Blue Lights, Growing Old and Conversations with Kids

If you look closely enough, you can see blue lights flashing among the sea of white lights when the metro train whooshes in the underground tunnels.

The kids and I make a game of it. Whoever sees the most blue flashes wins.

The 4 year old always wins. For some reason she sees thousands even though she can’t count past 40.

The more time I spend with kids the more I appreciate their knack for seeing things we adults can’t see. I think I like it even more when they own it and do it on purpose.

When they tell you impossible things with a big smile on their faces you can’t help but play along.

It always makes for interesting conversations.

I never intended to become a nanny, I was supposed to go to grad school and become a great psychologist but I realized I’d be in the wrong line of work.

I was looking for conversations that made life seem like it was beautiful and simple, not scary and complicated.

That’s the sad part of growing up, the older we get, the more what we say gets weighed down by the ugly things we’ve learned about the world.

One time after our little game I asked if she planned to count all the blue lights to infinity.

Of course she said yes.

“Do you know what infinity means?”

She said yes.

I informed her that even if I counted from this very moment until the day I died I wouldn’t be done.

She looked at me for a moment, processing the information. She then asked me this:

“Can God count to infinity?”

*Photo Credit: saori usuki flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Letter to my Former Self

Dear old me,

I think of you often. If I’m being honest (I know you appreciate honesty) those thoughts are mostly about trying to understand you, not very much about a fondness for who you are (who I were). To be fair you wouldn’t like me that much either, I have failed you in ways you might have predicted and failed to do things your brain hasn’t even conceived yet.

You and I are similar in that we’re both perfectly imperfect and you probably already know that’s all we’ll ever be. I think you get the beauty of that, although I’m way ahead of you in appreciating it to its full extent.

I see you from afar trying to cling to things that don’t serve you because you like the idea of them and the comfort they bring to your life. Life is never perfect, you know it but you still believe there’s a perfect time for changing. That one is hard to shake off. I know. 

This is not a letter to try to change you, obviously that’s impossible. If you could somehow really receive this letter I know you would though. You have it in you to be the kind of person who cares about aligning their actions with their morals.

You’re nice to everyone around you, too nice sometimes and you make up for the times you aren’t. You care about people and the bad things happening to them so much that you’re unsure how to deal with it. I can’t tell you the answer to that, I still haven’t found it. See, the world didn’t get better in the years that separate us. In many ways, it’s worse. Much worse.

You don’t think of injustice everyday like I do but you think about it more and more. I remember.

I have clear memories of all the times injustice and cruelty didn’t cross your mind at all.

Sitting down at the Brazilian Churrascaria place, wondering about what the future holds with this boy in front of you -well man- but more boy than man, feeling privileged that he took you out for once.

You didn’t think about what was on your plate at all that night. Especially not what was on your plate used to be.

That’s the memory my brain brings me to often when I want to try to understand you.

I don’t know if I ever will. I can’t change anything you did now.

All I can say is this:

I forgive you for believing there’s such a thing as necessary evil.

Much love to you,

Your future vegan self.

 p.s I do envy you sometimes for the easier and happier life that this lie gives you but I wouldn’t ever go back.


This was part of my “writing a letter to myself” February challenge. 

What would you write to your former self? 

I’d love to know in the comments!

*Photo Credit: Max Braun flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Writing Letters to Ourselves

I still have the first letter I’ve ever received.

It was from my best friend when she was away at camp during the summer. I was 8 or 9 I think.

I never went away on vacation long enough to actually write and send letters myself growing up.

As a teenager I wrote letters frequently. We’d exchange them between classes or go home with one.

I’ve always liked the art form. It’s an easy way to share a part of ourselves. There’s no immediate response needed like in a conversation.

Throughout the years after high school I’ve had a few correspondences who sadly all fizzled out.

I could never find someone as long-winded and willing to share as I was.

It’s partly why I started to blog in the first place.

To send my thoughts out to anyone who would like to read them.

