All is Well

We’ve been trying to conceive Baby Two since February.

I’ve been trying to get to a yoga class at Lemon Tree since I moved in to my Advokate office here at the Shirt Factory since August.

One of those things finally happened today. Spoiler: I’m not pregnant.

I wrestled myself away from the guilt that goes along with leaving Henry and Cory on one of Cory’s rare days off. It’s a work day, though, and it had to happen. And so I wrenched myself away from Henry playing with sand in the living room and went, with my workout clothes on. I bought them in January when I joined the YMCA for a hot minute.

Source: http://sauco.deviantart.com/art/The-Childlike-Empress-50409372

Settling in, the instructor gently asked us all to allow ourselves to be there. To let go of the things on our to-do list. I sprung a couple of tears.

I thought about how crazy it is that I don’t allow myself to breathe or stretch or spend a moment on myself unless I pay for a class and have someone to lead me in it.

Some of it was hard, but mostly it felt good to move my body and stretch and breathe and relax.

During the brief meditation at the end, I stretched out and put an eye pillow on, breathing in. We went through relaxing our entire bodies and withdrawing our senses. I found myself swirling up into a cold winter night sky, up into the stars.

There was one that seemed like it was something I should follow. I asked it why it wouldn’t come to me.

A voice, like the Childlike Empress from the Neverending Story, said I wasn’t ready yet. I pushed, what do you mean I’m not ready? It said Advokate needs me now. I need to get it more settled so I can focus on my new baby when the time is right. That’s true. I hadn’t thought of it that way, though.

I said, but I can’t wait to meet you. The star said All is Well. I said, Henry needs you. The star said All is Well. Rainbow colors swirled through the galaxy and the star got further away. I said, when will I know it’s time? We’re all only getting older. All is Well. All is Well. All is Well.

And here I am at work. Now’s the time to focus here, so when it’s time for Baby Two to come to me, it’ll be set up right.

All is Well.

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We are so far away from where we're supposed to be

I had something like a panic attack in the grocery store just now.

Let me back up. I went to the Glens Falls Farmer’s Market on Saturday for, embarrassingly, the first time in a long while.

My problem is that I can’t get my act together early enough on a Saturday, so most of the time I miss it. From my gut, honestly and truly, I feel the Farmer’s Market is the place we should all do our shopping. But I rarely make it.

Henry and I picked out his first foods, straight from the person who grew them. Butternut squash and sweet potato. I saw so many people I knew there. I had the feeling in the room that it was a really wonderful thing for Glens Falls and it made me glad that it exists here, and that I am a part of it (having done some design for the Farmer’s Market Association).

But also horribly embarrassed for not going regularly.

Then I read this article about spending $20 at farmer’s markets every week. Good thought. Good plan. A better way to think about it. Easier to bite off than all-or-nothing thinking about buying local or organic. Less guilt, more action.

So then today we went to Toys R Us to pick up a purple shirt for Henry for Marchival, the holiday we made up. And then we went to the dollar store for crepe paper. And the dollar store smelled like poison; like PVC gases and plastic. And to Jo-Ann’s for pins for Marchival prizes we’re making. And then to Price Chopper.

And that’s where it hit me, as it sometimes does when I’m in a big box store in Queensbury, how wrong it all feels.

So I’ll freely admit that that I love shopping – it’s something my mom loves and she passed it to me. I’ll go down every aisle and I love finding a deal. I like to browse.

I’ll also admit that I’m not a morning person and would make a shoddy farmer. And that I have a low tolerance for squicky things or scary things and honestly the outdoors kind of freaks me out when we go camping.

But when I see a documentary comparing how babies are raised in Africa versus how they are here, or watching shows about the planet, or when I’d go spend time in the woods by myself as a kid, or reading books about people who live outside, or when I talked to the rastafarian who gave a mini-class on our Jamaican vacation, I get this feeling of how things are supposed to be.

Somewhere in Africa

And it’s jarring to me how far away we are.

Checkout lines bring the point home, especially.

A few weeks ago, Cory and I were in a Babies R Us in Albany, standing in line to buy something I can’t even remember. We both got the feeling. It’s claustrophobic. Cold. Frightening. Like if you’ve ever been in a hospital bed alone.

The music was piped in, this crappy electronic pop echoing. Fluorescent lights overhead cast a numbingly artificial glow. Ahead of us, a mother was buying her kid some plastic crap he was excited about. The teenaged checkout clerk looked sick, and miserable to be there. Beep. Beep. Beep. Nobody needs this shit. A few feet away, three aisles radiated pink. Because if you have a vagina, you’re supposed to buy pink plastic garbage.

