Soul Journal: A Framework of Growth

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My body is rejecting salt, oil, and caffeine. That’s a strange thing to write, it sounds a bit hocus-pocus to me. How would you know what your body is rejecting?

I get high blood pressure when I eat foods with those things in them. I also get high blood pressure when I listen to loud music or think stressful thoughts or fantasize things—exciting things like meeting a celebrity or going to Mallorca or some other dream. I’m 26 years old, about 125 lbs and otherwise healthy. There is no reason to experience this, really, and it’s only been happening recently.

So instead of going to a doctor and having them prescribe me a short-term course of blood pressure medication, I’m choosing to honour what my body is telling me by committing to a course of clean eating, no exciting music and lots of things that help.

Non-high intensity aerobic exercise like walking helps, yin yoga helps, apple cider vinegar helps, mantras help, and guided meditations help sometimes.

I didn’t have to look any of this up… I’m connected with my body and its signals, thanks in part to the curse/blessing of being considered a slightly anxious person. It’s the other way around, actually. Some anxious people like me are more in tune with their bodies and tend to feel panic when they misinterpret totally normal occurrences in their bodies that other people wouldn’t even pay attention to.

There are different ways to see the same thing.

And while I’m presenting this as two paths, where I am choosing to take the one that is right for me, I admit that ultimately I see this as a meaningful part of my journey, not just a blip. My body is asking me to allow it to accommodate more. More emotions, more situations. It’s asking me to adapt my environment so that it can do more for me by being more adaptable to changes.

I know because this is how it’s reacting to the whirlwind of changes happening now.

And I want all that. I want to be able to live in the now, without the security of the future, a fantasy that  isn’t happening now, the fake excitement of a Spotify playlist that takes me somewhere other than here, and the emotion-numbing allure of salty, oily foods and caffeine—or alcohol. I want to be able to live free from of all of those things and to live here.

While I am being forced to make a change, this is also a change I want with all of my being. I’m lucky this is happening to me. And I am so grateful, too.

Soul Journal: Letting a Good Thing Go

Two weeks ago, on a Monday, I took the plunge and pressed print on my resignation letter from a job that has brought so much growth to my life.

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A year ago in March, I began working in the highly competitive field of book publishing, doing something that gave me a hand in the creation of real books that real people read and enjoy and think worth their dime to buy! I was a new proofreader, proofreading and  lightly copyediting manuscripts every single day. (Yes, I got to read stories for a living.)

While I loved the job at first and came to work with a feeling of pride, endeavouring to do my best on every single page, eventually that feeling faded. I was gripped with a feeling of complete isolation that overshadowed my positive feelings about the role. While the department had more than a dozen people—almost all of which I liked—the job itself turned out to be too solitary to bear.

I tried keeping myself busy with social outings after work, with friends and with new people that I met through meetup.com, trying a variety of activities. While the social stimulation was very helpful, it left me with no time to carry on other important aspects of my life. I spent nearly two hours in solitary transit, eight hours at work, and the few more I had left, I was using to socialize.

Eventually I began to experience sleep troubles and felt I was on the verge of more worrisome/deeper emotional disarray. I knew that I was living by hanging on to the wall of a cliff, and that no matter how strong I made myself to be, I’d eventually slip and fall. So I made the decision to instead reach for that just-too-high edge while I still have strength left in me.

I can’t describe how good it feels to take a huge risk that somehow feels right (and that all things considered actually is right). It feels much safer than a routine that works against me. I’m following my bliss, and I feel ecstatic and excited.

I let a good thing go because it stopped working for me. And I feel so alive…

 

 

Soul Journal: Non-Harm Begins With Ourselves

I have been transitioning to a plant-based diet for the last few months. I have been making an effort to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and pulses, and so far, I haven’t encountered too many obstacles. One of the (many) reasons I have made this change is to inflict less harm on the other creatures I share this planet with.

I have seen the videos of slaughterhouses, and while I am aware there are people in this world who suffer too, this is a type of suffering I can actually stop just by putting different food on my plate. But there’s another type of suffering that I can put an end to that I hadn’t considered in past years of vegetarianism and making compassionate choices: non-harm towards me!

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Maybe it has to do with the life stage that I am in, the overt nature of the ways I could hurt myself—with things like cosmetic procedures. I’ve become enlightened to the unnecessary harm perpetrated by the chemicals in my daily life; everything from household cleaners to self-care and beauty products. So while the more extreme forms of harm are what called my attention to this issue, I now feel that if a chemical is not nourishing my body, I would rather not smear myself in it in the name of beauty.

I think “beauty” (in terms of makeup) for me resonates more with the idea of fun and play, but it hasn’t been that for a long time for me. It’s been mostly about looking a certain way, instead. Self-care is about self-love and honouring myself and being with myself. And if I can get all this with products that are as little removed from nature as possible, then that is what I would like to do.

