I Will Not Conform

I Will Not Conform

You know those moments, when reality reveals itself to you so bluntly you nearly collapse under the truth of it, under the weight of the realization that you can no longer remain ignorant to its presence? I can count on one hand the times reality has done that, has broken me, or simply given me new perspective as to the impact of the choices I’ve made, and am making. This morning, and the truth I found in a moment of stillness, was one of those occasions. One of those occasions in which I was not me, but rather seeing myself; watching myself.

It was early. I was standing before my mirror, mindlessly following the flow of routine; the only thing anyone can possibly rely on in the hours before 8AM, when anything is possible, and the world seems impossibly large. Midst the sound of water running down the drain, a door slamming, and the hum of the refrigerator, I paused. One hand wrapped around a bottle of mascara, the other curling my eyelashes before reaching for an eyebrow pencil—all within the span of a minute—but I paused for a moment. I looked up, and met the eyes of my reflection; eyes rimmed with black and edged with a shadow meant to age me 10 years because if a girl doesn’t wear makeup, than how can she possibly call herself a woman? If a girl doesn’t wear makeup, she doesn’t put enough effort into her appearance. If a girl doesn’t wear makeup, she looks a child. If a girl doesn’t wear makeup, ‘something looks different about her today.’ If a girl doesn’t wear makeup ‘she’s not ok,’ ‘she’s not feeling well,’ ‘doesn’t look like herself,’ or maybe, maybe, if a girl isn’t wearing makeup, she just isn’t wearing makeup.

Because girls who don’t believe themselves to be beautiful should not have to MAKE UP for what they believe themselves to lack in shades of lipstick and contour palettes. But who we are is not defined by our abilities hide the shadows beneath our eyes and the spots on our chins. Bodies are just bodies, and maybe you think that your skin is too pale and your eyes too close together, but you’re living, you are alive. Why isn’t that enough?

‘The average woman spends two years of her life applying make up.’

Upon reading that I felt empty, and ashamed, because losing 2 years of my life is losing 730 tomorrows; 730 chances to start again. Being confronted with this truth, and having seen, really seen, myself for the first time this morning, with my cheeks painted and all of the me drained out of myself, I chose to make a change. I chose to fear not the world’s thoughts on the appearance of my face beneath the mask I thought I had to wear to be considered beautiful, but the danger of conformity. The danger of being so consumed by the opinions of others that you forget to love yourself. They do not have to love you, but you do. You have to love you, because in that embracing of yourself you will find beauty for what it truly is.

‘Yeah, I’m Fine.’

‘Yeah, I’m Fine.’

You ok?’
‘Yeah, I’m fine.’
I just sat on the closed lid of a toilet for an hour trying to remember how to breathe, wondering if this is what it is like to be dying, hoping that the girl one stall over won’t recognize the fraying laces of my sneakers as mine.
‘Yeah, I’m fine.’
I just spent 17 hours sleeping because sometimes suicide is not an option but oblivion is so I closed my eyes. And when I woke up it was dark out, but I had no missed calls because nobody misses the girl who doesn’t make plans she’ll have to cancel, who books time off of work to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, dreaming of an alternate universe in which she is not sad.
‘Yeah, I’m fine.’
I just left class, got in my car, and drove in circles until dark, my hands shaking, gas tank draining, parents wondering why I’m not home for dinner. But maybe I don’t want to go home because their are skeletons in my closet mom, and their bones rattle at night calling me from sleep and into another nightmare that I can’t remember but know that my throat burns with the silence of screams and the suffocating warmth of my tears.
‘Yeah, I’m fine. But I’m not at the same time.’
‘What happened?’
‘Nothing.’
Phantom hands just wrap around my throat when I realize the depth of the loneliness I feel no, not for someone or something, but for silence. On my knees praying ‘please, grant me a measure of sanity, raise me from this grave that existence has become, open these eyes, they are blind, and I’m begging you, please silence my mind.’ Don’t you see that nothing happened, it’s not you, it’s me.

 

Nothing happened, and doesn’t need to, because depression never leaves.

Made of Stardust

Made of Stardust

Loving yourself is the difference between living and dying, and life, quite frankly, is too short to believe you are anything but made of stardust.

Because beauty is not one size fits all, and skinny is not the reason you are breathing, so stop hating yourself, please.

Look beyond the shape of your shadow, the soft skin of your stomach, and the curves of your thighs, because perhaps beyond stretch marks, and freckles, you will one day see that everything you are is not your body.

This form you have, all of your edges, these are the handiwork of the universe’s touch, and planted deep within you is the same light that makes the sun shine, and the gravity that pulls waves to the moon.

You are not the skin you live in, you are the life that lives in you.