I think most of us have lost the habit of writing letters.

That’s something I’d like to get back into.

If, like me, you have no one to send them to, you might want to consider an obvious recipient.

Yourself.

For the month of February I will be writing letters to myself.

A letter addressed to my past self and my future self.

A letter to open on sad days, one to read on happy days.

All sorts of letters, from me to me.

Because it’s the month of love and it should be the month of self-love as well. (or so I say!)



You can join me if you want. Think of it as a writing prompt.

Do you ever write letters? To whom?

Do you miss old fashioned correspondence?

I’d love to know in the comments.

*Photo Credit: Bianca Moraes flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Being Present on Social Media

You only get to live once. 

A lot of people say that. I don’t know if that is true or not but I feel like we get to exist more than once in this very life.

What I’m going to say may sound far-fetched but there’s some truth to it. Otherwise I wouldn’t be talking about it.

Right now at this very moment it’s estimated that 78% of North Americans are present on some form of social media.

It’s also estimated that 2.5 billion people are going to be on social media by 2018.

The numbers and the fact you’re reading this brings me to my exact point; there’s an us that’s breathing, having breakfast, walking down the street and then there’s the other us.

The one that gets to exist outside of the confines set by time and space. While you’re reading this, you and I are likely in a different city, different country, in a different time zone. Your physical self and mine are separated. Case in point; I don’t know what 99% of my readers look like.

I’ve been pondering on this other existence of mine for quite a while.

I was going to write “this other me” instead of other existence but I refrained.

I think that’s very telling of my relationship with social media so far. I’m probably not the only one to consider who I am in the virtual space as being somehow different than the me writing this right now on a crowded bus next to a screaming baby.

The fact that we can decide what to say, what to show and mold ourselves into a better (or totally different) version of ourselves has some people saying that social media isn’t real.

For me the issue was never about “to be or not to be” some version of myself I’d carefully craft but rather “to share or not to share”.

I’m sure most of you can relate to that.

Unless you’re a teenager with an identity crisis, the question of being present on social media is usually just that; how present should you be and  how?

I’ve been existing on social media for more than a decade and I’m still trying to answer those questions.

Some days I’m satisfied with merely existing in the physical world. It seems easier in many ways. There is no audience to contend with, I can retreat into myself as much as I want.

Then on other days, I want to share everything. Every thought and every little piece of me that I feel deserve to exist somewhere other than in my own mind.

All of us living in this generation have been given this gift; the ability to give our most authentic self an existence beyond what could have ever been possible before.

We get to connect with each other on a level that is unheard of in the history of humanity.

For the first time we can be there for each other, outside of space and time.

What you say or do can impact people you’ve never met or are not even born yet.

This used to be a privilege granted to only a few; inventors, writers, historical figures.

I realize now more than ever (with everything that’s happening in the world) that this opportunity we have to speak our truth and meet each other in our humanness without barriers is one that we shouldn’t pass up.

After all we’ve all learned that sharing is caring.

Maybe it’s time we listened.

*Picture Credit: susan flickr Creative Commons 2.0

How to Avoid Vegan Burnout

It’s no secret that the world is a dark place.

In the wake of recent political events, activists of all walks of life are feeling the repercussions on their mood I’m sure.

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of art in activism. I touched upon how there’s no reason to feel that being artist is pointless.

Today I want to talk about how being vegan feels pointless and rightly so and what can be done about it.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been vegan for a hot minute or years, you can most definitely feel the effects of a “vegan burnout” at any time.

It can take you to new depths of despair, contemplating everything that is wrong in the world and having to add the plight of animals to the mix.

There’s a price to pay for caring too much.

Sadness, anger, bouts of righteous unwanted vegan militant-ism and the worse; giving up altogether on morals are all symptoms of a vegan burnout.

You may want to stop associating with people. Going out to eat at the burger joint with friends is just too much for your soul.

I understand. I’ve been there.