Cory and I looked at each other and I knew we were both having that same itch that got worse with every second that passed in the line. It passed when we left the store, but that’s what happened to me today in Price Chopper.

Every single thing I picked up was something I could easily talk myself out of.

Bananas weren’t grown here. How long were they on a ship and then a truck to get here? How many fossil fuels were burned just in their transport? Hummus, I could make myself. I have chickpeas at home, even. But I don’t have time because the chickpeas need to be soaked and then boiled. They come in a plastic tub. Who knows what added ingredients there are. Cereal, who even knows what cereal is? They sell it to us as kids. It’s mashed up nothing with a bunch of vitamins added, shaped into little O’s and baked and put in plastic bags and THEN in a cardboard box. Where’s the farm that cereal comes from?

Then we get into the convenience foods. I’m often working through lunch and don’t have much time to spare. It’s easy to throw an organic Amy’s pot pie in the microwave. At least when I have those in the freezer I actually eat lunch. But they’re not ultra cheap. And they come in packaging, of course. And you microwave them, and who knows about microwaves. Other days I look through the cupboards and end up with crummy bagged pretzel twists for lunch because I don’t have time.

Plastic is everywhere.

Everything in the grocery store is covered in styrofoam and plastic. EVERYTHING! It’s covered in styrofoam, plastic, pesticides, MORE plastic, and also plastic and plastic and plastic. We buy it and we throw it away. And it never rots.

We make it and it never rots! NEVER! There’s plastic everywhere. That slapped me in the face and made me want to buy nothing. The same way, one day in high school, I realized in the grocery store’s meat aisle that I WAS SURROUNDED BY PLASTIC-COVERED BODY PARTS. Shudder. It’s horror movie stuff, if you let your mind realize the truth for a second.

I looked down at my baby and had that boxed-in feeling I had when we went to Babies R Us and were standing in the line. Henry looked back up at me. And even the carseat/stroller, his cute guitar pajamas, it all felt so wrong. We should be sitting on a tree stump somewhere warm, with him swaddled in cotton or just completely naked, breathing in the fresh air. Not bundled up in some plastic contraption, a zipper and flame retardants and seatbelt straps preventing him from playing with his toes.

What am I going to tell him about the way we live?

Ugh. The worst.

We walked by the fish section. What drove it all home was the lobster tank. Those lobsters belong in the ocean. There is no truly justifiable reason to have them crammed together in a dirty little tank in upstate New York. Our one job is to take care of the animals and the planet. We are not doing our job. We are just being absolutely horrible, instead. We’ve taken our gifts and destroyed everything we can.

I’m guilty, too. How do I tell Henry that I know this, but I still choose to live this way?

I know I sound like a crazy. And I am sure that I’m glamorizing life in an African tribe. I don’t want to die before I’m 35, I enjoy the perks of modern medicine and modern technology. I know I have it easy and I should really keep my mouth shut because it’s a convenient first world problem to complain about. I’m lucky.

But I really feel like it’s crazy to live the way we do, in our boxes (houses) eating our pellets (food, cereal, etc.) when we have such big brains and so much knowledge. We trade our time (work) for happiness. We work harder at our jobs to earn vacation time, and we work harder at our jobs to earn enough money to do stuff on our vacations. We’re all miserable, really. We all know there’s something wrong.

But we keep distracted.

I’ll say it: I’m addicted to my iPhone, my email, Facebook, my computer. Like, really badly. I don’t make time to breathe, to meditate, to eat, to live, to maintain eye contact with my own son.

This is beautiful. And so real.

It’s wrong and I know it’s wrong. It’s hard to change.

I don’t know how to fix things. I mean, for a while now I’ve tried to shop greener. But I realize now that the solution isn’t to shop greener, it’s to stop shopping. Stop buying crap you don’t need. Stop working so hard because you don’t need that shit that you think you do.

Time with family and time with nature and time with yourself – real time, offline time – is what’s important.

It’s hard to change, though. It’s really hard to change.

What do you think? How do you cope with the mind-bogglingness of our lifestyle and how it affects the planet and the other creatures on it?

Veganism, the Apocalypse and the Meaning of Life

I had read about how background reading aloud is good for a child’s developing brain in the opposite way that background TV is bad for him, so I picked a wordy book off the shelf to read to Henry today while he played on the floor with Daddy: Catherine Marshall’s Story Bible.

Catherine Marshall’s Story Bible

I had this book as a kid, and a lot of my Bible knowledge stems from it. Of course, it’s way simplified and not all the stories are there, but it has a good synopsis of the main points, and illustrations by kids.

My religious stance is that I made up my own religion, