Day 347

12PM:

Aaaah, the things the uninitiated don’t know…

The eating disorders you inadvertently cause.  The selfconsciousness you unknowingly perpetuate.

No lunch for the vegan.  Lunch for the vegetarian, lunch for the halal, lunch for the allergic, lunch for the picky (no tomatoes?).  But no lunch for me…

All I got was an “oh?!?”

You even asked about dietary preferences and I took the chance with a small breakfast.  I hoped for the best and was unprepared.  Stupid me.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t the mistake that got me, it was the reaction.  I could have brushed it off, had you not brushed me off.

But you don’t know the blackness, you’ve never seen the underside.  That is how you could give it power.  Inadvertently.  But that’s because I’m expendable, isn’t it?

Restaurant industry might be transient, but so are teachers in schools.  I’m expendable; if you treat me as such, it will empower my black bits.  But I will also act expendable.  Want to use me up?  Want to treat me as a cog?  See the blackness you will spawn.

Oh yeah, and the topic of the day was Mental Health and Well-being.  You think I am mentally healthy and well?

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Day 325

1PM:

Contrary to my grandfather’s openness, he is a man somewhat fixed in traditions.  He supported Black and homosexual track and field athletes before anyone of his generation, opening his home and talent and heart by putting the “athlete” part first.  That is his openness.

He, however, needs to have Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving, not recognizing that the traditions of giving thanks and enjoying each other’s company [as opposed to being tired as fuck from helping them move all weekend/week/month/Summer (depending on the respective family member and their level of helpfulness)] is more important that doing so on the day that the pilgrims fucked the North American native populations.

He, contrary to his openness, needs to have meat at dinner.  And as such, sees my veganism in such a light.  He will come close, because out of love, comes his support.  However, he will comment on veganism’s perceived (and sometimes real) pitfalls.  Usually, in this situation, he will defer to logic (as the protein argument/discussion went, quashed with a couple of Thrive Fitness protein graphics).  One of the things that his logic will deflect, or should I say ignore, is the animal argument.  The argument that eating animals should be questioned, not just done out of “tradition.”

As we were cleaning out the final remnants of my grandparents’ house today, my brother and I found a slip of paper.  This slip of paper is of unknown origins.  This slip of paper is of unknown owner.  However, this slip of paper is the connection between veganism and my grandfather, even though its original intentions we connected to arguing against evolution or for religion or who even knows, even though the sole basis of his follow-up argument was “but you don’t eat monkeys!”.  This slip of paper connects love to love:

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Day 320

My Ode to Tea

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There is a cup above the rest.  A cup above every cup of coffee, regular and large.

That is my cup.  Tea is in my cup.

Similar but not the same anymore, but worthwhile evermore.  Soy milk is not regular milk, but watching dairy farms changed that.  Veganism is in my cup.

Getting bone cold on a morning like today, rainy and wet and blech, this day that’s so similar to many-an-event (fuck you Toronto Zoo Run 10K and your propensity for feet-soaking).  Tea gives it worth, bone-cold more value in the context of weather.  Warmth is in my cup.

Sweet tea reminds me of my grandmother, her noble attempt to find the soy milk of my dreams.  The sugar changed the taste, made it more warming and full of love, made me smile.  Love is in my cup.

Through exhaustion, not knowing if my shoulder hurts because it is hurt or because it notices the drop-dead fatigue, tea is on my table.  It will let me get through the next couple of classes, brace me until the end of the day, convince me that a day off from my September is needed.  Strength is in my cup.

My cup of tea is veganism, warmth, love, strength.  Tea is in my cup.

Day 299

9:30AM:

http://greatist.com/eat/health-fitness-experts-favorite-coffee

If they can’t agree on something as simple as COFFEE…

One says butter

One says black

One says sugar

One says honey

One says coconut

One says cream

I scream

I used to feel self-conscious, uncertain about taking my coffee black.  Initially, I did so because I didn’t want to consume any incidental milk calories (because logically, we all know the extra 100 calories a day; but the blackness has a much different voice, one just as bitter and distasteful as some of the coffee I had at this time…).  However, I have come to terms with the fact that for me, good coffee tastes better black.  Today, when Science Colleague Work Friend (the cookie saver/savior) asks me how I take it, I have the confidence to ask for it black (that, and Tim Hortons, seriously no vegan alternatives???).

However, I have days where the blackness is riding shotgun (as opposed to having been run over by me, leaving black-stained bloody tire treads along the path), and on those days, it makes me doubt myself.  The blackness tells me that it is about calories, about restriction, about being less – and in doing so, it makes me feel just that, restricted and less.

I scream because why do I continue to have such a hard time coming to terms with my own version of reclaiming healthy?  It is because recovery is ongoing, it is one day at a time.

Day 290

7PM:

DO NOT LOOK AT THIS AGAIN!!!

Now that that is over with…

While it is true that my comments about Summer Reading are stuck in time, static and representative of the me in that moment, it is important to express how they impact me now.  Otherwise, and this would be a correction to yesterday, the commentary becomes meaningless, the writings become meaningless if I never comment.  And then I’m just one of those self-important douche-bags who start to bemoan the art (or make sound installations that make no noise…).

As such, I will reiterate – DO NOT LOOK AT THIS AGAIN, and in doing so, the words will always represent trueness and possibility.


So, the rest of the story is a dystopian mess, but Ursula K. LeGuin’s short story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” has a point here:

Joyous! How is one to tell about joy? How describe the citizens of Omelas?
They were not simple folk, you see, though they were happy. … They were not less complex than us. The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe a happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.

