Community & Isolation

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that solitary confinement is cruel and unusual punishment. It feels like a huge portion of the human race has been suffering from a less intense version of this type of isolation for over a year now. Even introverts like me have started to feel the effects of spending days upon days alone and cut off from social settings. People’s mental health started to deteriorate after only a few months of lockdown. And that is in our own homes, with access to the internet, television, books, often our pets, roommates, and/or family. Imagine being locked away in just one small room with nothing and no one. With no idea when or if you will ever be allowed to leave or even how much time has passed.

The strange consequences of prolonged separation from others is a humbling testament to how much we really need one another. For me this is quite frustrating and difficult to wrap my head around. How can I simultaneously have social anxiety and need to interact with others regularly to be mentally healthy? Before the lockdowns a year ago, I would have thought I would be my happiest alone in a hut in the woods. But now I see that what we want and what is good for us are often two very different things. I guess we never really stop being children in some ways. Needing someone else to look out for our best interests. I suppose that’s just another benefit of the communal life humans once had that we’ve now strayed from.

Most children would prefer not to go to school, even me, someone who’s always loved learning. I can remember dreading every moment of it. Even signing myself out early a lot of days once I was 18. But looking back, I would love to go to school again. I didn’t realize what a blessing it was to be put in a fishbowl everyday with dozens of other people my age. I didn’t know how difficult life would be once that was no longer a normal part of it. Now I am so grateful for all of those years where I got to spend everyday with my friends, growing and learning and playing together.

Some people are really good at managing themselves. People that create and run their own small businesses or are otherwise self-employed for example. I realized a few years ago that even though I’ve always wanted to break away from normal 9-5 work, there is really no way I would be able to make it on my own without having structure of some kind forced upon me. Given the opportunity, I will always procrastinate and get lazy. It’s quite bizarre given that I’m so rigid about other things in my life.

I’ve always hated the pressure of having someone else to answer to whether it was my parents, my teachers, my peers, or my boss. I thought without this constant stress I would find freedom. However, I’m starting to learn to be grateful for that stress. It seems that without it I fall to ruin. I become utterly lost. Yet even though I’ve realized this strange paradox, it doesn’t make it any easier to help myself.

I often mull over the idea of joining a book club or even starting my own group of some kind. Perhaps a hiking group or a vegan support group. But the eventuality of being held to account by these people, being expected to follow through with plans, etc. is overwhelming. It feels easier and less stressful to just forget about it all together. How frustrating it is to know choosing the path of least resistance is likely not the path to happiness. Even though I don’t necessarily like it, we humans need one another. We need each other for support and love, but also to hold one another accountable so that we may all continue to grow and blossom into the very best versions of ourselves.

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The Beginning of the End

It has been a truly bizarre year. I’m sure we could all agree to that. It seems like everyone is anxious for things to “get back to normal.” To be honest, I don’t have much hope that that will ever happen. When this pandemic first started, I didn’t really think much of it. I was just pleased to have an excuse to stay home. Now I’ve begun to think this is just the first phase in a long downward spiral for our species and our planet. This has been a long time coming.

I used to get flustered and frantic about my opinions on the state of the world. I felt I desperately needed to spread a message, to inspire change, to educate people so that we could all start to work towards a healthier, sustainable society. After years of exasperation and futile efforts, I have finally lost hope. Humanity will not change, therefore we will not survive much longer. Humanity has no interest in changing, we have no time left for the change that is needed, and to be honest, at this point, I don’t think we are capable of changing. It is a shame, but I have resigned myself to our fate. I have accepted the demise that is to come. Not 200 years in the future, not to the generation after me, but to me, to my generation, to everyone I know.

Cowspiracy was the tipping point for me. After watching that documentary and absorbing all of the scientific facts about our crumbling environment and the projections of how much time we have left before utter catastrophe if we continue at this rate (which we will), I realized that I will not be living out the extent of my natural lifespan. I have no idea how I will eventually die, but I feel pretty confident in ruling out old age. Perhaps it will be starvation, civil unrest, natural disasters, having no clean water, or even from a pandemic. It could be this very one, or the inevitably worse ones to come. To be honest, I’m surprised this is all due to a Corona virus and not one of the many strains of anti-biotic resistant bacteria we are breeding in our animal agriculture industry every day.

If I had even a shred of hope left that we would somehow overcome the self-imposed threats facing us, the public response to this pandemic has obliterated it. My fellow humans are incapable of even making the most miniscule, temporary changes to their daily lives, let alone the massive, permanent changes we need to make to survive as a species. Even though the pandemic rages on and is even getting worse in some areas, people have seemingly decided to just go back to normal. As if it’s been a year, so fuck it, it must be over.

If humans are incapable of simply wearing a mask when they are in the grocery store for 30 minutes, there is no way they’ll be capable of eliminating meat and dairy from their diets entirely. Perhaps if we had already implemented a strategy to move society that way and we also had a couple hundred years to get there, but we aren’t doing anything and we don’t have anywhere close to that amount of time. Scientists predict we only have a few decades and the US government is still subsidizing the industries that are killing us.