This all started with an inner scream of sorts. I don’t know how to describe it better… I’d made an appointment with a plastic surgeon for Botox and as the appointment inched closer, I knew I’d be taking a really big step and compromising yet another part of myself. I have made the decision to have cosmetic procedures in the past, and each one felt like a betrayal of myself—to my imperfection and to my humanity.

So I come from a place of knowing what it’s like to hurt yourself because on some level you feel an improvement is necessary, and I want to keep myself away from that place if I can help it. I don’t know if this resonates with you, and if it doesn’t, I invite you even more strongly to really consider what you are putting on the beautiful body that moves heaven and earth for you every single day, that puts up with all sorts of situations and fights for you to live each moment.

Needless to say, I did not go to the appointment and I have cancelled other cosmetic procedures, such as filling in the gap between my teeth or getting yet another round of braces and a tooth whitening (literally bleaching) treatment from my dentist. My teeth may be slightly crooked but they are perfectly healthy and functioning and abusing them is essentially a crime against myself that I don’t want to view as inconsequential and unimportant.

I know this post is heavy and I’m not sure whether the true love and happiness I feel for having taken what feels like a divergent path are coming across. I am excited about this. I still struggle… I wonder about future regret. For the most part, though, I feel free, like a now worry-free child who’s been told they’re allowed to run free and play in the sandbox however feels right to them. Before, unbeknownst to me, part of my focus was on reaching an ideal, of playing a game of winners and losers dictated by industry and others, where I just couldn’t win without unreasonably hurting myself.

I stopped and, if you want to, I think you can, too. 🙂

I learned at an early age that it’s better to invent your own game; then you can always be a winner. – Yvon Chouinard

The Caveats of Eco-Living and Starbucks

I have been trying to reduce the amount of garbage I produce lately. I’ve been aware of this for some time, but it’s only recently that I’ve been making an extra effort. It’s a sad fact that I should call it eco-living when it’s merely common sense. Why fill the world with garbage when I can instead use reusable things, reusable bags, mugs, etc.? We may call it eco-friendliness today, but this is something my grandparents’ generation grew up with as the status quo.

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Anyway, as I try, I also run into obstacles and I wanted to share one that might be common to many coffee addicts like me. :p

I drink coffee every day. I could probably, according to some diagnostic chart or other, qualify as a coffee addict. If I haven’t had my fix by 10:00 a.m. things are looking blue, and by 1:00 p.m. I start to wonder if I’m getting the flu. I also have no way of making coffee at home, having broken my water heater months ago and realized the Starbucks located in the basement of my building does a much better job than I ever could for about $2 a morning.

I go to Starbucks every day. So I began taking my own reusable, portable mug and things were great until two weeks ago I visited my mom and forgot to bring back my coffee mug. The last two weeks have been a wretched struggle of guilt and existential questions (should I quit drinking coffee until I get it back???)

In the end, I drank guiltily and even resorted to the strange onetime occurrence of washing my disposable paper coffee cup and lid and taking it back to the store for a new coffee the next day (nobody blinked an eye…) and also avoiding using the plastic lid (the rest is recyclable, right?). But try as I did, I didn’t actually give up my brown sludge.

Anyway… What struggles have you come up with while trying to “green” your life? I’m also happy to report that I am visiting Mother for dinner tonight and will be getting not only my mug, but my running shoes and my hiking boots back (all relics of the last visit).

This experience has taught me almost nothing, I guess. It’s tough to be good, and you have to set yourself up for it. I think I already knew this. Not sure what I could have done differently… Maybe a concerted effort to only use one paper cup every three days (by washing them) or taken my own ceramic, non-portable mug to Starbucks. I just don’t know that I’m ready to be that weirdo… Also seems impractical since I walk after getting my coffee. I could have gotten up earlier and drunk it at the shop in that case, I guess.

The rewashing of the cups seems like the best option. I guess I didn’t accept the situation quickly enough to come up with such a plan, but went about it planning to not drink coffee each day—and failing every day. I could have made a plan quicker if I’d accepted I’d be on my habit regardless.

Finding What You Seek

This post is like nothing I usually put up here, but I learned a beautiful lesson today and it really made me understand what I am doing wrong in terms of looking for certain things—looking for a good partner, a better fitting career, a better social life, etc. Basically, anything.

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This morning, I got up and started with my regular routine. I opened the front mirror cabinet in the bathroom and took out my cleanser. I cleansed my face and then towel dried. Then, I opened the mirror cabinet again, this time looking for my sunscreen!  The shelf above the cleanser’s is where I keep my sunscreen, so that’s where I expected to find it.

