Be Your Own Hero

 “Sometimes I look at my life and…”

Someone said that to me once with their voice trailing off to somewhere I couldn’t follow.

It was such a great opening, an intriguing start to a very human confession whose nature promised the delivery of some deep truths and authentic connection which I both sought.

I was left to fill in the blanks myself with my interlocutor’s sudden silence accompanied with a swift wave of the hand.

I still think about it from time to time, the writer in me can’t help it.

Statements like this resonate for a long time in my psyche.

It amazes me how sometimes the absence of words can speak louder than all the words in the world.

It’s a hard fact to accept as a writer.

I want to put words on everything, from the mundane to the extraordinary. On universal feelings and ones you wouldn’t know you had before reading about them.

I can’t.

I tried imagining what the speaker meant to say.

Everything I came up with felt flat.

I then thought of what I could say.

“Sometimes I look at my life and…”

I’m at a loss for words.

Plain and simple.

Not because there’s nothing to say, quite the contrary.

But because there’s so much.

Looking at my own life as if I was the hero of a story, I realized that if I want to ever be able to fill those blanks for other people I should start with my own.

Of course there is power in what is left unsaid but you can’t deny that most of us crave to hear or read stories that show the universality of human experiences.

I think if we can find those kinds of stories in our own life and tell them well enough to satisfy that craving, we can then really call ourselves a writer.

If you wish to capture deep truths and have an authentic connection with your readers, you have to start by connecting with your own truths first.

You don’t have to be a memoirist but if you can’t write about the little and big things in your life in a way that makes you feel empathy for who you were, who you are and who you will be, how could you do it for any character?

I say “Be your own hero”.

Writers out there, what do you think of auto fiction? Is it a necessary first step to writing good relate-able characters? 

If you’re not a writer, do you “sometimes look at your life and…”? 

Let me know your thoughts on the topic in the comments. 

*Photo Credit: blinking idiot flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Advertisements

The Power of Stories

I think as artists we all have days where we ask ourselves this question: “Why?”

Sitting down to write or create something, putting our stories out into the world can feel pointless.

It doesn’t matter what your medium of choice is, the fact is; being an artist of any kind doesn’t have many of the perks that a so called “real” job has.

No financial security, no status, nothing resembling a nod of approval for the important work we do.

Sometimes I do wonder. Is it important?

After all when it comes to life and death, fighting oppression and making the world a better place, a pretty children’s story or a contemporary dance piece are not part of the obvious work that we think should be done.

It’s already hard to find value in art when everything is rosy and sweet unless you’re an artist. When the world is looking bleak, like it does nowadays, even I, strict defender of the arts,  find it difficult to believe that sharing my words, my stories, a piece of my own vision is the most worthwhile thing I can do.

I’ve thought a lot about this in the wake of the recent political events that have (it seems) turned the world upside down.

Activists everywhere are waking up and people who never thought of themselves as activists are taking a stand.

Where does that leave artists?

Some say that art can be a tool in bringing social and political change.

If you have ever looked for a justification to do your art when more important things are happening, you probably gladly took this one.

I know I did and I am now.

If I’m being honest I didn’t quite truly believe it until today.

You could say I had an epiphany.

Where did it come from?

It came from asking this question: So what if I’m sitting down writing a story I believe the world doesn’t need?

We are already being bombarded by stories everyday. Stories that we don’t get to choose.

Everyday I read on SnapChat stories about some celebrity’s vacations or sudden acne flareup.

I read on Facebook stuff about an airport officer getting shot and a 2 year old singing perfectly a famous country singer’s song.

One can avoid reading the news you could say. That’s true. But it’s not just about story lines on social media or in the papers.

It goes deeper than that.

The power of stories is at work right now in your life and in your children’s life whether you like it or not.

Whether you realize it or not.

It’s also at work in our neighbor’s life, in our friends, in our enemies, in elected officials. Everyone.

What do I mean?

First, the obvious; what we do, what happened to us, that’s a story. You can’t say that has no power. The past impacts us all in ways we wish it didn’t sometimes. Conversely what you’re doing right now impacts you future, even though you might not want it to.

Secondly, the less obvious but perhaps a lot more powerful; the stories we pick up here and there, the one your grandpa might have told you when you went fishing with him or that time you got caught telling a really good lie. The stories big and small that we use to create. The stories that created us.

The stories that tell us what is important at all in this life.

Being an artist may come without a status but it does come with great power.

If you’re ever in doubt, please:

Never underestimate the power of a really good story.

Especially your own.

 

*Photo Credit: Eric flickr Creative Commons 2.02.0

Being a Barefaced Woman

In recent years, being a barefaced woman has become somewhat trendy. We’ve all seen the #nomakeupselfies become increasingly popular on Instagram. Heck, there’s even a National No Makeup Day.

Some celebrities like Alicia Keys have spoken eloquently on the topic and helped make the #nomakeup movement what it is today.

Like most (if not all) of the choices a woman can make about her body, putting on makeup or foregoing it is a source of debate and controversy.

