I’ve got enough

I’m nearing the end my year of not shopping. Not unnecessarily buying clothing, toiletries, nail varnish, books, stationary. All the things that would be nice to have but I don’t need.

I’ve bent my rules a little over the year, buying ebooks that I want to read, especially when my library doesn’t have a copy on hand, and I’ve bought four items knowingly – a teething necklace (complete waste of time), a dress (lovely but I didn’t need it), a lip stain (good purchase, but I could have coped without) and a notebook which was on sale and I’ll keep for when I need one.

But apart from these three items, I’ve let numerous other ones go. Wanting to jump into a purchase but holding back and finding, after the initial urge, that I didn’t really need them.

I’ve also changed the way I buy for others, not just throwing money at things because I need to buy them a present but asking what they want if I don’t know and learning that my worth is not connected to my skill of present buying.

And while I think I’m going to relax my rules and allow myself to buy in charity shops across the year, I’m going to keep going with my ‘stopping shopping’ lifestyle.

And here’s why:

I’ve been reading a book called ‘doughnut economics’ – I’d highly recommend it. It shows how current economic theory, built on continued growth as it’s defining measure, isn’t viable for ongoing life on Earth.

We need to find a sweet spot between people having enough to survive (access to water, healthcare, education, food, social support networks) and not pushing our planet above the threshold of what it can sustain (leading to climate change, ocean acidification, air pollution).

There is a balance, and it’s found through churning out less.

It’s found through valuing what can’t be bought. Finding happiness in connection, contentment in having just enough.

And that’s what I’ve discovered this year – I have enough already. A roof over my head, enough food to eat, clothes on my back, meaningful work, a family I love.

I actually have more than enough – means to take a holiday, a salary that pays enough for me to work a reduced week and still cover my mortgage, enough to save a bit away for Jenson.

I do wonder whether this experience of mine shows just how privileged I am. I have the ability to shop, I just choose not to. Whilst others don’t have that luxury…but I am where I am and I’m trying to do my part.

I’m coming from a place of privilege but what I’ve done isn’t nothing. I’ve managed something of substance through questioning how and why I consume things…

So what’s next?

I’m always one for moving onwards and upwards, but there’s maybe a lesson for me in the doughnut economics.

Finding a life which has a smaller environmental impact whilst not breaking myself through unrealistic expectations.

Yes, there’s a climate crisis which needs us all to act. But I don’t need to berate myself for not being perfectly carbon neutral.

But I can’t help but feel a ‘what next’ and I feel in my body a discomfort with the amount I fly and the environmental impact it has, which blows out of the water any environmental kindness I’m trying to make through veganism, my move to stop shopping and the eco choices I’m moving to (such as cloth nappies).

I’m also aware of how mass farming of crops is destroying our land through the use of harsh chemicals. So I’m finding myself wondering whether buying organically where possible might be something I’m called to.

But I’m going to pause for a moment and celebrate how I’ve not contributed (much) to the consumerist machine this year.

It’s a small step, but I’m doing my part, and that feels pretty good.

What small thing could you do, friend? We all need do our part, however small, if we’re to save the world.

Raising my voice

I’ve been lone parenting this weekend as Gregg is at a stag party. I took Jenson to an animal rights protest in London yesterday, partly out of desire to be an active citizen and partly to have some plans to fill up my three days alone with him.

I’m so glad I went.

I loved hearing from animal activists who had so much information to share.

I loved the atmosphere as we marched through the streets of London, handing out flyers to the public.

I loved being part of something bigger than myself as we showed images of how animals are killed for our pleasure, kept in tiny cages so businesses can make as much profit as possible, viewed more as a commodity than a being who feels, fears and loves just like we do.

But that wasn’t my feeling right at the start of the march.

I felt uncomfortable, out of sorts, anxious as I made my presence known on the streets of London.

I felt like I didn’t have a right to be there.