But it wasn’t there this morning.

Confused, I looked through the cabinet’s shelves thoroughly, opened both side compartments and looked there, opened the cupboards under the sink and looked there and even looked through the purse I take to work and in the kitchen and clothes’ closet—I really couldn’t understand where this sunscreen could be. Well…I didn’t find it. I went to work, and ultimately ended up using the spare sunscreen in my purse, which I use to reapply and keep my skin protected on longer days.

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But just now I got home and I saw that the sunscreen had been on the bathroom counter all along! Now, my bathroom counter has all of four or five things on it. The soap is at the side of the sink, a candle and air freshener spray are tucked in one corner, my toothbrush is on its charger and…that’s it! It was those things, plus my sunscreen, but I didn’t see it despite searching and searching because I expected to find it in its regular spot and when I didn’t find it there, I figured, well, then it should be in those other places. This baffles me because I would have never had to look in the first place if I’d actually been open to finding what I was looking for.

I italicized the word see because well of course I saw it, literally speaking. But it didn’t register that what my eyes were seeing was what I was looking for. It’s so silly but I do this all the time, but not just for trivial things like misplaced sunscreen. I do it for potential relationships, friends, jobs, educational opportunities, etc. I put up conditions that aren’t in my best interest—they don’t actually produce what I am looking for at all. In this case, my brain was looking for “the sunscreen in the cupboard,” but that’s not what I actually wanted. What I wanted was “the sunscreen”… It would have fulfilled my desires 100% even if I’d found it on the floor, trash can or tub.

Anyway, this was a huge reminder for me to make sure that the conditions I place on the things I want are intentional and genuine because otherwise it’s so, so easy to miss on opportunities. 20170406_173931

Here’s what’s on my plate for dinner. I’m a little sick today and I’d rather conserve all of my energy for getting better than for cooking or preparing food. There’s a salad place I trust a 20-second walk from my door, so tonight’s pick was a falafel salad with sweet potato mash and hummus. So good!

I took photos of what was “on my plate” yesterday too but after getting home and seeing a video of the children and adults in the Syrian chemical attack on my feed and then learning about similar atrocities being perpetrated in Yemen, blogging was the last thing I wanted to do.

Five Podcasts I Love

Listening to podcasts is one of my favourite ways to stay occupied on my 45-minute commute in the mornings and afternoons. I love sitting back in the early mornings and letting my mind drift to the conversations and interesting talks these podcasts provide. I keep all of my podcasts on an app called Pockets Casts on my Samsung Galaxy. I wanted to mention this app because it’s been great at letting me find podcasts, keep them organized and set them to update as I wish. Below are my top five favourite podcasts; let me know if I’ve missed any really good ones!

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The Inquiry: // This is a BBC World Service programme that is also available in podcast form. A new episode is available each week and runs only about 20 minutes long. The premise, as the name suggests, is to answer a question or inquiry. Some past episodes have explored questions like, “Should we Give Homeless People Homes?” and “Can you Believe What you Read on Wikileaks?” Many of the questions are current events related and listeners can submit questions, as well. The answers are presented simply, through expert or character interviews, and I’ve loved most episodes. Honestly, I can’t remember much of what I’ve learned listening to these programs, but I do think that being a dedicated listener has taught me to think differently about the questions I face in my own life—to really think outside the box. Two of my favourite episodes are “Can we Eat Our Way out of Climate Change?” and “Is Retirement Over?”

Food Non-Fiction: // If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that it started as a food blog and of course I’m a big food fan (really, who isn’t?) So my next favourite podcast is Food Non-Fiction, which features short episodes (10-12 minutes) about the origin or behind-the-scenes story of certain foods, fresh or packaged. I liked the episodes on ramen noodles and the one about sriracha.

History Extra: // This podcast is produced by the people bringing us BBC’s History Extra magazine. They broadcast one show each week and it’s about an hour long. Past show titles have included, “Regency scandal and the history of canals,” “Magna Carta and the Holocaust,” “Witch trials and feuding queens,” and “Crusade logistics and the battle over the slave trade.” Honestly, some of the topics simply do not interest me and given the levels of historical detail the show gets into, I find I can only keep track of the conversation threads if I’m very curious. This said, they have covered lots of really interesting topics as well. The absolute best show i’ve listen to from them is the one about the Joan of Arc trials. I recommend this episode even if you’re not going to become a regular listener.

