Premature Suffering

Of all the things I fear, it isn’t now and it isn’t here.

Make a Change; Nahko Bear & Medicine for the People

I have been so very fortunate to not have suffered much misfortune in my life. My family members and myself have been healthy and safe. I’ve been treated with kindness, love, and respect by the vast majority of people in my life, most importantly my parents. I’ve never had to go to sleep hungry. Never lost a home due to financial strain or environmental disaster. I’ve always had wonderful, close friends. I’ve always lived amongst the lush green silence of nature. I’ve only experienced the loss of one close relative. I’ve never even broken a bone or been hospitalized.

Despite this, I seem to internally be in a state of constant suffering. I suffer the things that have not happened, the things that have yet to happen, the things that might happen someday. I’ve worried myself sick over thoughts of things that never came to pass. The vast majority of the things I’ve suffered were not realities, only fantasies. Anxiety is a near constant state of suffering future events. The worst part of that is, while there likely won’t always be something happening in your life that’s painful or frightening, there will always be something in the near of distant future that could be. This allows me to prolong my suffering indefinitely.

My pattern is to tell myself that whatever it is I’m fixating on is the “reason” I’m upset/unhappy. I desperately wish I had a magic wand to resolve this particular, isolated issue so that I could find peace and happiness. Even if I had the ability to immediately address, resolve, or prevent whatever it is I’m worrying about, I seem to forget that something else will just as quickly press in on me to take it’s place. Sometimes that same fear comes and goes on a revolving cycle, shaking me to my core and then dissipating without consequence.

My anxiety tells me that I have to be constantly vigilant, that I cannot let these possible catastrophes catch me by surprise. Somehow it feels like if I keep my mind constantly glued to what might happen, I’ll be more prepared if/when it does. I know this to be false though. For example, my dog has been ill on and off for months now. Each time she has a flare up, I grieve over her as if she’s died. I fear that day’s inevitable arrival and I ruminate on the pain it will cause me endlessly. Then when she feels better in a couple days, I forget all about it. Do I really believe that thinking about my beloved pup’s death will make it hurt any less when it happens? Obviously it will hurt terribly, unbearably. I can’t prevent that by making myself experience it before it even occurs. All that does is intensify and prolong my suffering.

This perpetual fear of the future is a thief that robs me of all the joys and wonderful moments of my life. It’s devastating to realize, looking back, that although I’m exhausted from the daily suffering I carry with me, nothing bad has actually happened to me. Surely my dog, as well as everyone else I love, will die someday. How can grieving those losses right now make that situation better? The knowledge that bad things can and likely will happen in the future shouldn’t take away the pleasure of living today when everything is alright. The thought of death and loss doesn’t have to be something that causes pain in the present. It can be a reminder of how wonderful our lives our right now. It can remind us to treasure every moment we spend together, to not take even the smallest moments of tenderness for granted, to make sure we express how much we love those in our lives.

My dog is going to die some day. Maybe tomorrow, maybe five years from now. Maybe I’ll be in a car accident on my way home and never have to experience her death at all. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Even the things that seem inevitable, might be things that you won’t end up being around for anyway. The future is all just possibilities, created and crafted by our own limited minds. The present is real, it’s right in front of us. We hold it in our hands right now. It should be cherished. It deserves our full attention, our mindful presence, and loving awareness. Don’t let the future take away what you already have. If control is what I’m after, I should focus on what I can control and that is this moment, what the universe has placed before me in each unfolding moment, as it happens.

Pain Puts Things in Perspective

Without the fear of loss would we ever truly appreciate anything? We suffer from the mere thought of a loved one becoming ill or dying. We wish that we could live in a world without such awful realities. Yet, I wonder if a world without these negative moments, would be worth living in. It’s easy to imagine that in a world without pain, sickness, or death we would all be eternally happy, loving, and grateful. I’d like to believe this is true, but part of me knows myself too well to even pretend.

