Abandoning Social Media

When I’m fired up about some new concept or cause, I shout breathlessly about it to everyone in earshot- by everyone I mean my husband. He usually rolls his eyes and raises his brows, humoring me for as long as he can stand it. About this, though, he is definitely first in this race. I’m talking about the concept of abandoning social media. I’ve tried to keep up with the Jones’ when it comes to social media, quickly adopting a facebook profile and later on an instagram- also tried my hand at tumblr for a few weeks which was shortlived. I have even kept up with the mandatory baby pictures, holiday family shots and announcements about my life’s events. My husband, on the other hand has dragged his feet reluctantly through these social networks, which doesn’t surprise me as he barely even checks his email. He gave up facebook, shutting down his account, over 6 months ago and he says he couldn’t be happier. I followed suit soon after, cancelling my account without warning. Some of my friends were worried because they couldn’t find me, others who tried to connect thought they’d never hear from me again. I was happy with my decision and didn’t miss it, until I wanted to sell something that was specific to a group I belonged to. Getting my account back, I was swarmed with a gargantuan stream of overwhelmingly unnecessary information. The ads, the banal, the disgusting, the disturbing, the offensive, the pretty, the educational. All mashed together in a loosely threaded grotesque quilt of two dimensional social exchanges. I don’t want it getting back to me that my ex thinks I look hot in my Halloween costume. I don’t want random old people that were friends of my parent’s parents commenting on every thought I type out into the cyberworld. I’m tired of posting things that really mean something to me just to hear a virtual world of crickets chirping. Seeing one of my friends refer to this movement- that champions a greater degree of honesty and transparency in social media has really sealed the deal for me. I applaud it’s founder, Essena O’Neill, a former instagram model who has come out against the vapid, consumer-driven motives behind popular social media posts. I don’t want to be advertised to- whether directly, indirectly or through peer pressure and groupthink. The few individuals that I stayed for have recently terminated their social media accounts as well. The truth is that someone typing “happy birthday” doesn’t have one percent of the same meaning that a quick phone call does. Even if it’s just my family- I want the people that reach out to me beyond the screen to be where I put my time and energy- because they are really there for me. When the choice comes between authentic and trendy, I will choose the real deal every time.

So long facebook, instagram. It wasn’t nice knowing you.

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Breaking the Tradition of Gift Giving and Recieving

We can go out into the woods, into a field, into the back yard to lay down on the lawn and fix our gaze up at the clouds rolling under the sky, we can still the mind just enough to hear the tiny whisper coming from the heart. This solitary stillness is important as a regular practice if we are to lead the lives we were meant to. There is too much business and external messages in the space of our regular lives of tasks and routines.

If we listen carefully, we will know what our heart is saying to us.

Sometimes what the heart tells is difficult to truly know. Often it just begins with an urging, or a reluctance, a joy or a sadness. This is to be expected- this is the language of the heart.

Once we receive its message, the next task is to hold it in our conscious mind and give ourselves the time and space to process it. We can always picture the message as we lay down to bed and request some guidance through our dreams or in our waking lives.

I heard something from my heart recently, and I recognized that it was a struggle that seemed silly, could be perceived as selfish and at the same time difficult to resolve. There are always matters which arise that present a challenge for us to reconcile.

My message was: I’m stressed about the upcoming slew of birthdays and Christmas that’s coming upon me. Why? I asked again. This time the answer came to me immediately. The presents. Presents are supposed to bring joy for both the gift giver and the receiver. There’s a whole slew of etiquette around gifts, and millions of entire issues of magazines dedicated to the tradition. There’s also enormous social pressure to comply with this practice.

I thought about calling this post Breaking Free from Expectations or Bowing Out of Obligation Gracefully, but the decision to decide to stop giving and receiving presents is really kind of a radical way of doing those things. It’s definitely not a simple decision to make, and unlike going vegan it’s not an easy thing to read about online. I personally am the only person I know to do this. Here is my reasoning.

I believe at a time long ago, when people didn’t have much, gifts were often desperately needed or perhaps were items that were handmade with love in a way that made them family heirlooms. The items gifted were used carefully and passed down, allowing a few to several generations of practical use. These days, most everything you can go out and buy was made in a factory or a sweatshop in China for very little pay, with cheap materials in a fast process that makes the item completely disposable and likely unsafe. This modern process has allowed people to buy many items for many people, for many occasions. What happens as a result of this? We have more stuff that we likely have no use for, we throw more of it away, more ends up in landfills, and we support cruel industries that cause destruction to the planet.

At first I thought of alternatives to this pattern. I could make everyone handmade gifts, yes, but not everyone can benefit from the same thing. Sending out little gift baskets filled with soaps and lotions made with organic ingredients and recyclable packaging would be very pleasing and useful to me, but probably would only be useful to a handful of my family members. Because of modern conveniences, people become attached to their particular brand or product for self-care, for food, for most everything that is consumed. Even their tastes in décor and fashion has become highly specific and individualized. There’s always Amazon wish lists so that you can be sure to get the person exactly what they need, or gift cards so they can pick for themselves exactly what they would like. But I had to ask myself, how is this any different than giving someone an envelope of cash in exchange for them giving you an envelope of cash? It’s completely soulless. On this level of monetary exchange I would always be the weaker party, as I have no income besides what I make from selling random things on EBay which puts me at the lowest income level of anyone else in my entire family or friend group.

Other solutions are donating to each other’s charities which is wonderful, or asking to only receive “experience gifts.” At first I thought that would be a wonderful solution, but so many “experiences” that I would want for my family had only one gift-type option: the gift of membership. These memberships to places like museums and parks were upwards of $75. I just didn’t feel comfortable asking for these in lieu of physical presents, as I realistically would only visit these places once or twice a year due to geographical distance.

“But it’s the thought that counts.” Yes I agree. So here is my thought on the practice. What I would honestly love to receive is a letter, or more preferably a phone call from anyone who cares about me on my birthday. Ditto for Christmas although I’m not Christian in the least and the holiday causes a lot of grief for me (the consumerism, hustle and bustle, going here and there and all the dang traditions that it forces). So to be honest I could care less about Christmas. In turn, I will make a commitment to calling ALL close friends and family on their birthday and Christmas to have a real conversation with them, to connect with them. If by any chance some of them are physically with me visiting, then going out and doing an activity they enjoy while we spend time together is what I will give. To me this is what is important and meaningful, the most precious gift.

So I’m announcing to everyone that I’m bowing out of the traditional form of gift receiving and giving. Not all of my family knows yet, some that do are understanding (let’s be honest- I’m already kind of weird so it’s not a huge surprise, I’m just getting more “out there” than I already was). Some are in complete denial and insist that they give me gifts anyway. That is fine. I will receive the gifts with a recognition that this person is in their own way trying to please me (though it’s strange that they would do what I asked them not to do to accomplish this) and they will get donated to a charity where they will be of use to others less fortunate than me. This may sound harsh but I know that I don’t want to add any more objects to my home, as I’ve only become happier in making the decision to let more and more items go.

From what little I could find online of people that have made this lifestyle choice, it seems like this takes a few years for your family to get used to. For me, that’s ok as I’m not trying to shove my ideas down everyone’s throat, I’m just making a change that will make my life more in line with my personal values.

As for my daughter, that’s something my husband and I will need to discuss further. I’m loving the idea of “Something they want, something they need; Something to wear, something to read” from us and a limit of one gift per family member.

This blog post has turned into a guide for bowing out of gift giving and receiving, but could also be useful as encouragement to bow out of anything that doesn’t make the heart happy. So let us continue to reflect, consider and take action to live a life filled with joy and peace.

Trusting Intuition

Intuition is a deep feeling in our gut we get when we add moments of silence to our days. We are all born with this deep intuition, this psychic ‘knowing,’ but there is so much noise in the world in the form of visual, auditory and socially engineered input flying at us from every direction that finding this time for quiet contemplation can be a battle unto itself. First a quick update on how my week of self care is going:

I haven’t been keeping notes or marking off any dates on the calendar, but I’d say my week of self-care that I had proposed to start in last week’s post has been a success. I ordered myself a new book from Amazon, (Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.) which is a book that when I first started reading it, was very skeptical about, but has slowly penetrated down to my soul. I highly recommend it for everyone- feminists, free spirits, housewives- women- and men too- of all walks. After I put my daughter to bed each night at 7:30, I have done something for myself. Usually it’s been making a cup of chamomile tea, putting my most favorite essential oil combination in my bedside diffuser, rubbing lotion, taking a bath or putting on a face mask, and lying in bed naked (how I sleep best) with the book and my tea, ready to relax utterly. I used to find that I had to put the house in order every night before bed, and while yes, that is a great idea, at this time I think it’s more important I prioritize that quiet, restful, pleasure-ful time by myself. I’ve found that I have no problem catching up on the dirty dishes and floors, and the toys scattered all over the living room the next morning as my daughter is playing. I’ve found that prioritizing these little “rituals” with and for myself, I have something to look forward to and also find myself more willing and able to take on the day when I wake up in the morning.

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But now for our regularly scheduled programming. Our intuition already has these seeds deep down inside- seeds of ideas. The seeds will sprout and begin to grow at different ages and stages in our lives, the trick is to get to that quiet, trusting place where we can identify when a seed tells us it’s time to start growing. Then we need to give it the water (time) and sun (attention) that it needs to grow. The larger the seed grows, the larger our idea becomes, and the harder it is to ignore and the more pressing it becomes for us to turn that idea into a reality- to transplant the bud from within us to the outside world. Sometimes these ideas involve a process of “giving up” something. This is much in line with the post about me giving up TV, but I want to talk about it now in terms of a more general idea of adaptation.

As humans it is in our instinct to “gain.” We get great pleasure and find security in having “more”. More options, more safety, more money, more amenities. To an extent, these things are all good. We need certain things to live- and of course in this culture we have in the West, money is right up there with oxygen unfortunately. But the first step is realizing that there does come a point at which ‘enough’ turns in to ‘too much.’ Commerce would like us all to ignore this point, and it would make them so happy if we had no concept of this point existing at all, as many people do. But of course, we aren’t like those people. We have given ourselves thought, energy and space to hear our own intuition out, even, and sometimes especially, when what our intuition is telling us is going against the grain of our larger culture. We’re the types of folks that when we give up something, we know it’s to gain something else- something better. Most often, we’re giving up material possessions in exchange for non-material, but still very real, commodities or intangible aspects to our lives. These elements that we gain, though you can’t hold them or necessarily see them- they are felt. Some examples: the immediate choice of trading TV for more free time, trading unhealthy food for a longer, more exuberant life, trading expensive cars for our future financial independence, trading a high-paying job that is soul sucking for a lower-paying one that makes your heart soar. A bigger house for a tiny one which is easy to pay for, maintain, and keep organized (even to move around the country!)

For me right now, it is food. I’ve gone whole foods vegan several months ago. Recently (in the past few weeks) I’ve also gone gluten-free and cut out nightshades and high oxalate foods (you can check out this youtube video with a detailed description of the lesser- known last term from a nutritionist). Also check out this humor-filled video about gluten free folk (we have to poke fun at ourselves from time to time so as not to take ourselves too seriously).

Cutting out all these other foods that I loved, and was so used to eating (we’re talking about dishes I’ve made myself for DECADES), has been painful for me. I’m still at the rounded area of the steep learning curve. Finding new recipes, new ingredients, serving my daughter foods that I can no longer eat as well has all been a struggle. But I know my body needs as little obstacles caused by my nutritional intake as possible considering all my other health issues that it’s battling. I’m embracing the concept of food being my medicine. I know that no condition of ill health is worth nutritionally yucky food- no matter how temporally satisfying it is. The video below is one that has rekindled my fire for making all these dietary changes, and bird jokes aside, I hope it will light or kindle your fire within to keep you going on the sometimes painful changes you’re making in your life for your ultimate health and happiness. Let me know about what changes you’re making and how it’s going for you. We’re in this together!