Whether you’re on team #makeup or #nomakeup it doesn’t matter, someone somewhere will think you’re wrong.

I’m not here to be that person.

All I can talk about is my experience. The personal is political.

If there’s one thing I remember from feminist theory it’s exactly that.

There is no right or wrong choice but adding our voices to the collective discussion can help other women to be more confident in making the right decision for them.

When it comes to making decisions on how we want to present ourselves to society fear is sadly a major influence.

It was for me.

Even though I have been a barefaced woman for more than 3 years now I was never a barefaced girl.

From ages 12 to 18 the thought of going barefaced terrified me.

No, that’s not exactly right.

The thought of what would happen if I went barefaced terrified me.

Because let’s be real, there’s nothing scary about ditching the time-intensive routine of “prettyfication”.

What’s scary is the fact that we know all too well that for every action, there’s a reaction.

The first obvious one is our own.

I couldn’t bare looking at myself in the mirror if I didn’t like what I saw.

The second obvious reaction is other people’s reaction.

That’s usually where things go wrong.

I mean if you’re alone all day all you have to do is avoid mirrors. Going out into the world, other human eyes put mirrors to shame.

Going out into the world, inhumane eyes put you to shame.

That’s what I was afraid of.

I didn’t want to see that I was ugly. That reflection of me in other people’s eyes scared me and that fear informed my decision to put makeup on.

People often say that makeup is a mask. That women use it to hide themselves. As if it was an act of deceit.

I used it as a shield.

As a girl there was some battles I wasn’t ready for.

I wish being barefaced wasn’t seen as a courageous feat to be celebrated.

But in many ways it is.

I wish my decision to be a barefaced woman was just that, my decision, but I don’t think it is.

It’s a lot more.

I’m not a celebrity, I don’t have flawless skin, I don’t have a special glow or the kind of “natural beauty” that you find in usual #nomakeupselfies on social media.

I’m a one of a kind woman. I have a lot more to show than tired eyes and slightly dry skin.

I never see women like me on the bus or walking down the street.

But I don’t care.

Going without makeup shouldn’t be a privilege that only women with flawless skin get to enjoy.

That’s why I’m a barefaced woman.

Are you a barefaced woman too? What do you think of the #nomakeup movement?

I’d love to know your thoughts.

*Photo Credit: Larry flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Diet and Nutrition Obsessions Are Detrimental to the Vegan Movement

Vegans as a whole tend to be an health focused crowd. It’s not that surprising considering studies of current and former vegans/vegetarians show that 45% of people say that they adopted the lifestyle for health reasons and animal protection.

Indeed, when prompted, most cite health as one of the reasons for going vegan. It’s rare to have people mention only animals.

Although being careful about eating right and knowledgeable about nutrients is generally a good thing, it can also be detrimental.

That’s a rightful conclusion to come to considering that 95% of ex-vegans cite health as their only motivators for trying the diet.

A plant-based diet is often championed as the cure all. Obviously it’s great and has been shown to prevent diabetes, heart diseases and a host of chronic diseases but its reputation may be doing more harm than good in terms of actual veganism.

When a diet is so tightly linked to our health in our eyes, every bump along the road is cause for concern.

Feeling foggy one day? It’s probably our diet’s fault.

Our mood is low for a week? Obviously it’s the lack of eggs that’s affecting our brain.

You get the picture.

Most of us have been conditioned our whole life to consider a diet rich in meat and animal products normal.

Normal is never put under scrutiny.

The default option can never be wrong. 

While plant-based eaters put their ailments as a direct consequence of their diet, meat-eaters rarely ever do.

Every possible explanation under the sun will be explored before diet gets put on blast.

Being vegan is not a science experiment we make on our bodies. At least it shouldn’t be.

What do you think?

Are nutrition and diet obsessions doing more harm than good?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

*Photo Credit: fouilbreizh flickr Creative Commons 2.0

The Ex-Vegan Conundrum

Will I ever be an ex-vegan?

That’s a question I’ve been pondering on these past few days.

My short answer is no.

My long answer is this very post.

Obviously no one knows what the future holds. Humans have the (sometimes aggravating) capacity of changing their mind and evolving. It’s part of what makes us very unique animals.

Our ability to think, reason and exercise compassion is at the root of the very decision to become vegan.

For some reason that I find very hard to understand, that same ability is also responsible for people going back on their convictions.

I have spoken briefly about this in my Breaking Up with Veganism post but I feel it’s worth mentioning again, in the U.S the number of ex-vegans/vegetarians is 5 times greater than the number of current adherents to the lifestyle.

The vegan movement is clearly better at bringing people on board than keeping them in their ranks.

A lot can be said of those who abandon the vegan ship. Often not so nice things are expressed about them by the community that welcomed them with open arms in their pre-vegan days.

This chastising of ex-members is seen as cult-like and it’s not hard to figure out why.

The “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” and “you were never really part of us to begin with if you quit” doesn’t look good for any organization.

There is a common theme in the vegan community of brushing former members away on the basis of “you were never really vegan if you quit; you were just plant-based”.

Of course there is some truth to that but it’s an oversimplification that doesn’t explain everything and all cases.

Yes some people were in it purely for health reasons. It’s easy to understand why they quit if they feel their health is compromised.

It’s however harder or impossible to grasp how the most ethically focused and militant vegans out there suddenly turn their backs on the animals.

This is the real ex-vegan conundrum.    

The fact that somewhere down the line our ethics and moral choices can change.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, it is human to evolve.

Our moral compass can change.

Truth is, like a real compass, it can be affected by many variables.

I believe the main one to be survival.

Humans and non-humans animals have an inherent will to survive. We can be violent, aggressive and downright murderous if need be.

If we feel we need to I should say.

At some point a vegan re-evaluates his/her choices in light of some new belief that they are in danger. True or imagined it doesn’t matter.

Their health may be declining, their circle of friends shunning them or whatever else. The important point is that they are stuck weighing their own survival and well-being against another creature’s.

The big question is: if someone believes intently that going back to eating animal products will help them survive or improve their quality of life and also believes that it is wrong to do so, when does convictions break?

When is the breaking point appropriate?

For my own life my answer is: never.

Even if for some reason I came to be in such a position with such beliefs in my head, I wouldn’t do it.

It’s an extreme position and very possibly a seemingly unwise one but I simply can’t imagine just giving up.

I don’t care if being put on this planet is supposed to mean that I should survive at all cost. I don’t care if everything and everyone I see only care about themselves.

I would rather reject nature and what it means to live on this planet if my only option is causing death and suffering.

In the end, I don’t blame people for thinking differently.

It’s a hard world we live in.

What do you think?

Do you see yourself ever being an ex-vegan?

Are you an ex-vegan?

I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

*Photo Credit: Marco Bellucci flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Animals as Family Members

I stumbled upon an article this week about a judge’s ruling in a divorce case in which the defendants fought over custody of their dog.

The judge decried the whole matter saying it was an outrageous loss of judicial resources. His exact words were that it was “wasteful” and “demeaning” to bring such a dispute to court.

The court ruled in short that:

Dogs are property and not family; thus fighting over visitation rights is pointless. 

Dogs were relegated to the same status as butter knives in a divorcing couple’s drawer.

The scary thing is I didn’t make this up. The judge actually used the butter knives example in his 15 pages decision ruling.

“Am I to make an order that one party have interim possession of [for example] the family butter knives but, due to a deep attachment to both butter and those knives, order that the other party have limited access to those knives for 1.5 hours per week to butter his or her toast?”

The whole thing is grossing me out so much that I’ve been thinking about it all day.

The “dogs are wonderful creatures but it’s still just a dog” saying rings true to so many people. You’ll see if you scroll down the comments.

It seems like even the most esteemed animals can’t catch a break.

If pets are on the same level as kitchen utensils, merely cared for out of sentimentality and practicality, I don’t know how all other animals ever stand a chance.

The truth is and I’m sure a lot of people can relate, the animals that we share our existence with are not inanimate objects. Sure we care deeply for them but not because of everything they add to our life. (Although the cuddles are always nice)

But because of the relationship we form with them.

You can’t interact with your possessions. And no Siri doesn’t count.

A lot of people say animals are our friends.

But to me, animals can and are family.

What do you think?

I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

 

*Photo Credit: University of Liverpool Faculty of Health and Life Sciences flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Get Rid of Things You Don’t Have

I don’t know about you but the start of a new year always puts things in a different perspective for me.

I’m more motivated to reach my goals, I’m driven and full of this renewed zest for life that the start of a new year seems to inevitably bring.

All this is well and good.

However, there’s another thing that starting a new year always brings me, one that is less great.

The feeling of needing things.

That craving for all the things I don’t have yet.

Maybe it’s a by-product of all the holiday gifts I got that I love but didn’t know I needed before I actually got them. I don’t know.

I’m a minimalist at heart and I have very few things (compared to other North American people that is) but I still have too many -must haves- occupying my mind’s space.

It may seem inconsequential but the time I use dreaming of those things I want is actually detrimental to me.

People often say that the only way to get what we want, whether it is a specific object or an intangible goal is to focus on it with an eagle like obsession.

I’m all for vision boards and other derivatives but I have come to realize that having them can be dangerous. Staring in the face everyday what we don’t have yet is focusing on what we lack.

I don’t want to be obsessed with what I don’t possess. I want to feel the abundance of what life has already given me.

Getting rid of our material possessions may be hard but losing the mindset of always wanting is a lot harder.

There’s a lot of things I want for myself this year, material and non-material. However I cannot be focused on my goals if I’m constantly working with an image of all the things I want in the back of my mind.

So I have come to a logical conclusion.

In 2017 I am going to start getting rid of all the things I don’t have.

Who’s with me?

Do you have wants and desires that keep you from enjoying the here and now?

I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.

*Photo Credit: Keoni Cabral flickr Creative Commons 2.0