Not only has the majority of the population not accepted one of if not THE root cause of our impending demise (animal agriculture), but we can’t even all agree that we are even facing a real problem! Climate change is still up for fucking debate in America. And I don’t even expect those of you reading this to understand or agree with me on any of this. I’m mostly just having a good ol’ scream into the void. It’s the only thing I can really do at this point, sadly.

I won’t waste my time listing all of the statistics, facts, and figures about how animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, desertification, and species extinction. How it wastes massive amounts of food, water, and land. How everyone shouts “save the rainforest!” while ignoring the fact that the reason it’s being cut down is to make room for livestock. All of this information is readily available for anyone willing to look into it. Cowspiracy’s website has most of it laid out with citations. Although, in my experience, facts have never been enough to make anyone change. What I will point out, is that this pandemic is also just a symptom of the ways eating animals will eventually be our undoing.

Whenever a pandemic emerges, it is almost always related to some animal. And not just any animal. An animal that humans have been using as food. We end up keeping this “food” in filthy cramped spaces, crowded in with other animals and covered in piss and shit. Then we eat those same animals. It’s no wonder we are constantly facing disease. Bird flu, swine flu, mad cow disease. Starting to see a pattern yet? If we didn’t eat animals, none of these things would be a problem. To be honest, it’s almost karmic justice for these innocent beings. I wouldn’t even mind if humans were wiping themselves out due to our own greed and stupidity. But unfortunately we are taking down the whole planet with us and that breaks my heart.

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A Covid Christmas Miracle

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.

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Doing the Best with What You Have

Well it finally happened. I may have been exposed to Covid yesterday. I’ll probably have to go get tested. I may even have to miss Christmas with my family. I’m trying my best not to spiral into indignation and depression. I can feel my body tensing with the desperate desire to somehow undo what has already been done. Waking up with a mild headache this morning certainly isn’t helping. But this is an excellent opportunity for me to practice surrender. To practice breathing into the moment, into the reality that lies before me, a reality that I cannot change or avoid.

It is much more painful to recoil from unpleasant news when it’s presented to you, than to accept it. When a tree falls in the river, the river does not harden and smash against it. The river keeps flowing. It must graciously alter it’s course, flowing around the obstruction in its path. Today I will practice being like the river. I will keep flowing. The important thing is making sure my family is safe. It is a blessing that I live alone, so that if I have been exposed I can prevent infecting anyone else.

I have plenty of food and water. I have my sweet fur children here with me. I have endless ways to entertain myself. I even have a lovely bottle of Grey Goose now that I was gifted yesterday. I have so many things that I can be grateful for, even if I have to miss family Christmas this year. Even if I get really sick. I will surrender to what is. I will keep flowing around the fallen tree in my path.

If I must remain on my own this year, I will plan a wonderful self-love Christmas for myself and my babies instead. Thanks to technology I can even have a Zoom Christmas with my family for a little part of the day. Everything is going to be okay. I am strong. I am resilient. I will do whatever needs to be done. I will stay grateful. I will keep flowing.

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Finding Balance

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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.

Strange Times

This year feels like it hasn’t even happened. One day bled into the next until we found ourselves in September. Yet thinking back, New Years Eve seems so far away. And it’s as if my mind has discarded any memories of what happened in between then and now. I’ve just spent this year waiting. Waiting to feel like myself again. But I don’t really remember what that even feels like anymore.

When this pandemic first started, I was just happy to have a few months at home. But it seems like I’ve spiraled into a dangerous place since then. I kept telling myself that once things went back to normal, I would too. Now I wonder if things will ever be normal again.

It seems like a lot of people are struggling with their mental health right now. It’s easy to blame it on the pandemic and for some people I’m sure that is the main factor. For me however, I’m not sure. Am I just using that as an excuse? Nothing has really changed that much for me besides wearing a mask when I go out and not seeing my grandmother as frequently.

I’ve gone back to work and go about my business as usual for the most part. In rural Ohio, it seems like the majority of people don’t believe in this virus. That is a bizarre thing to witness in itself. Knowing so many people around you are completely immune to logic and simple facts. It is frightening when I really think about it.

Maybe more than anything directly changing in my life, this pandemic has changed the way I think and see the world. While once I was so passionate about veganism and politics, now I’ve resigned myself to looking away. I can’t bear to face the reality of where the world is right now. It is simply too painful and terrifying. It’s so much easier to numb myself to it.

I used to feel that even though it may be painful, it was my duty to change things. Now I hold no delusions about being able to change a damn thing. Therefore I can find no reason to keep watching everything unfold. It makes me feel helpless, angry, sad, desperate. I’ve chosen to turn that off and feel nothing instead.

I had a foggy memory of a dream from last night as I wrote that last part. There were two girls. One was explaining to the other how to just turn a switch on the heart so you don’t feel anything anymore. The girl seemed glad at the idea, but with an empty smile, the other girl warned her that it does get harder to turn it back on every time. Aren’t dreams fascinating? We can learn a lot about ourselves from our dreams. And reaffirm the things we already knew deep down.

I’m sorry this post has mostly been rambling. But part of me feels like that is an accurate reflection of what this year has felt like. Wandering aimlessly within our own heads, disconnected from everything. If things don’t change once 2021 arrives, I am making a promise to myself here and now that I will finally start therapy. Feel free to hold me accountable for that promise. Here’s hoping things begin to look up for us all.