Awesome Etiquette: // I got the idea for this blog post from The College Prepster, and actually was turned onto this podcast by her post. It’s a podcast about modern etiquette broadcast from the Emily Post Institute. Emily Post was an American author and authority on etiquette matters. I really appreciate the show because the hosts answer listener questions regarding everyday situations. I don’t always agree with the level of consideration the hosts advocate for—it borders on the ridiculous—but listening guides me in the right direction both in terms of my actions and my mindset… It’s easier to compromise one of my wants when I know exactly how or why it might bother another person. But avoiding bananas in the office because they “smell”? That’s a little much for me…

Revisionist History: // This is a podcast series by Malcolm Gladwell, and by podcast series I mean that there are only 10 episodes, a number specified at the outset. The show is meant to highlight the flaws in the ways that history remembers real events. Gladwell looks back at events from the past, sometimes well-known and sometimes not, and analyzes whether the accepted version of events is what actually happened. The cliche “master storyteller” is the only way I can describe Gladwell in this series—no other words will do.

Rendezvous in Kensington (Reflection)

It’s not true that you can’t travel back in time…

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Sometimes the past calls us back to itself and forces us to face it. Yesterday I found myself in the Toronto of my teenage dreams. I couldn’t have suspected it, in fact my mind was on the mostly terrible eight months I had spent living in a Chinatown basement apartment a few streets down, as the 510 Spadina streetcar cruised down to Nassau—Kensington Market.

And still I didn’t suspect it when I walked onto Baldwin St. in search of Kensington Ave. but it didn’t take long for me to check my phone, then ask a passerby, and find my directions. And once I’d done that there was nothing left to do but turn my head up and actually look around. And that all but knocked the breath out of me.

Here was a kombucha cafe, limitless numbers of thrift shops, a tibetan juice bar, and a cannabis dispensary among colourful shopfronts. I’d come here to find Courage, My Love, a vintage/thrift shop in search of jewellery to get myself a Sunday treat. I walked down the couple of blocks from Baldwin until the sky blue exterior of the brick house remodelled into a shop (most of Kensington Ave.) came into view but not before stopping at a couple of other thrift shops first.

Here were serious-looking women looking at tie-dyed white jeans and destructed denim, a grown man holding up a black-and-white striped pair of wide leg, high-waisted pants, and university students getting excited about the varieties of incense on offer. In short, throngs of people each exuding a vibe I never felt in my clean-cut Yorkville surroundings: pure, cutting freedom.

Maybe I imagined it.

But I felt deeply out of place, as if a cold howling wind had penetrated the centre of my chest and upset the balance inside. This was a Toronto I’d assumed was a relic of my 17-year-old mind, then viewed through the myopic lens of youth and well, completely nonexistent. But it was well and, well, alive and very real though the more hours pass since retreating into my own world the less sure I become.

At Courage, a woman with short blond hair behind the counter asked me if I needed help and I asked if I could try on some of the rings. Rings are my favourite. She lifted one of the glass coverings on the counter and I busied myself trying on ring after ring after ring. And none of them looked good. None of them looked…conventional enough. Big or small gemstones, amethyst, others blue aquamarine and red that I didn’t recognize, were neatly arranged row after row, a mix of shapes and sizes.

I compulsively slipped rings one on one finger then the other finger as if this could make a drastic difference in aesthetic and then grabbed the next ring even as I knew that it too would fail to please me. I didn’t know what else to do. I was unhappy with the whole lot. This colourful, hippy store was exactly what I’d had in mind, but I’d expected tamer people, not a crowd dressed in black combat boots with colourful hair, curly hair, short hair, no makeup, laughing and shouting and having absolutely no regard for standards of dress or fashion or even behaviour in their browsing. This was far too raw for what the 26-year-old me had accepted as “reality” by now.

Ignoring the mounting sense of panic, I thanked the shopkeeper and defiantly stepped to the back of the store for one final look. I refused to give in, to accept my difference with these people I had once been and who now I was already accusing of a million moral crimes in my mind.

Still, the feeling persisted and I decided to leave. As I all but ran to make my way back to the streetcar I locked eyes with a handsome tall man in black lace-up boots, a black t-shirt and black sweats. He was a vision of my teenage dream. He had long hair, half up, and he turned his neck as I walked by him. Despite myself, I forgot my fear and felt flattered.

The next day, I texted my best friend out of the blue,

“Went to Kensington. Weird place
Lots of hippies”

to which I almost immediately got,

“Lol yeah that’s like their hood”

Why hadn’t I known when at 18 I’d taken a hatchet to everything I liked, everything I did, to become an adult? Would I have sought people like me instead of trying to conform? I wouldn’t change a thing. I do wish I could observe the alternatives just the way I can look back on life as it actually was—or as I remember it to be. It’s part curiosity and part something darker, a hope for proof that this is the best possible alternative for me, an acquiescing of all past wrongs. This seal of approval from the world that reads, “you tried your best.” How else can we really know.

I didn’t wait long to punch back into the screen,

“Wasn’t my place. I left quickly”

And there was no response.