I’ve been vegan for a few years now and I’ve had bouts of difficult times.

I still get symptoms of vegan burnout once in a while. It happened to me very recently when a long time vegan I looked up to, someone I thought was a great activist, turned his back on the animals to literally face (and eat) their dismembered body parts.

I thought if this of all things can happen, is there any hope at all?

While I’m still clueless and astonished that people can go back to (or never stop) gorging on something that is the result of cruelty and death, I’ve been feeling a bit better.

If you’re feeling a bit like you’re having a vegan burnout or you’re actually down there at the bottom of a negative feelings well, I’d like to help you.

Here are a few things that have made a difference for me:

1- Finding solace with like-minded people

First, know that you’re not alone in feeling this way. Even though some people leave veganism or never give it a try, there is a growing community of people who think just like you.

It’s worth reaching out to them, you won’t find a more compassionate ear than a vegan one!

2- Celebrating the little victories

For me it was receiving a Subway ad that made the promotion of the vegan Italian bread. It may seem insignificant but if you add them up, little things like that show that change is indeed happening.

Look around, it may not be obvious at first but if you pay attention you will eventually see all those little victories.

3- Focusing on what you can change

Dwelling on negative feelings is not good in any situation. Sometimes the solution is as simple as turning to action.

While I have no control over the terrible things people do, I can put my own actions forward and focus on the things I can change or get better at.

For me it means getting my words and values out there into the world and supporting the causes and businesses that go in line with them.

4- Making time to distract yourself

It may seem counter intuitive to want to take time away from the issues that matter the most to you but there is no point in letting your anguish over things you can’t ultimately control ruin your mood.

It’s ok to stop watching vegan themed videos or any animal rights content if your mood is already low.

There’s lots of fun vegan things you can do that doesn’t involve thinking about the suffering of animals.

I personally enjoy trying out new recipes.  Ice cream and brownies totally help too!

Have you ever dealt with a vegan burnout?

What are your tips and tricks to feel better?

I’d love to know in the comments!

*Picture Credit: Anton Vakulenko Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

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

Going to Familiar Places

There’s this place I go often called “La salle des Pas Perdus”.

The Hall of Lost Footsteps. 

That’s the literal translation.

It’s a wide, empty room made exceptionally bright by its white floors and impressive skylight windows.

There are little wooden benches in the middle with fake trees next to them. Whenever I go I like to sit on one, always the same.

Sometimes I look at the old pictures on the wall instead.

The Hall hasn’t changed much in the hundred and more years since it opened as a part of Windsor Station (Canada’s first heritage railway station).

The Hall of Lost Footsteps is the best name anyone could ever find for this place.

Millions of people have walked in and out of there. Travelers going to unfamiliar places or coming back to familiar ones.

So many footsteps whose trace has long disappeared from the white immaculate floor.

I usually day dream about the lives of these people I see on the black and white images of the very same room I stand in.

Where have their steps gone to?

Today I thought of my own instead.

The invisible thread retracing my steps that my mind created tells me one thing: I keep going to familiar places. 

Living in the city where there is absolutely no shortage of new places to discover, I still go down the same roads. The same paths.

Tonight my feet took me to a street I have been on, one, two, too many times. As I walked by the usual shops, the new boutiques, the corner on which my ex-boyfriend used to live and the familiar sight of the cars on the highway below, I thought of all those steps of mine I could see if they somehow never got lost.

It’s easy to not take them into account when your feet leave no traces.

I was standing there with the cold wind in my face and I realized that maybe I should start taking the direction of my steps seriously.

What good is it to always walk mindlessly if it takes us to the same roads again and again?

It seems to me like going to familiar places does leave a trace in the end.

It’s something that starts but doesn’t end with your feet.

Going to the same places is akin to doing the same things.

If you want to conquer new terrains and new things maybe it’s worth it to stop going to familiar places.

Where do your footsteps go?

*Photo Credit: Rob Gallop flickr Creative Commons 2.0