When I first became an atheist, the loss of the afterlife I’d imagined, didn’t make life less meaningful, it made it more so. Life was no longer simply a dress-rehearsal for eternity. This was it. This was what mattered, all that mattered, and I had to make every moment count. There would be no waiting to reconcile with someone past the pearly gates. There would be no final repentance or forgiveness or second chance to share my love with those most precious to me. This what it. This time I have on earth was all that I was going to get. Wasting it was not an option. When I died, when a family member or friend died, that was it, the final curtain call. Never knowing when that moment might come, the contemplation of that fact, is what give me the courage to not hold back.

Oh course, we can’t help wishing we could avoid it when the pain inevitably comes. I desperately wish that my dog was healthy and I didn’t have to go spend god only knows how much on expensive treatment, but somehow at the same time, I’m grateful for this experience. The small, petty problems of day to day pale in comparison to the joy of holding my dog in my arms. Even my recent fears and worries about money, seem insignificant. I have enough to save my baby, and that’s all I need. What a blessing it is that I can afford to help her. Nothing else matters.

Ideally we’d like to always recognize the love we are blessed with and never take an opportunity to bask in that love for granted. The reminder that my dog will die one day, that she will become sick and beyond help one day, makes the time I share with her all the more poignant. I want to think I’d always treat her with the devotion, attention, and affection she deserves regardless of the time we have in the future, but I know that isn’t true. These past few days of fear and uncertainty have shown me that. They’ve highlighted for me just how much I have been taking her for granted.

How many times have we said we’re “too busy” for those dear to us? Would we ever have enough time for them if our time together was not limited? Or would we keep putting off those quiet, tender, attentive moments indefinitely? I honestly don’t know. All I know is that I’ve never felt more grateful for every caress and sloppy kiss shared with my sweet dog daughter than I have in the last few days. Even the thought of her sweet, loving face and wagging tail brings tears to my eyes. I want to spend every moment I can with her. I want to make sure she knows just how important she is to me. I want her to feel this love I hold for her inside and know what I cherish her.

It pains me to say it, but I know that without this recent health scare, I would be continuing on as always. I’d be paying little attention to her and getting annoyed at her for little things. I’d speak harshly to her for not doing as she’s told. I’d feel irritated by always having to clean up after her. The realities of suffering, pain, illness, and death are sadly essential. We need them to shock us back to our senses. When faced with these hard truths, we are reminded again and again that love is the only thing that really matters. Everything else is irrelevant. Suddenly we see just how absurd it is to waste time and energy on anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, fear, etc. We should be spending every ounce of our beings on putting forth more love and happiness into the world. No phone call is more important than acknowledging your child. No chore is so urgent that you can’t take the time to be kind.

These are life lessons that we must learn again and again. In this way, the things that bring us the most agony in life are actually things to be grateful for. Death and loss are hard to accept, nearly impossible at times, but without them there would also be no love, no peace, no joy, no perspective. We must always try to be grateful for it all, even when it’s hard.

Funeral Tech Startups Expand Your Posthumous Possibilities | WIRED

The Price of Love

I feel my phone begin to vibrate as I’m on the other line with my mother last night. I glance at the screen to see that my best friend is calling. I thought it somewhat odd as we usually send a text before we call one another, but didn’t think much of it. I finished talking to my mom and called her back about 10-20 minutes later. To my surprise, she was actually calling me because she was on the way to the vet to meet her husband who had just taken one of their cats there. They were both in a panic and she just wanted to hear a comforting voice.

Although I was touched that she would reach out to me in this state, I couldn’t help but get angry at what she told me. Their cat was experiencing a urinary blockage, which is a rather common issue for cats. I believe a couple of my family cats have had the same problem in the past. The shocking part was the estimate they were given for the cost of treatment: $3,500. I knew it would be a lot, but holy mother of God. I immediately started doing research.

It didn’t take more than a few minutes to discover that this price was at the very highest end of the scale for treatment cost for a urinary blockage. I collected all the information I could, advised my friend about what specific questions to ask the vet, and sent her the links to the websites I had referenced. In the event the vet didn’t give them any alternatives, I also told her she should call around to try to get estimates from other vets before agreeing to anything.

