want to work on this holiday season and in the coming year. And thanks to Covid-19 coming back stronger than ever in the US, I have at least two more weeks of remote work coming my way. Although I wasted the summer months I had at home, I am hopeful that I’ll be able to make a plan for myself that I can stick to and be productive with my newfound free time. (I honestly don’t have much to do at work, so working from home is basically paid leave.)
Here is a brief summary of the things I’d like to accomplish so you have an idea:
- Plan holiday food
- Finish Christmas shopping
- Make detailed New Year’s resolution goals/plan
- Decorate for the holidays
- Organize/minimize my things
- Deep clean my house
- Hygge-fy my home
- Set up TVs
- Put up wallpaper in the kitchen
It feels like every time I am feeling overwhelmed by my mental to-do list, writing it out makes it seem far less daunting. I think I will definitely be able to accomplish a good deal, if not all, of those things in the next few months. My only problem is actually allowing myself to space it out in a reasonable way.
The main reason I haven’t already gotten around to doing a lot of these things that I’ve wanted to do for a long time now is that I overwhelm myself. Normally I would look at “deep clean my house” and be paralyzed. I’d imagine every little task that larger one entails and feel forced to tackle every single one in an afternoon. I imagine that if I can’t get it all done at once, it will feel unfinished. My OCD is not pleased.
Rationally I know that even doing a tiny piece of it is better than avoiding it entirely. But I am easily immobilized by my own demands. That is why I am going to try to set aside time to break these larger goals down into MUCH smaller tasks. Then I can space these tasks out over as many days as I need to until the whole goal is achieved. For instance, organizing my things doesn’t have to be one task encompassing every nook and cranny of my two story house at once. I can first break the house up into rooms. Then sections of those rooms. Maybe on Monday I will organize my bedroom closet, the dresser on Tuesday, my desk and surfaces on Wednesday, etc.
Those seem like much more reasonable goals that I will be able to feel happy about completing each day. In this way I hope to be able to find a little more balance in my life. I don’t have to choose between reorganize my wardrobe, the kitchen cabinets, and every closet in the house on one single hellish day or avoiding the idea all together.
When I think about the smaller tasks I’ll be able to do rather easily adding up to the final goal being completed, I am even excited! I get that nostalgic feeling of when I was a kid and would happily clean and reorganize my room. I may have done that in the span of one Saturday, but I need to remind myself that it was only one room back then. I can’t expect myself to do that with an entire house in the same length of time.
It is going to feel so good to finally be gentle with myself. Not to mention actually make progress towards these things I’ve wanted for so long! This post was mostly just for myself. Spilling out all the thoughts that have been running circles inside my head and reaffirming my resolve. However, I hope that you can use this as a reminder to also be gentle with yourself. Are there any goals you would like help breaking down into smaller bits? Do you have any tips or tricks on how to reign yourself in so you don’t end up burning out? I’d love to hear you thoughts and/or advice on finding balance.
I’ve been reading about an interesting part of Danish culture recently known as hygge. (Don’t ask me how to pronounce it. I’ve heard it said a few different ways.) My interpretation of the word based on what information I’ve gathered so far is coziness. Apparently it is a major part of the Danish lifestyle and vocabulary. And given that Danish people are ranked some of the happiest people in the world, I wanted to write a little bit about this concept today.
I find it so interesting that a lot of things that are deemed hygge are the exact same things that have always given me that cozy, safe feeling my whole life. I would love to know why these comforts seem to be able to cross cultural barriers. I’m sure there are some interesting psychological principles behind that. Either way, I plan on making hygge a huge part of this holiday season and the year ahead.
To me hygge seems like the ultimate mindful incorporation of self-love into everyday living. Hygge is all about soft lighting, warm food and drink, quiet corners, soft blankets, comfy clothes, and dear friends. Sounds like Christmas right? Well why not invite that warm feeling each and every day?
I’ve always been obsessed with low, soft lighting. There is just something about string lights and lamps that provide a sense of peace and comfort. Just the image of snuggling up with my pets on the couch, candle burning, book in hand, coffee brewing, makes me feel so happy inside. To me, this is self care. This is self love. And this is the atmosphere I want to give myself in 2021.
But since fall and winter are the most hygge seasons, I’m obviously not going to wait until then to begin. I found a free PDF of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living if you’re interested in learning more for yourself. It seems like a general introduction to the concept, so I’m eager to find more material on the subject. I hope to find more helpful tips on how to make my home as hygge as possible. As well as maximize my family holiday hygge factor.
