Are we fooling ourselves into thinking we are nice people?

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I try not to rush to judgement, heaven knows. But I fail after having met someone a few times. By that point I feel I have a good handle on that person’s main traits and I’ve made a decision, subconscious or otherwise, about whether or not they are nice/kind. 

My neighbour once told me, while relating a story about something, to never mistake kindness for weakness. Ok fair enough. I guess that isn’t related to my argument here but I thought it interesting. 

Each generation strives to improve on what they grew up with. In pretty sure that drive is as basic as the drive to procreate in the first place. Therefore, when you meet someone who you consider to be a grump or a meany  you have to consider that his or her parents were worse. Yes, worse! Sometimes I forget this and assume all mean people are mean just because that’s how they were built. 

So am I really a nice person or am I just improving on the circumstances of my birth?  I think of myself as kind, yielding and emotionally available. Other people likely don’t think this about me. This weekend I got quite the wake up call when talking to an older woman who to me has always seemed very judge-y, insensitive and occasionally openly hostile to her close family members. It turns out that her beloved mother (no sarcasm, she always talks about her mom in glowing terms) was draconian in her decisions and once a decision was reached, no circumstances would change it. 

I felt a gradual dawning realization that this woman describes herself as a nice person because compared to her mother, she is!  Holy crap I’m growing up, still. 

Hiatus is a Good Word

I’ve thought about this little blog a lot lately. When I started writing here I needed an outlet for creativity and emotional venting. Also for pondering aloud. 

So much has happened to me since the summer. I said goodbye to daycare due to my kids outgrowing it. I got laid off of my 10-year cube job that I both hated and needed. I decided to sell off our rental house and therefore had to evict my friends who lived there. Then I broke my wrist in early October and am still in a cast. It’s a pretty purple colour but it prevents me from using my left arm very much and I happen to be left handed. 

Much soul searching ensued but not as much as when I was still a full time employee. I was neither sad nor happy about my sudden freedom. Mostly I wondered how I should feel, same as I have after many life events. Divorce springs to mind as one of the more discombobulating experiences that had a similar affect on my daily life. 

Luckily I hired a good lawyer and received a generous severance. Luckily I make money through our basement rental and luckily Husband’s biz is going like gangbusters. 

Yes I need to find a new vocation/focus/activity to keep me productive but until this arm cast comes off and the rental house is finally ready for sale I’m just helping Husband with his work, keeping the house functioning, and enjoying the lack of career expectations. I might work in a cube again if I have to, but only on a contract basis. It’s nice to have that as a fall back plan but I hope I never have to use it.

Meanwhile my midgets get older and I continue to encourage their independence. Boy is a moody 14 and is currently enduring ninth grade. Girl is a young lady, very social and industrious. We 3 are all still very close and I’m doing my level best to stay that way. 

Linked In immediately became irrelevant to my life. So did travel, to some extent. I no longer have a life I need to escape, and so my travel itch has diminished considerably. I’m fucking content, and that surprises me most of all. 

  

My Outlet

I’m not talking about shopping or electrical ones. 

I began this blog because I needed to write for pleasure, express my ideas, and blow off frustrations of life. 

Lately I feel very light, mentally speaking. My frustrations, creative and otherwise, have lifted. For now, at least. 

My fight against my depression and negativity have provided fodder for hundreds of my blog posts. Now I need to learn how to write about being happy without being cloying, content while making sure readers know my life isn’t perfect, and about good things without forgetting the bad. 

This is sort of like when I had to relearn how to cook after I decided to live as a vegan. That hasn’t turned out amazingly well (so far), so let’s hope this transition is a bit easier. 

What does a real person look like?

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The Fickle Heartbeat

barbie-proportions

Shared by our Featured Writer, zombiedrew2

If you’re a regular at thezombieshuffle, you know that I’m a big proponent of accepting yourself for who you are, while always striving for self-improvement. At first glance those two concepts may seem contradictory. If you accept yourself for who you are why should you strive to be something more? Rather than being contradictory, I see them as complementary.

By accepting yourself, I mean that it’s important to truly be able to love yourself for who you are, as you are. The person you are today may not be perfect, but you are “enough”. This doesn’t however mean you can’t improve, and strive to be something more. And in fact I think we should always strive to improve ourselves in all aspects of life. Saying you are enough simply means you are measuring your self-worth against who you actually are, instead of some…

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It’s Come to This

I’m a bad cook. Seriously bad. By the time a woman reaches her mid-forties, she should possess a vast repertoire of go-to recipes that are repeatable success stories. I do not have this, partly because I decided to stop eating all animal products 2 years ago and so had to basically throw out all of my stand-by foods, and partly because I just don’t have that cooking gene.

I don’t improvise, for example. I follow a recipe and hope to hell it turns out as promised.

This coming weekend, in a week, we are hosting a big dinner at our house. Attending this dinner are my mother in law and my 2 stepdaughters who are foodies to the nth degree. And everyone eats meat. I just…can’t. I can do all the cleaning and I am a good kitchen assistant, but the I cannot be head cook. Nope nope nope. Luckily, Husband is good at wrangling food and slinging hash. And I’m good at looking busy.

Husband, who is the most consistently supportive man ever, reluctantly admitted last weekend that I am a terrible cook. This admission made me snort with laughter, that I actually got him to admit something unflattering about me.

Perfect attendance for me at work next week, for reasons I will explain later.

 

Dolla Dolla Bill, Y’all!

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I no longer pay a babysitter, starting tomorrow. I will be saving $400 a month, starting tomorrow. This is equivalent to receiving a 5K yearly raise!

I am so effing thrilled I can’t even tell you. Carry on.

Are we? Are we? Are we?

Done, that is? Gah. Daddy issues abound. I shouldn’t have read Post Secret yesterday, because holy crap so much unresolved anger or else deeply missing Daddy.

I have a great stepdad, with whom I have no issues and sent him a nice e-card for Father’s Day. Husband had a great day yesterday with his kids. End of story. It doesn’t need to be an ordeal. 
This aft is boy midget’s grad from grade 8. We did it; we made it through elementary school, something I couldn’t fathom 10 years ago when he started junior kindergarten. 

I’m not one of those moms who laments their kids getting older. I love seeing them grow and change. When I see a random baby on the street, I want to eat it or at least smell its head. But I don’t feel wistful. Maybe sometimes I marvel at how much time has passed, but that’s about it. 

Today we got a parking ticket. This after carefully parking in a real spot and reading the signs to make sure parking there was allowed at that time of day. Oh but we forgot that parking is allowed there only the first 2 weeks of the month. $40 later, I am reminded again how hard it is to live in the city, and how difficult it is to raise a family here. Would I trade it for suburbs? No effing way. How about a small town? Probably not. So we are left with this option, of fighting our way to pay taxes, tickets, and other paperwork to keep our home, vehicle and lives in order with the powers that be. 

Travelling Changes your Personal Aesthetic

Courtesy of Jezebel:

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When I quit my job in New York to go backpacking in South America, I agonized over what to pack. I couldn’t, for instance, not bring my Ferragamo flats, even if it meant ruining their soles on dirt paths and crumbling cobblestones. I certainly couldn’t leave behind my beloved red lipstick—I wanted it for nights out salsa dancing, or when I needed to feel myself. It was a reliable pick-me-up, an armor against insecurity. But I left behind everything else: my makeup bag full of OPI and Essie nail polishes in shades of red and gray and green, expensive top-coats with specks of gold glitter, black eyeliner and mascara and dozens of tubes of lipstick—neutral to crimson to pretty in pink. I’d left my satin gloves and pearl necklaces and flapper dresses.

Consciously, I’d decided to leave behind the New York fantasy I had built for myself, a fantasy built in no small part on clothes. Still, I refused to buy a pair of hiking shoes. I couldn’t stand the way they looked: clumsy, heavy, ugly mud brown.

I wore a v-neck t-shirt, jeans, and an old cardigan at the airport. I did not feel myself. I sat across a perfectly coiffed Colombian woman with a Hermès Birkin in her lap. I frantically texted my friend: I feel so underdressed. My hiking backpack, with its countless, messy straps, didn’t lend me an air of sophistication.

I love clothes. I always have. In the earliest days when fashion blogs were just beginning to sprout, I posted daily outfits to a Flickr group. Fashion was novel and exciting, and it was a way to distinguish myself. I loved losing myself in editorials, in beauty and glamour. I loved the transformative power of clothes, how changing your outfit meant changing your persona.

On the road, my aesthetic changed. It was a slow, subtle process. It became looser and easier the longer I was away. In New York I loved silk shirts and tailored blazers and pencil skirts. In South America, I bought feather earrings and macramé necklaces made from natural stones. My single pair of jeans became worn out with holes. I never put on my red lipstick. And I learned the depth of my mistake about the hiking shoes: I went hiking for the first time in the rocky, jagged mountains of Colombia wearing gym shoes that had tractionless white soles. It was completely miserable.

So I stopped worrying about it, and I got hiking shoes. There was so much more to do. There were hikes to go on and waterfalls to swim in and cities to explore. If anything, I wanted to play down my Western clothes. It was easier to explore Latin America as a young woman alone if I was less conspicuous, and so it was jeans and t-shirts and a local bag. On the nights I did go out with fellow travelers, everyone else was rumpled too. At least I had my Ferragamos. That was the only thing that tied me to the past, my fancy New York persona. Once, someone recognized the brand and laughed. They became worn down, too, holes on the toes, the heels. I took them to a cobbler in a small Peruvian city, and afterwards, the shoes looked industrial. I could have cried. I desperately missed my favorite cobbler in Williamsburg, who worked miracles restoring the shoes once every couple of months.

Still, there was a certain joy in abandoning myself to the world around me, which meant becoming a hippie. The travelers who dressed very well—the girls with heels in their backpack—were a different kind of traveler: prone to dancing and drinking in hostels full of Westerners, and not so much exploring dusty, neglected towns and mountains with unmarked trails alone.

After seven months of backpacking in South America, I came back to New York for a visit.

I felt shocked by the style all around me. I kept staring at clothes of strangers. I admired the gold buckles of boots and the sharp silhouettes of coats. I looked at stylish haircuts and dangling earrings. I’d been lost for so long in a world of Keen sandals and alpaca sweaters.

“You look exhausted,” a friend told me at dinner. We were at a West Village restaurant that served complicated classics: tiny corn dog appetizers paired with curated sauces. I felt the sting even as I smiled and said, oh, I’m not.

I was happy, actually, overwhelmed by the sudden return to the city, the Western world, but blissed-out from my travels. But then again: I wasn’t wearing makeup. My t-shirt had holes in the neckline. My woven bag from Colombia was tattered and pilled.

It shouldn’t have mattered. But so much of my identity as a New Yorker had been built around a certain attitude, a certain look. It alarmed me that, so quickly, I’d become a stranger.

So I left again. Traveling in Asia, I became fully unrecognizable in comparison to old selfies: me with lush bangs, cat eyeliner. On the road, sometimes I’d dig up the photos and show them to the people I met. What happened, a man in China exclaimed. He was not enthusiastic about my short hair, my makeup-free face. In big cities in China, it set me apart as an outsider, where most young women looked like dolls in pastel-hued dresses. Sometimes, I got the hippie approval. A rock climber in Yangshuo told me it suited me better. Mostly, I agreed.

Nearly two years after I first left, I moved back to New York. I didn’t think I’d stay—I only intended to visit before heading off on another trip. But then I fell back in love with the city, and I couldn’t go.

This time, I had only my backpacking clothes (all of it fit inside one tote bag). For the winter, I bought just one new thing: a black wool coat that I wore every day. Remarkably, my backpacker clothes served just as well in NYC.

This time, I found the balance between two worlds that once felt contradictory. Now, I wear clothes until they are absolutely undone. Half of my wardrobe comes from my travels: oversized cotton shirts and long linen skirts, pashmina scarves and wool shawls from China, Peru, Nepal. I’m still fond of clothes that let you walk long hours and sleep on couches, clothes for grass and sand and mountains, clothes that are quickly washable and not so delicate. And I’ve also grown fond, again, of my city shoes and fancy jewelry: leather oxfords and loafers with intricate beading, a ring of diamonds and rose gold.

The only thing I’ve left behind for good is the performance of beauty. When my friends tell me about new hair treatments or shopping trips to Sephora, I listen blankly. But then, still, some days, I curl my lashes, sweep on blush, and put on tinted lip balm. But I don’t spend too much time before the mirror. Instead, I go for long walks in neighborhoods I don’t know, and turn my face up to the sun.

Laura Yan is a writer, wanderer, and sketcher of strangers. She does not know where she is going next. She tweets @noirony.

Photos via Laura Yan.

It’s Ok to Hate Your Job

Courtesy of Reddit:

Somone I trust and lookup to told me the other day at breakfast that I should write a book on my experiences and how I got off my ass and helped myself. I laughed and said I knew I didn’t have that kind of focus or care to write.

Even this post I’m just dictating into my computer mostly. But I did want to share this with you because it helped me.

You hate your job. You try to pretend like you don’t but you do. You get in the car every morning, with your coffee in hand, and take a deep breath. Right there, in the quiet of your front seat, you have the same conversation with yourself day after day. It goes like this:

“You can do this. Just one day. You can make it through.”

Of course, you know that. You know you can make it through the day. You’ve been “making it” through days for months now, even years, by repeating this very same routine, this coffee and breathing and driving and numbing and “you can make it” routine.

But is this what life is supposed to feel like? Like you’re just “making it” through?

Does everyone feel this way? I fucking did and I hated it. Thankfully I was fired for my diminishing performance at work.

Chances are, you’ve worked a handful of jobs and most of them have felt this way. In the beginning you think, “great opportunity,” or “exactly what I need for now” or even, optimistically, “this one is going to be different.” There’s always such a freshness and excitement and urgency and enthusiasm when you begin something new.

But then, after a few weeks, or maybe months if you can hold out, this old familiar feeling starts to sink in: Exhaustion, depression, loss of motivation, the fear that you’re just pushing papers or running TPS reports or barking at a room full of students to calm down. The feeling you have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning.

What about the thing you want to be doing? The thing that gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you up at night? Why can’t you get paid to do that?

Never mind, you give up. Nobody really loves their job. Do they?

You worry it must be you.

It must be an attitude problem, or a gratitude problem, or maybe you were just born lazy or entitled. Maybe it’s because you live in a rich country, or because you grew up in a rich family, or because you grew up in a poor family and you always wished things could be different. Maybe this is a “first world problem.”

At least you have a job, you tell yourself. Some people don’t even have that.

I’m writing to tell you it’s okay.

It’s okay to hate your job, and it’s okay to want a new one. It’s normal. You’re normal. You don’t have to hide it or feel guilty anymore and you don’t have to talk yourself out of it. What you want is saying something. It’s trying to tell you something. It’s a special message for you from deep inside your gut.

Don’t ignore it.

When you’re hungry, your body tells you by sending signals to your brain. Your stomach growls. You crave something. Your mouth waters. You respond by giving it food.

What your body craves isn’t always best for you. Anyone who has dieted knows this. Sometimes our bodies are addicted to sugar, or to fat, or to salt, or even to chemicals, and we have to recognize and intervene and feed it something different than what it craves. But we don’t do this because hunger is bad. We do this because we know what’s best for our body.