I was happy that I was able to help my friend during this difficult time, but after we hung up, I was left reeling with disgust for the healthcare system in this country for not only humans, but our fur children as well. With this grim reality heavy on my mind, I am even more concerned with what I think I’ve discovered today about my own four legged baby. For the last few months, she has had very bizarre, yet extreme symptoms that seem to come and go without cause. One day she’ll be fine, then the next she’ll be nearly crippled. Then a day or two later, she’ll be okay again. I hesitated to take her to the vet thus far because I feared they’d only run all kinds of expensive tests with no guarantee of a diagnosis or effective treatment.

However, the decision to make an appointment has all but been decided for me today. By complete chance, one of the children I met at work was saying that her dog has Lyme Disease. I don’t know why I hadn’t considered it before, but my heart sank as I looked up the symptoms. My dog has been displaying nearly every single one. It has been the only thing I’ve read that actually fits her strange difficulties the last few months.

A bit more research has suggested the cost may be upwards of $1000 for treatment, even if it is still a mild case and hasn’t already damaged her heart or kidneys. I am ready and willing to pay whatever it takes to ensure that my sweet baby girl is happy and healthy again. And the sad part is, the vets know that. I am hopeful because so far my vet has always been very understanding and reasonable. I believe they even have payment plan options available. However, it sickens me to know that so many people take advantage of our love and desperation to help our pets. Our intern told me today that her mother was once charged $250 just to be given their dog’s body back in a garbage bag.

I think often our guilt at not wanting to pay what we are asked or our panic to have our pet healed leads people not to question or challenge the price tag. However, you should never have to feel guilty about standing up for yourself or resisting someone else’s efforts to take advantage of you. There is nothing wrong with asking more questions, doing your own research, or even getting quotes from other vets. In fact, I highly encourage you to do this. I’d also just like to offer any help I can to others who have found themselves in these heart wrenching situations. My vet actually has the cards at their front desk, but just in case yours does not, there is a program/website called Good Rx. I had known about this for human medications, but didn’t realize they had a pet version as well. Good Rx is a way to ensure that you are getting the absolute best price for any medication.

I know that’s not much help. I wish I could offer more. I sincerely hope that this information can be of use to anyone reading this. I am grateful to be fortunate enough to be able to afford my dog’s treatment, but I shudder to think of the pain of not having the money to help her. I would, as I’m sure many other people have, go to great lengths to get her the care she needs, no matter the impact or financial devastation I may have to experience as a result. It is truly one of the ugliest aspects of human nature that these vets and doctors display, to take advantage of someone’s love, someone’s health, just to make a bigger profit. I offer my deepest sympathy to anyone who has been the victim of this cruel exploitation, and for those that haven’t, I pray you never do.

Pros and cons of becoming a vet - PetProfessional

Covid Symptoms

Well, it finally happened. This morning as I got up to turn off my alarm, the first thing my barely conscious brain registered was a slight discomfort at the back of my throat whenever I would swallow. Despite being vaccinated and receiving my booster, I knew it was only a matter of time considering I work with the general public every day. I wiped a little one year old’s nose Tuesday. A twelve year old boy came in maskless and coughing Wednesday. The nurse that came to our meeting yesterday has been working on the Covid unit. I should have known at least one of these regular possible exposure situations would eventually result in getting sick myself. Not to mention I live in a very rural, conservative area where no one ever fully followed the CDC guidelines and I’m sure there are plenty of people that, to this day, never wore a mask. It’s shocking I haven’t experienced symptoms sooner.

Unlike my usual groggy morning self, this morning I was wide awake. My mind was racing with all of the things I am supposed to do today and this weekend. I starting making mental bullet points of all the things I needed to cancel, where testing is available, etc. I felt frustrated that I just put on new fake nails that no one will get to see. I worried about the things I left at my office that I won’t be able to get for god knows how long now. A small part of me wanted to somehow think of a way I could avoid quarantine all together. In the end I knew I had to text everyone at work and my yoga studio to let them know.

After finally coming to terms with what has so far only been a minor inconvenience, I began to have very different thoughts. Given that I still feel rather normal and healthy aside from my throat, I did my morning workout as I normally do while I waited to hear back from my boss. Instead of feeling annoyed and reluctant to move my body first thing in the morning like I usually do, today I felt so overwhelmingly grateful that I could. I considered just how unbelievably lucky I have been so far during the course of this never-ending pandemic. Not only that, but how lucky I have been in life, especially regarding my physical health.