It felt wrong to be speaking out – and speaking loud – instead of being in my safe little zone where I am vegan and will gently say why I am if people ask why (the reason, if you’re interested in for the planet – we can’t survive whilst still consuming such high levels of meat and dairy – and because of how animals are kept, treated and killed).

But I keep myself to myself.

I don’t push limits.

I keep my vegan views, my ‘controversial’ views of parenthood, family, love out of this blog for fear of offending you, dear friend.

And in that moment, something clicked for me. I realised that I don’t allow myself to be fully seen.

I don’t allow myself to share my views unless I’m given express permission to do it by someone.

And there are so many reasons I can think why.

Girls aren’t brought up to be forceful and I feel like I’m ‘too much’ when I think about my opinions and views on a range of topics.

I’m fearful of speaking out as that reminds me of my Christian experience growing up where we’d be encouraged to try to ‘convert’ people to our way of thinking.

I don’t feel comfortable dealing with conflict and, in putting my opinions ‘out there’, there will be many people who will disagree with me.

But that’s ok to live with these reasons – I can grapple with them as I work through giving myself permission to be seen and my voice heard.

And by that I mean all that I am, not just the bits of me that are mainstream and not controversial.

It feel scary and new and different to do this, but living this way feels aligned to the name of my blog – courage, truth and love – and so I know it’s the right thing for me to do.

ctl-logo-01

Speciesism

The first time I heard the word ‘speciesism’ I was a few years into being vegan (albeit a very ‘off-and-on-the-wagon’ kind of vegan). I thought it was a bit ridiculous.

Speciesism: the practice of treating members of different species as morally more important than other species; and the belief that this practice is justified.

I believed that animals were in a different category to humans. Less developed, less intelligent, less important. I was vegan because of the environmental impact of meat/dairy production and also because it was a diet that suited me well. Veganism had moved my relationship with food from an up-and-down rollercoaster to one of nourishing myself with lots of whole foods. It suited me and I finally came to a place where I was no longer yo-yo-ing between 4 different clothing sizes and body shapes over the course of a year. Veganism had helped me to find a kinder way to eat for myself.

But this belief, that animals are in a different category to humans, has changed for me.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a bananas animal lover. I think puppies are cute and Planet Earth was an amazing view into nature which filled me with awe. But I couldn’t think of anything worse than having a house full of hairy, smelly, loud animal creatures (I have my own already with Gregg and Jenson 😜).

However, I can see speciesism in action more and more…and I think it’s destroying our planet and causing such pain and suffering.

We’re destroying our forests – home to countless animals, birds and insects – so that we can have more stuff. More of the food we want, more stuff, more land. It’s rarely considered that this isn’t just our land – it’s the land of these animals too (cue me feeling like Pocahontas!).

We use animals for the testing of cosmetics, household cleaners, food additives, pharmaceuticals and industrial/agro-chemicals because their pain and deaths are not important. We could use more human cells or cell lines for testing – which would ultimately be more effective, but this would take investment and currently animals are the easier, default choice for many. A choice that brings suffering to around 115 million animals per year.

We have practices for getting milk which are, to me, inhumane. Repeatedly impregnating cows and separating them from their calves often less than 24 hours after the birth to get as much milk for ourselves as possible. A practice that leads to obvious distress from both mother and baby. Hearing the cries in a recent film I watched (called land of hope and glory) was truly disturbing to me when I considered the pain I’d have gone through if Jenson had been taken from me on day one and only brought back once a day to be fed.

But it’s a cow, not a human, so it’s ok?

Being driven by the ‘need’ for affordable meat, eggs and dairy to the point where our farming practices often cause animals to suffer during their lives. The boy baby chicks who are ground up alive in their first moments in this world because they have no worth to us – they can’t lay eggs and don’t plump up nicely to be eaten.

They have no value?

And the slaughterhouse practices where the turn around and churn of animals is so quick that often animals aren’t stunned properly and so are conscious when their throats are cut and as they bleed out.