Between You And Yourself

Between You And Yourself

And, when you stand before yourself with nothing left to come between the reality of life as the sound of your heart beating in your chest, and the reflection in the mirror staring back at your soul wrapped in skin, who are you? It’s alright, if you’ve searched for the answer to that question in all the right places, still coming up short of the reason for your existence, it’s alright. It’s alright because the state of mind that is simply being cannot be labelled, breathing is only breathing, and the pursuit of anything is a pursuit of nothing if you cannot come back to yourself without fear of living beyond definition of the things you search for and the person you are. You can make a list, sure, of words that make me seem worthy of love, of life itself, I make lists obsessively; lists that organize, lists that explain, lists that lessen the noise of the mess in my mind, lists of the things I wish I was and think I am. Lists like this:

I am…

I am strong, and kind, and compassionate, and always laughing, I am intelligent, and creative, brave, and adventurous, I am…

What am I? Human, perhaps, but if I am something, than I must be that thing also, and even the dictionary knows that to be, is to simply exist, though I’ve spent my life running from the blank wide open space that comes like a wave when I’m left alone with the weight of that single word; exist. For when I do, find myself alone with it, when I search for consciousness in corners of myself I can hardly bring myself to peer into, I’m left with a nothingness that I don’t know how to live with; so I don’t, live with it, with that silence. And to escape it, the hollowness its presence leaves me with, I’ve trained my brain to even subconsciously, set itself on fire and endure the pain of the flames because thought is like that, like fire that never turns to ash, feeding on itself, making smoke out of dreams, until it all becomes too much and thinking becomes a disease, a disorder, undiagnosed because how can we diagnose the human condition as being a danger to humanity itself? How can we diagnose what we cannot see, what we cannot understand? Because if we understand being, than we are not embracing what it implies: an absence of understanding, an absence of the need to know, to imagine, to find, to learn. We can’t, even begin to interpret it, but the first step to embracing the beauty of being, is being conscious of the thoughts we do have, which is difficult, yes, and living with depression I understand the fear of nothingness as what once drove me to attempting suicide. I understand the fear of nothingness as being parallel in your mind to the emptiness you’ve grown tired of seeking relief from in dopamine, and prozac, and the list of prescriptions you continue to fill, knowing that without their promise of emotion, of peace, as a cure for the darkness clinging to your mind and your soul like a cancer you will not survive. But stillness, stillness, is the answer, my cure. Stronger than what you’ve come to accept as your reality, as the bane of your existence, because yes, the pain will return, over and over again, but silence will no longer be a condition, no, it will become your solace, your saviour.

So, be.

Just.

Be.

Don’t be afraid of emptiness, don’t be afraid of the present, of this moment, because right now, there is nothing to come and nothing having come before, there is only life. There is only you, and all that you are not defined by, all that being is, wrapped up in who you are.

I’m Vegan.

I’m Vegan.

I’m vegan.

And hearing that you’ll shake your head,

and roll your eyes because vegans are

angry, carnivore-hating, rabbit-food eating, anemics

with nothing better to do than hug trees,

and preach that meat is murder.

I mean it is…but that’s besides the point.

So let me explain.

I don’t eat meat because I stood in the freezer of a slaughterhouse on ‘kill day’ surrounded by carcasses when I was 15 years old and I lost my appetite for murder.

I don’t eat meat because no matter what we tell ourselves or are raised to believe, humane slaughter has nothing to do with animals, and everything to do with your conscience.

Why keep looking for a right way to do the wrong thing? There is no right way to murder. There is no right way to end a life.

I don’t eat meat because I believe that there is beauty in all life no matter one’s level of intelligence.

I believe that our bodies are gardens not graveyards, and kindness is a hypocrisy if the main course of dinner last night required the death of a living being.

I don’t eat meat because I’m human and my anatomy defines me as a herbivore with a maze of intestines and teeth meant to tear through plants not flesh.

I don’t eat meat because I think that Alice Walker was right when she said that animals exist for their own reasons. They weren’t made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men. I don’t know about you but I believe in equality.

I believe that all lives matter, and this idea that some matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.

I’m vegan, and yes, that means I don’t drink cow’s milk because in case it wasn’t obvious, I’m human and I was weaned before I was 9 months old so why consume another mother’s milk if I don’t need it to survive?

Dairy intake is linked to prostrate cancer, ovarian cancer, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis, over 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant but for some strange reason corporate farms and agricultural boards have us believing that milk is a necessity. Did it ever occur to you that consumption of animal products is simply a branch of the reality that is capitalism and consumerist tradition?

Milk isn’t a necessity and neither are eggs, leather jackets, fur lined coats, vivisection labs, Sea World, or the circus. We do not need to use animals as a source of entertainment, food, experimentation, or survival.

And no, actually, I don’t just care about animals. I’m vegan for the planet above all else because our futures are dependant on the lives we live now so take responsibility for the choices you make, starting with what you put on your plate.

Because with an every growing population earth doesn’t have enough land mass to raise the crops and livestock we’ll need to feed humanity 20 years from now if we continue down this path of unsustainable living. In killing over 150 billion animals each year because we like the taste of their flesh or the products their bodies produce we are killing ourselves. 

I’m vegan because I believe that plant-based living is the beginning of a better world, one where peace and compassion are a priority.

So yes, I’m vegan. And maybe I’m crazy but if living this way is the first step in the right direction than I have no regrets. Because like Ghandi said, if we want to change the world, than we have to be the change.

Changing the World

Changing the World

Your actions determine the future of our planet, and all of humanity. So do something, take action. Plant a tree and learn to live in harmony with nature by becoming more aware of the negative impact your current lifestyle may have on the environment.

The following is a list of small things you can do to effect change environmentally and socially:

Don’t throw it away.

  • Recycle, and recycle properly. Develop an awareness of:
    • What can be recycled
    • What’s biodegradable
    • What products utilize the least amount of packaging
  • Purchase products packaged in glass, metal, or paper as plastic and styrofoam can’t be recycled or reused.
    • Purchase bars of soap, wax paper, reusable bags, rechargeable/reusable batteries, and tampons with cardboard applicators over bottled liquid soap, plastic wrap, plastic shopping bags, one-time use batteries, and tampons with plastic applicators.
  • Borrow before you buy.
    • Don’t purchase things you don’t need, or will only use once.
    • Borrow it from a friend, rent it, or buy it used.
  • Donate what you don’t need.
    • Thrift stores are recycling depots for clothing, and thousands of other reusable products, they promote ethical living and thoughtful consumption.

Live locally. 

  • Shop at local farmer’s markets as they are an outlet for the 22% of local farmer’s crops that would have otherwise gone to waste.
    • These small farms are often the major producers of local, organic food and are more likely to treat their land with respect, and their animals/livestock humanely.
  • Living locally, and eating a ‘local’ diet creates jobs in your community and protects land from corporate farms that burden the earth with pesticides, and careless farming techniques that cause local economies to suffer as the quality of the food YOU eat declines.
  • …or, grow your own food, and reap the benefits of a ‘backyard breadbasket’ which will provide you with products that are both environmentally sound and organic.
    • Most cities  also set aside land for community gardens, as they’re an effective was to provide the hungry with food, while building up communities and empowering individuals.
  • Be a responsible consumer, know where your products are coming from, are you really content with supporting huge wholesale supermarkets, that don’t necessarily have the wellbeing and health of their community in mind?

Flip the switch.

  • Living an environmentally-friendly, conservation-conscious life can be as easy as developing a habit of turning of the lights when you leave a room.
  • Or, better yet, install energy-efficient lightbulbs in your home:
    • Halogen Incandescents, Compact Florescent Lamps (CFL), and Light Emitting Diodes (LED) use 25%-80% less energy than traditional light bulbs, and last 3-25 times longer.

Let it rot. 

  • Over 50% of municipal waste is a collection of organic kitchen and yard waste, composting takes up to 75% of waste out of the solid waste stream.
  • Starting your own compost pile reduces methane gas emissions, which are a large contributor to global warming, and nourishes the earth by returning a number of nutrients to the soil.

Oh, and go VEGAN…it’s that simple. 

  • Were you aware that animal agriculture is the leading emitter of carbon gases into the atmosphere? Watch Cowspiracy if you’re interested in a more factual study on the impact of factory farming, but the moral of the story is this: a global vegan movement is the only worthwhile solution.cows

So what are you waiting for?

Go change the world.

 

 

Living in the Now.

Living in the Now.

Where do you live, or rather, where does your mind live? Do you spend the precious moments of your presence reliving the past, or are you focused on the future, on what could be rather than what is? Are you angry, or disappointed, are you impatient, or anxious; what are you feeling?

Close your eyes for a moment.

Notice where your thoughts first wander.

Wherever they go, don’t stop them from going. Give your mind the freedom to think its own thoughts, subconsciously. In the meantime, with your eyes still closed, feel your heart beating in your chest. Don’t find your pulse, remain completely still, allow your conscious mind to find your heart. Let it hover there, as your body rises and falls with every breath it takes.

Notice how, for a moment, you had forgotten about your subconscious self and its frantic dissection of past and future events or occurrences. Notice how, for a moment, you were completely present.

That feeling of being grounded in the energy your being radiates is peace. You are at peace. You are at peace amongst the chaos your mind creates, so breathe in.

Breathe out, and breathe in again.

Find solace in simply being.