Hello, fair readers:
I have been absent from this domain for longer than I intended. Life, and then travels, interrupted my intentions, and I observe a connection between my peace of mind and writing. The holiday season is over now, and I can retreat to my corner of the world to regain some perspective.
I felt guilty leaving my last post here my reflections of the Connecticut tragedy. I was sad, and then angry, about that event for a long time, and it was hard for me to embrace the holiday season with this pang of sadness sitting on my shoulder. I found myself getting angry at small misunderstandings and conditions of life: we were told the wrong time for family swim one Saturday, a fellow air traveler with unsolicited advice about bottle feedings, the dry nosebleed inducing air of Washington DC in December, my aging grandfather who needs an aide 24 hours each day, the lack of parking along the National Mall, internet filters, out of stock books, unexpected changes of plans, forgotten kindle chargers, and tap water that tastes like pennies. But there was joy hidden among all of these moments, some I missed because I was too entrenched in my misery to look for it. I was with my family and friends, after all. We are alive and together this Christmas and New Year, what more is there to celebrate?
I don’t really make New Year resolutions because I am always trying to better myself. But this year I took a great breath of the cold December air and made myself promise to stop getting hung up on the little things. We’re all human, with our own individual perspectives and experiences of life, and so long as we’re here we should enjoy it. Meditation has been a hugely useful tool in this seeking of joy, and I am slowly mastering longer periods of sitting still. Here is a wonderful site for guided meditation, which I use when my mind is especially busy and reluctant to calm down. Looking inwards, I’ve found, is a powerful way to appreciate the world outside.
I’ve tried not to preach my morals, but I have been giving a lot of thought to my vegetarianism, (excuse me: pescetarianism), of late, because I decided to raise my son as one.
Side note: I apologize deeply in conflating the two terms, which are obviously very different. I will address this soon, but I have to explain a few other things first.
I choose not to eat land animals for many reasons. It started off because I did not like the taste. I’d bitten into too many chewy tendons and inedible globules of adipose tissue to be able to look at my plates with a healthy attitude. Meal times were filled with fear, seeming to radiate the negative energy that went into putting the food on my plate. Just for a second, imagine you’re a hen. You cluck around the yard, peck at grains, lay some eggs, cluck some more. Maybe you have chicken thoughts of providing a nice life for your offspring, maybe you just cluck. You definitely feel pain though. A chicken is not going to willingly let its head get cut off. Think about how scary it must be for a simple little farm yard animal to get plucked up by its legs and flung around into tiny cages, eventually getting its neck cut off. Now, I am sure there is some science out there that can claim that chickens and hens and ducks are all killed in very peaceful and humane ways, that they didn’t feel pain. Those are undoubtedly rare cases, if they even work. I believe that the moment before a chicken dies he is horrified, the passage from life cannot be painless–or at least, fear-free.
Think about the last time you were scared. I can remember easily–a loud bang from downstairs that terrified me. I knew no one else was home, and my body tensed with nervous adrenaline and blood cooling fear. This was passive though, only sligtly akin to what that baby cow, or mother goose, has in its body when its life leaves. She yields her physical body for our nutrition. No thanks. I’d rather go hungry than have that poison energy as fuel for my body.
Ahimsa, a yogic doctrine of this idea, encourages you to stay away from “tamasic” food–mushrooms, for example, because they’re grown in darkness; blue cheeses, which are really molds and putridity. Of course, I love mushrooms (did you know you can put them in the sun to absorb vitamin D?), and cheese features prominently in my diet. But if you think about it, and really believe in a life force, it is a rational argument and makes even more sense when you apply it to flesh.
So that brings me to my side note from the beginning. I feel lucky that I’m now able to fully enjoy my meals and food, because it helps me to appreciate life. I pinpointed the aspects that were causing me anxiety, and now thrive on a highly vegetarian, often raw and vegan, and undoubtedly nutritious and wholesome diet.
However, I do eat fish, and the reasons are twofold:
- Though I feel sorry for the sea animals I eat if I consciously think about it, they are far enough removed from me as a mammal to give me the justification to eat them. They don’t breathe air or walk on the earth, mollusks don’t live in family groups or nurse their young.
- It is 100% easier and more enjoyable to go out to dinner if I have half the menu to choose from, instead of just one or two options.
I know these may be poor reasons, but that is my truth.
Eating fish (and eggs, and cheese) is one very small sacrifice I make to keep my marriage happy. I would never ask my husband to be a vegetarian, just like he would never ask me to eat a steak. I’m happy to enjoy a plate of mussels or calamari on a date, we eat grains, and beans, and a lot of meals at home with our own protein additions. I make my husband turkey sandwiches, buy his hamburger at the grocery store; he brings home new micro greens from his vendors, and has taught me how to cook perfect lentils. I enjoy telling people that my husband is a hard core meat lover, I feel like it humanizes what many view as a foreign and nonsensical diet.
Primum non nocere. Ahimsa. The Categorical Imperative. Treat others how you want to be treated. Love thy neighbor. All these terms and phrases get at the heart of one of my favorite maxims. Who can justify an action that does not bring good should everyone choose to act the same? Now is the time when I could on one hand spout off all the ecological goodness that it would do the planet if everyone ate broccoli instead of hamburgers, and on the other cite articles that warn us against eating rice. I’m not suggesting everyone should do what I do. I just like to draw attention to the possibility of latent energy inside things.
True story: one night many years ago, my husband offered to cook me a grilled cheese sandwich after a long day. Maybe he didn’t really want to and was just being nice, or maybe we got in an argument part way through, but when I went to eat it, I couldn’t. It was inedible. The cheese tasted like putrid plastic, and I nibbled around the corners for a minute until I threw it out. The yogis will tell you that the mental state and emotions of the cook go into the food that is being prepared. At the ashram I lived at, whenever we worked in the kitchen we sang bright chants and everyone was smiling. No wonder the food tasted beautiful. Like when the full cow wants to be milked, and when apples fall naturally from the tree, there is a goodness in eating food that is abundant naturally and peacefully.
I do not like the Fall.
There, I said it. It is a little difficult for me to admit, having lived in New England for the vast majority of my life. People not enraptured by Fall are in the minority, and maybe looked at weirdly when they don’t chime in with their favorite apple dessert or avow love for sweaters and boots.
I mean, in theory I like Autumn, but all those cheery cool weather activities you do on dark nights and brisk mornings usually overwhelm me with change. Going from having long free days with simple attire, to suddenly needing sweaters and eating dinner on a schedule in the dark is raucous. I’m handling this season in the South terribly maturely. As I observe in this blog constantly, we’ve had tremendous amounts of life change; but, I haven’t had bouts of crying or days of the nebulous blahs that usually come with seasonal vicissitude. I’m sure my father dying in the early Fall has something to do with not greeting the fall colors enthusiastically. But there are new and unmistakable signs of Autumn here: I’m starting to get goosebumps if I sit too long on the porch after the sun sets, and wearing long pants during the day is not a ridiculous proposition.
Flowing with the rhythm of the earth, I think I am honing on where I belong in this world. I am excited to go to the beach tomorrow. Swim in the salty water, dry myself on the sunny sand.
Just wanted to publish, on the eve of October, one of my happiest observances about my new state.
I do still love boots and sweaters though!
Thanks for reading, lovelies.
- Check email and reply (briefly) to one
- Text your mother/husband/sister/best friend to say you’re thinking of them
- Stretch your perpetually tight hamstrings
- Sort the recycling and change the trash
- Empty the top rack of the dishwasher
- Update your Facebook/Twitter/G+/Tumblr page
- Measure and soak some beans to cook tomorrow
- Update all your iPad and iPhone apps, charge your iPod
- Dust off the leaves of the plants, water a few of them
- Fill the dog’s water bowl and give him a hearty belly scratch
- Flip through a catalog and fold down a few pages of things you’ll consider buying
- Sort the laundry, switch the laundry, and start another load
- Take these precious unscheduled free moments and sit. Just sit and be. Do not stretch, do not savor your tea, do not gaze out the window at the world. Close your eyes if you have to so you can focus your breath and ideas inside. What do you hear? If its quiet enough, my ears are usually ringing with a white noise. Do not judge this noise, but observe it, listen. Do not try, just notice, breathe, and be.
I know this was a trite adage in 1999. Yet, 13 years later, I still love it.
I remember first hearing it in my junior year of high school. I took very little of it to heart, even though I wanted to because I knew these were wise words. But there were parts that I could not reconcile with my 16 year old view of the world. My friends and I spent summers at the club trying to get tanner than each other. My fair skin never could never keep up, so instead of thinking my sunburn would cause freckles, premature wrinkles, or cancer, I cheerfully endured it knowing it would yield a tan.
I was so silly when I was younger, thinking that the outer world would dictate the inner. All those hours spent organizing my closet, lying in the sunshine, studying articles about how to get straight hair to curl, they were all such futile exercises! Well, maybe not so much, since it is my penchant for order that helped me realize my professional aspirations towards librarianship. But still. All that precious time spent chasing dreams down a dead end. All just distractions to release me from my swirling thoughts. I never would have guessed it was motherhood that would bring a reprieve.
Fast forward to tonight. I sat in the bathtub consciously relaxing. There was a glass of wine nearby. A couple of magazines. Some candles too, but they weren’t lit. I have only now finished my wine (two hours later) and the magazines…HA…they’ll probably only be read by the babysitter. To relax tonight all I needed was the warm water and the quiet. 13 years ago (heck, two years ago) I required so many tools to calm myself down. I used to beg for the inner peace necessary to drift off to sleep naturally when my body was tired. Despite my best intentions the chatter inside was incessant.
Now I am responsible for this family of three. It feels like I have exchanged my inner world of chaos and disorder for the present life of gratitude and peace. The outer worlds have swapped too–the house is never going to be as perfect as I used to require it, and getting to bed before 10pm is practically superwoman. It is a welcome trade. It is so much easier to think living in this state near constant inner harmony.
These days my magazines lay untouched. I floss. I know this race I’m in is only with myself, and I will win no matter what. I’m married. I am my best self when I’ve stretched in the morning. I have a son. We dance! I love and respect my mother. I am friends with my sisters. I’ve lived in the city, and in the country, and I know where I belong. I am thankful. I am happy. I am at peace.
Oh, the sunscreen part? I’m still working on that. I think this year I’m finally going to put it on everyday no matter what, since I’ve finally found a potion that doesn’t sting: Chanel UV Essentiel SPF 50.