Because what we really want is to be healthy, to have more energy, to live longer, to lose weight.

The worst thing you could do, when your stomach growls, is give it no food at all.

Don’t ignore your hunger.

Instead, ask yourself what you really want.

What do you really want out of life? What is the most important? You can’t have it all, so you have to prioritize, but it’s okay to want stuff. It’s okay to want a different job, a different city, a different job, a different way of life. Different wants crop up in different seasons (career, family, marriage, friendship, healing, etc.) but wants always help us to zoom in and focus and feel thankful and see progress and find meaning in our life.

So, what do you want right now? What matters most?

If you woke up this morning and are dreading your job, listen up. You’re normal. This is normal. It can be hard to find meaning in what you do, no matter your job title. But it is possible. Everyone doesn’t hate their job. And it’s not irresponsible for you to ask yourself the questions you need to ask to find work you love. (Like, what do you want?) You may discover you need a new job. You may find you simply need a change of perspective.

Either way, what your feeling is not bad or wrong. In fact, it might be trying to tell you something important.

Don’t ignore it.

 

Why are Some Animals Pets, and Some Food?

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It never fails to upset my kids when I question their choices to eat chickens, eggs, cheese, hamburgers, pizza, and so on. They beg me to stop talking about it, and so I do. I understand that for them to stop eating these products would equal social suicide and awkwardness all around. I can respect that; after all their meal choices are not yet their own and often they eat at friends’ houses. To put restrictions (that some might find cumbersome or unreasonable) is a lot to ask. For example, every birthday party consists of pizza and cake. Yes, for their own birthdays I could come up with vegan comparables, but for all of the other parties they attend? No, that just wouldn’t work. And that might lead you to question just how committed I am to not eating animals or their products. To that I say, I’m very committed for myself, and I think some day soon when my midgets have more control over their food and feel more secure as independent people, they will see the light.

Everyone knows by now that factory farming is hurting animals, the environment, and ultimately ourselves. Right? Now we have a niche market created to ease the consciences of meat eaters; organic/free range/pasture raised animals/dairy/eggs. Some companies purporting to be organic, local and ‘humane’ have been exposed as frauds, but still people persevere in seeking a solution that will allow them to continue eating the same food as always, while easing their mental burden.

It’s ok to kill and exploit animals, as long as they have a chance to frolic first. That’s what makes it ok. Oh and sometimes the ‘kosher’ style of killing is said to be humane. Really? Ask Temple Grandin about that. She created a system for soothing animals who are being led to slaughter, because animals, like people, freak out when they know they are about to be killed.

The fetishization of bacon kills me. We now know pigs are intelligent beings. But should their intellect make any difference as to whether they ‘deserve’ to be eaten?

Lately I’ve really gotten interested in pod casts. I listen to them when I walk the dogs, ride my bike to work, and when I clean the house. Here is one of my faves:

Our Hen House (they are on Facebook too)

You can’t listen to this and still think eating animals is ok or necessary.

Yes there is some pretentiousness and rhetoric, but also an acknowledgement that being vegan is usually territory of middle and upper class first-worlders. There is also an admission that because in today’s world there are huge industries built around growing, selling, and promoting the consumption of animal products, it’s difficult for the average consumer to avoid them. Or at least, to make that shift is socially awkward at best.

Today I listened to the latest Hen House and they interviewed a person who is part of a team developing prophylactic vaccines for deer. These harmless vaccines last 1 year and naturally prevent conception. As we urbanize farmland and expand our cities/towns, we are creating a more hospitable environment for deer and therefore supporting the deer population expansion. Once the vaccine wears off, a deer’s fertility returns to normal. Grass, other plants (some of which grow year round), and shelter all encourage an increase in the number of deer living among us.

Yes, even when I’m walking my dogs and picking up their poop, I’m learning new information. Multi-tasking at its finest!