Our desire for meat is more important than their death?

I suppose that ultimately I don’t want another creature to die in order for me to have something enjoyable to eat. The mistreatment of baby cows so I can have milk in my coffee. The painful testing of animals so I can enjoy a better mascara. The death of baby chicks so I can have cheap eggs.

And as I write this, I can hear others speak about the medicines that are only available because of the animals that have been tested upon. And not all animals are treated as described above. Some farmers treat their animals with love and respect before sending them to be killed. Some calves have more time with their mothers.

And what’s the other option? Cows, chicks and other animals not being born because we no longer need them? Yes. That would be preferable to animals experiencing pain and suffering during their short lives on earth.

We use animals as a commodity, when I believe we are morally no more important than they are. Just as I believe that men are no more important than women. Just as I believe that caucasians are no more important than people of black or ethnic minorities.

And since I’ve found my eyes open to this truth – that we are equal – I understand vegans who can’t stand to sit around a table laden with meat and dairy products. Not because of being righteous and self-satisfied smug buggers who want their way or the highway. Because when I look at meat sizzling on a barbecue, or when I see cheese, milk, cream, I see the suffering that these products have come from. I can avert my mind from it, but it’s getting harder and harder to do so.

And so I’m sharing my thoughts with you, dear friend, even though I might lose some of you as readers if you disagree and are affronted by my opinions. Because it’s too important for me to ignore. Not to divide me from you, but to start a conversation. To hear from you. To ponder on what I’m seeing and explore what this might mean for my life.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

Tread lightly

I don’t often write about my choice to eat a plant based diet on this blog of mine but the concept of treading lightly on this planet has been on my mind for a good while and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you. It probably sounds weird to be writing about this as I’m on amazing travels around Asia but, without many dairy/meat free options here, I’m being challenged daily about my lifestyle choices.

Until recently I used to call myself a vegan. I was proud of this way of life and of being part of a community of people, but I’ve realised that I can’t truly call myself vegan because of some of the choices I’ve made recently. And I’m ok with that.

For example, I re-introduced locally sourced, free range eggs to my diet in the attempt to increase the amount of breastmilk I was creating for my son. I don’t know how much it has helped but after weeks of struggling, I feel like I am now able to provide well and I also feel morally fine about eating the eggs of chickens that are treated well. I don’t eat many eggs, but I won’t refuse to eat them.

And then there was my last minute dash around town to get the final bits for my trip. The realisation that my sandals weren’t going to last me through the journey and a frantic trip around town to get some replacement ones.

I tried on some shoes from the vegetarian shop in town and, although they looked like my usual Birkenstock sandals, I could feel that they’d slice my feet up within minutes and I didn’t have time to get my feet blistered and heal before going away the next day. And so I got a pair of leather Birkenstocks. In that moment walking away from the shop, I felt so wrong and I still do today. I feel like I’m wearing death with animal skin on my feet.

But the truth is that most people are wearing, eating, using things that cause harm to another living being. The cheap clothes that come from sweatshops, the glue made with animal products, the medicine made through the testing of animals.

So I’ve accepted that I am not officially vegan. I eat a plant-based diet and am trying to tread as lightly on this earth as possible.

On my trip around Asia, I’m eating vegan when I can and always veggie where not possible. I’m not buying countless souvenirs which will sit on my shelf or in my wardrobe and then get taken to a charity shop or thrown away. I’m considering a personal shopping ban (inspired by reading ‘the year of less’ on holiday). And when I get back, I’m going to have my old Birkenstocks re-soled so I won’t need to buy another pair in the future (or will plan in advance and try a pair of sandals from their vegan range.

I’m doing my part to make as little impact on the earth and to harm as few beings as possible. I’m not perfect and I’m going to leave some sort of mark on this planet, but I hope to be gentle, be kind and do the best I can.