I’m a bit of a hypochondriac, so part of me wants to believe that this sore throat is something unrelated, but knowing that I haven’t had so much as a cold for over a decade, leaves me feeling pretty confident it’s Covid. Yet realizing I’ve been so healthy for such an extended period of time is incredible. Not only that, I am so fortunate to be young and healthy in the face of this pandemic. My biggest fear is losing my sense of smell and/or having lingering fatigue. Although these still seem horrifying to me, I have to remind myself that so many people are afraid of literally dying from this virus.

It’s funny, I was just thinking yesterday that there is something beautiful about the sudden negative turns in life. Despite the content or context, they are like being jarringly awoken from a dream. Everything around you becomes so much sharper and more defined. Reality takes on a crystalline, vivid nature. We see everything more clearly, as if for the first time. We become painfully aware of all that we have, and also all that we stand to lose. We are reminded that we should never take anything for granted, whether it be something as significant as our ability to breathe with ease or as seemingly trivial as our sense of smell.

Even the most inconvenient or potentially devastating life events can be a blessing in this way. Today I am going to spend my time off counting my many blessings. I’m going to be exceptionally kind and gentle with myself. I’m going to give myself my favorite foods and savor my ability to taste them. I am going to give my body rest and tenderness. I am going to center my loving awareness on the people most dear to me, and be thankful that I live alone and haven’t had the chance to potentially expose them to my sickness. I am going to spend quality time with my fur babies and be grateful I have a job that allows me to work from home when needed. Hell, maybe I’ll even take an afternoon nap which I haven’t done in years.

Whether I end up testing positive for Covid or not, I am so humbled by all that life has given me. I am going to use this time of fear and uncertainty to meditate on this beautiful slice of consciousness that the universe has gifted to me and all that it entails. My heart goes out to the rest of the world and all those who have suffered or are currently suffering from this virus. May you be safe. Maybe you be happy. May you be healthy. And may you live with ease. Today I will let this be my prayer, my mantra, for myself, my loved ones, and the world.

5 Face Mask Facts for Kids - Carithers Pediatric Group

Covid-19: No End In Sight

It’s crazy to me that despite Covid being as bad as it’s ever been if not worse, we have not returned to a state of lock down, at least in the U.S. It feels like everyone took it seriously for a few months, but then got tired of feeling inconvenienced so we all just collectively gave up following the CDC guidelines. It saddens me to think all of the work we put in as a country in the beginning of this pandemic was practically worthless. We were hoping for herd immunity. We were supposed to be waiting for the vaccine, then things would be able to go back to normal. Now given that a huge portion of the country won’t agree to take the vaccine, wear masks, quarantine, or even get tested, the end result is an never-ending pandemic with ever increasing severity.

All of the lives we were attempting to protect with the nearly year-long lockdown are going to be lost anyway. Even those that have been vaccinated are no longer safe, due to the carelessness and selfishness of those around them. Now those of us that take the pandemic seriously are forced to choose: stay away from our elderly and/or at risk loved ones, or risk letting them spend their last few years on this earth alone. Before all of this madness, my sister, mother, and I were visiting with my 91-year-old grandmother every week. Now I hardly ever see her besides on holidays even though she lives a short five minutes from my house. I desperately want to go back to our regular visits, but I’m too afraid of putting her health in jeopardy.

Sadly I think we all need to accept that from now until the world completely collapses from the effects of climate change, we are going to be living side by side with this virus. It isn’t going to go away or get better. We are never going to reach herd immunity. New variants are going to continue cropping up, becoming more and more easily spread and more deadly. Covid is a strain of the common cold. We have never been unable to eradicate the other strains, and we are going to be living with Covid for the rest of human existence now as well.

Recently I’ve been considering just how serious anyone’s chance of exposure is on any given day. Unless you are able to stay completely isolated in your home, we are all likely coming into contact with someone that has Covid wherever we go. Red states and districts will of course be worse in this regard than blue ones, but nevertheless we are all at higher risk of contracting the virus than ever before. Just think about it. How many people do you know that still don’t believe that Covid-19 is even real? How many people think it’s exaggerated? How many people refuse to wear a mask? Refuse to get tested or quarantine when they’ve been exposed or are experiencing symptoms? I know quite a few, and those are just the few I’ve encountered and who will freely admit this atrocious stance. Just imagine how many children are being sent to school everyday who have been exposed to Covid. Many schools are not requiring masks and those that do are being fought with for it at every turn.