There is nobility in being strong, in not falling down.  However, there is nobility in peace, in quiet, in calm, in Tz’u.  There is no nobility, no honour in exhaustion, martyrdom that leaves you without power or capability to continue being a good person, being a Don.  There is no nobility in destruction and the dead tell no tales.  The dead get one celebration; the living celebrate every day they are grateful and appreciative.

And in the “weirdest finds” category (kind of like the one workable item in an otherwise crap-tastic antique shop), we have Tracy Hickman’s Wayne of Gotham:

“Gotham balances on the edge of an abyss, and I alone feel the weight of holding it precariously there.  What kind of a life is that?”

“An important life,” Alfred urged.  “A necessary life.  A life given so that others might live theirs.”

I’m the guardian.  Who guards the guardian? (220)

Doesn’t Wayne’s life suck as a result?  He is stuck being for the world, not of it, and as such, loses pieces of his care, of his potential, of his power of Tz’u.  If you care about the concept of people more than people themselves, losing sight of people, then disconnection is imminent, cynicism is resolved to and a life of lovelessness is guaranteed.

While not as good as his first novel (The Imperfectionists), Tom Rachman’s The Rise and Fall of Great Powers does include some truisms that we would be stupid to neglect:

According to the world, capitalism had won [the Cold War], but Humphrey called it a tie at best.  He couldn’t see capitalism lasting.  What was the point of any system, he asked, if it only encouraged the worst in humanity, elevating self-interest to a virtue? (61)

In the same vein as Batman, it is not a life of Tz’u, a life of love — fuck that, it is not a LIFE to neglect care and ignore Intentional Acts of Niceness in the way or system in which you live (that’s why veganism suits me fine).

Family meant nothing more than did random names in a telephone directory.  The relations that counted were those of choice, which made friendship the supreme bond, one that either party could sever, and all the more valuable for its precariousness. (73)

It is not a LIFE to take the quality of bonds for granted and not be intentional or aware of that precariousness, thereby taking the people for granted.

Her only unease was a hovering sense of responsibility – that she ought to be looking after someone.  But there was no one anymore, just herself, which seemed so frivolous. (371)

It is not a LIFE to live without people-purpose, to live without love.

She resolved to blunt her flintier side, not to assume that she understood people entirely, and to accept that to be surprised or disappointed or even betrayed was not a catastrophe.  It could be a revelation to learn that you were wrong (372).

It is not a LIFE to lose the humanity in you, in the way you live, by trying to predict perfectly, to control wholly, to try to out-think the universe, to allow your head to dictate your nature (a la Tao of Pooh).  Give the universe its due, it has been around much longer than you.

At the beginning of this literary trek, the world lost a legend, Maya Angelou.  No books of her’s were read, but her words are loudest:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Intentional Acts of Niceness = focus on the people, not the act; focus on what is meaningful to them, on how it will make them feel; love people the way that you can, but as much in the way that they will receive it.

“You may not control all of the events that happen to you but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

Gratitude and Appreciation = “what’s one good thing about your day?” — looking at the best of the world, as opposed to the worst; there will be shit thrown at you, but you can decide to cry or make mudpies – I will make mudpies!

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Writing has helped me immensely.  Putting a stopper in myself, keeping it inside, also keeps the blackness in, keeps its torment and its toxicity and its absolute power over emotion.  Writing this down, connecting with other writers, communicating with my wife, talking to my support system (when I could), these things released pieces of the blackness that held onto my silence.  I try to ensure that my students have the same ability to share, the same ability to release pieces of their blackness with a safe space, an ever-present ear and a kind word.

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”

It is interesting how the wisest words often are shared by the wisest ones.  While different and generationally distant, Taoism, Winnie the Pooh (Benjamin Hoff) and Maya Angelou all believe in Tz’u.  They all believe that care, kindness, truth, generosity, honesty and goodness, that these things all start with being courageous, with being able to manifest the first step, and then the second step, and then the third.  By doing courageously – which sometimes means doing without knowing the outcome, which probably means falling down and getting back up, and which definitely means being frightened and not having that stop you – that potential for care becomes limitless, infinite.

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

Love conquers all.

Day 283

5:45PM:

Choosing Raw and Greatist do a “Links of the Week,” so I figured, what the hell… let’s co-opt the idea!

1. The ever-intelligent and inspirational Neghar Fonooni turned me on to this little ditty: “Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is says about [self-deprecating] thoughts: ‘A thought is harmless unless we believe it.  It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering.  Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring.  A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.’ … Tell yourself something enough times and it will become true for you, no matter how far off it is from reality.”

The way that my wife feels about herself sometimes, her self-worth, her self-image, her direction, these are far off from reality.  These are far off from reality because the blackness took hold of them and made her believe they were true, without inquiring.  For me, the lack of stomach definition is a trigger, and may actually be a figment of my imagination.  However, if I continue to believe that it defines me, that it is anywhere near as important as valuing myself or being a capable Don, then I have given it to the blackness, given these thoughts to it to be malevolently twisted into flaws.  Instead, treating ourselves compassionately, telling ourselves that “our weaknesses are not the blackness’ anymore,” telling ourselves that “I value myself,” these will allow us to reclaim healthy thoughts from the blackest pits of neglect.

2. http://greatist.com/play/blood-sugar-hunger-anger-relationships

How many arguments between my wife and I, my parents, their parents, their (you get my drift), has been caused simply by hunger?  I do not want to not understand my hunger.  I do not want to be able to blame not recognizing my hunger at a 6 as the reason for a fight.  It is why I ate lunch yesterday, because I need to know.  Not that I need to be in control or that I shouldn’t let myself get hungry, but because I want to be a strong, loving and respectful person – none of which can happen with overwhelming hunger, not the least of which because it gives the blackness traction and a willing ear to hear its screams.

3. I like the “defining” part:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/wellbeing/10403767/Confessions-of-a-vegan