One important part of hygge that I worry I’ll struggle with is the social connection. However, I am hoping that my excitement to incorporate hygge into my life will encourage me to create more meaningful social encounters with my close friends and family. A hygge hangout seems like exactly my cup of tea.
Let me know if you have any hygge habits that you can share. I have become ravenously hungry for everything hygge! If any of you are Danish or know about Danish culture, please feel free to explain this concept to me better, as I’m sure there is still a lot I don’t understand about hygge.
Even though I’ve been an atheist for over a decade now, I still love, love, LOVE “Christian” holidays. (They are actually kinda Pagan holidays, but I digress.) I view them as an excellent time to enjoy delicious fattening foods without guilt and spread lots of love to my friends and family. In addition to the unorthodox way I already celebrate, my past six years of veganism have made my holidays even more controversial and strange. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!
This year my grandmother that usually makes deviled eggs for my family’s Easter dinner was no longer with us. She passed away a few weeks after the new year began. In loving memory of her and her delicious addition, I decided to make my own version of these delights. I used to absolutely adore deviled eggs and eggs in general. Until now, I was under the assumption that a lot of egg dishes were simply impossible to recreate realistically in a vegan way. However, I recently went to a vegan restaurant in Pittsburgh, PA called The Onion Maiden where they serve vegan deviled eggs! I was overjoyed when I ordered them and discovered they were almost identical to the real deal.
After a quick Google search, I found that the secret ingredients to make a firm egg-like substance were Agar Powder and Black Salt. I was easily able to order both of these on Amazon for less than $10. Once I received these ingredients I was eager to taste the black salt because I had never heard of it before and I was very skeptical that these few ingredients that were called for would be able to produce something as egg-y as what I had sampled at The Onion Maiden. To my surprise, black salt is basically egg as a seasoning. Even by itself, it tastes exactly like a salted boiled egg!!! I am so blown away by this and the fact that I hadn’t known this as a vegan for all these years that I may make a separate post just about this incredible find. All vegans need to be aware of this!
I used the recipe from BakedIn.com that was simple and took less than an hour. I have included the link to the recipe and a photo of everything I used above. (I didn’t want to buy more almond milk, so I just used what I had even though it was vanilla instead of plain. It didn’t seem to make a huge difference, but I’ll definitely use plain in my next batch.) I was quite pleased with the result. Even my non-vegan family members and friends were surprised at how similar my vegan version was to actual deviled eggs. These are definitely going to be a staple holiday food for me from now on. Let me know if you try them yourselves and what you think. Also THANK THE VEGAN GODS FOR BLACK SALT.
Hope you all had a lovely, cruelty-free holiday. ♥
I have definitely lost a bit of motivation regarding my bujo this month since it’s about to be a brand new year. I am more eager to begin my bujo for 2018 and make the first pen marks in my Leuchtturm 1917 notebook. This is the brand I most often seen being used for bullet journaling. They are a bit pricey so I wanted to make sure I was going to follow through with the habit before investing my money in a fancy journal. After a very productive year of journaling (in a notebook that was not necessarily sturdy enough to handle it), I am confident it is worth the money.
Even though it’s basically half-way through the month already, I wanted to go ahead and show you guys my bujo spread for December. I hope you like it!
The photos in the last week of my November spread do not belong to me. I found them on Tumblr as I often do to jazz up a weekly spread if I’m feeling anxious rather than excited about coming up with something to doodle.
I particularly like how my goals and tracker page turned out this month. Sadly I have yet to fill anything in because I wanted to get a photo first in the natural light, forgetting that when I get home from work it is always pitch black now. Oh, the delightful fun of the winter months. I can’t wait for the sun to return to me.
I tried to make the theme cozy winter bunnies, but all the red ended up giving this first weekly spread a more Valentine’s Day vibe. (Oops!)
This month I experimented with adding a positive affirmation to each week’s spread so I could practice replacing the negative thoughts I have throughout the day with something more loving. Whenever I catch myself in a loop of toxic thinking, I try to change this automatic dialogue into a more beneficial one. Repeating uplifting mantras in moments of stress and self-doubt really does do a lot to alter your mental state and view of the situation.
I hope that you are all having a splendid December so far! Also, to any of you that may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder like I am, don’t be too hard on yourself. It can seem hopeless when, after making steady progress, you find yourself sliding backwards into bad habits. Just know that you are doing your best, and progress is always sprinkled with periods of plateaus and slight regressions. Just keep moving forward, and I promise that your energy, your creativity, and your enthusiasm will return with the warm air, green scenery, and sunshine. Hang in there a bit longer and don’t forget to acknowledge yourself for still trying when things get hard. ♥