At this point, there is nothing to do but get vaccinated, go out as little as possible, and just hope you’re lucky. We must prepare to live with the fear of death hanging over our shoulders from now on. We must prepare to suddenly lose loved ones at any given moment. Hospitals will be perpetually overwhelmed and unable to adequately treat patients both with and without Covid. If you’re still waiting and wondering when this will all finally be over, the answer is it will never be over.

Sergipe registra 769 novos casos de Covid-19 e óbitos chegam a 2.508 –  Infonet – O que é notícia em Sergipe

Health, Illness, & Impermanence

You see this goblet? For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.

Achaan Chaa

If you are someone who is healthy and able bodied like me, take a moment to reflect on that fact. Even if you suffer from mental or physical illness or you are differently abled, consider all that you body is able to do for you every day. Most of us live our lives without ever thinking much about our health, until that health is threatened or lost. In the last two years, the Covid-19 Pandemic has brought health, as well as illness, to the forefront of our collective awareness. Now more than ever in my lifetime, I have been faced with the reality of uncertainty and impermanence.

Even now, it’s easy to imagine I will somehow be immune to things like serious illness, accidental bodily harm, aging, or death. Although, logically, I know these things can affect anyone at anytime, I can’t manage to wrap my head around that fact. I have been privileged so far in life. I’ve always had relatively good health. I was born healthy. I’ve never had to be admitted to the hospital. I’ve never even broken a bone! At worst, I’ve suffered strep throat, stomach bugs, and cuts and scrapes. I have all of my senses. I have all of my limbs.

I’ve been isolated and sheltered from the harsh realities of illness. I was too young to comprehend my grandfather dying of heart disease. My grandmother died quickly without much distress or struggle from cancer a few years ago. Other than that and the death of a handful of pets, suffering, sickness, and death haven’t yet touched my life. Because of this, I have been able to live oblivious to these painful experiences for the majority of my life. This has allowed me to disassociate from many of the darker aspects of living. However, I know no one will make it through there entire life unscathed. I think it’s important for me to face what I’ve managed to avoid for so long.

Most of the time, I insulate myself with reassurances such as a healthy lifestyle and “good” genetics. Rarely do I ever acknowledge that those things only get you so far. We feel shocked and unnerved when we hear stories about random accidents causing severe injury or death. We are horrified and fascinated by sudden diseases, infections, or afflictions that seem to have no clear cause or no way to predict. We have immense sympathy, but somehow still think, “Well, that could never happen to me.” Deep down we all know that every day, every moment is a roll of the dice.

I’m not trying to be a downer or a pessimist. I’m not saying that we should always be obsessing over the possibility of misfortune. What I am saying is that we should never lose sight of how impermanent this life is. The quote at the beginning of this post is an excellent way for us to conceptualize this. Imagine that everything you have is “already broken.” Then we will not be as shocked or devastated when it does eventually break. It is also a reminder to treat all of the amazing things in this life, including our incredible bodies, with tenderness and gratitude.

When we hold in our awareness the truth of impermanence, illness, and death, it allows us to more fully appreciate the good fortune we are enjoying right now. Yes, suffering will reach us all in our lives, but today we are alive! What a blessing to wake up and enjoy moving through the world with this strong, healthy, able body. What a precious miracle it is to be free from chronic pain or illness. Thinking of things in this way, realizing that we ourselves are “already broken” makes these moments that would normally be taken for granted, something to be overwhelmingly grateful for. Let’s make a practice of savoring these simple moments so that when the time comes we are able to let go with grace and equanimity.

How Meditation Can Help Manage Illness | Everyday Health

Meditation on Death

Due to my morbid obsession with death and dying this past week, I started looking for some books to read in order to better cope with these grim ruminations. After a little searching, I came across a book that seems perfect for me. It’s called Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Face of Death by Joan Halifax. I haven’t gotten past the first few chapters yet, but it has already been a great comfort to me.

This book approaches the subject of death from a Buddhist perspective. It highlights the different ways that western and eastern cultures deal with death. It calls attention to the way the fear of death dominates western culture. We do our best to hide it away out of sight. We live most of our lives without ever thinking about the fact that we are all going to die some day. Avoidance seems to be a primary part our lives, especially in America.

The best part about this book is that it is written as a resource for everyone, in any stage of life. It can benefit teenagers, the elderly, caregivers, medical professionals, healthy people, and people that are terminally ill. This book reminds us that death is a natural part of life. It is something that has the potential to bring us all together. It is ultimately the great equalizer. It is a phase of life, a culmination of everything we have experienced here, a right of passage, a necessary darkness we will all pass through one day.

One of the ways I believe this book will help me is by preparing me to be there for my loved ones when they die. I still feel tremendously guilty about how little I was around my grandmother as she was slowly dying from cancer a few years ago. For the most part, I wouldn’t allow myself to think about it. I saw her when we went to my parent’s house on holidays. It was painful just to look at her, to be in that room with her. Even though it was actually the room I grew up in, my childhood bedroom. What a sad, beautiful mixture of things that have gone on within the walls of that room.

When I sat by her bedside those last few times I saw her, I felt paralyzed, petrified. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to hold her. I wanted to cry. I wanted to ask her so many questions. But instead I sat silently at her side, waiting for any opportunity to leave. I still wonder how she must have felt in her final days. Was she afraid? Did she resent us for not being there for her? Did she find peace? Did she have regrets? Were there things she wanted to tell us, but didn’t? Did we leave her feeling alone? Unloved? What is normal, what is acceptable to say or do around a death bed? Is anything? Does it even matter?

I think our society’s fear and avoidance of death leaves a lot of people to regret their incompetence when dealing with the passing of a loved one. When you avoid something all your life, how can you possibly be expected to handle it when it is in front of you? When it can no longer be avoided? When my other grandmother passes, when my parents pass, I want to be ready. I want to be everything I wished I could have been for my dad’s mom. I want to be brave enough and comfortable enough to discuss these difficult topics with them. I want to be prepared to give them everything that they need, even if they are unable to ask for it when the time comes.

Being with Dying provides exercises to help us work through our aversion and fear of death. The first meditation it suggests is to contemplate both the best and the worst case scenarios for your own death, in as much detail as possible. I want to have my grandmother and my mom do these exercises with me at some point. I want to know everything that I can do to make their deaths peaceful and comfortable and meaningful. However, even the thought of writing such a thing down seems terrifying to me. At the same time, that terror is quite fascinating. To confront this reality, the certainty of death, why is it so very painful? Why does my mind want to avoid even the thought of it at any cost? Do people in other cultures feel the same way? Or are they able to embrace this inevitability with grace and humble surrender?

I think my greatest fear surrounding death, is simply not knowing. It is the ultimate loss of control, a nosedive into a vast unknown. Perhaps it is less daunting if you believe in an afterlife of some kind. But it seems impossible that anyone could have total conviction as they are facing down their own end. There must always be some doubt, some uncertainty. It is not only not knowing what happens after we die, but not knowing when or how we will die that is frightening. I suppose a lot of people are also deeply afraid of death being painful. As someone who hasn’t experienced hardly any physical pain yet in my life, I find this hard to imagine well enough to be afraid of. Besides it always seems like pain can be escaped, even if that escape is death itself. However, that not knowing, that final surrender, will always be there.

I am looking forward to reading more of this book. I am hopeful that it will give me the tools I need to prepare myself for this stage of life, this end of life. Not only for myself but for those around me as well. Even if you think I’m nuts for believing the science that says soon the oceans will be dead along with all of us, I would still recommend this book. Regardless of when you imagine death will touch your life, the fact remains that it will, no matter who you are. It’s much easier to avert our eyes as long as possible, but if you are ready to face that fear head on and take the steps you need to in order to be prepared, Living with Dying seems like a great place to start.

Please make the wonderful effort to show up for your life, every moment, this moment – because it is perfect, just as it is.

Being with Dying
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

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.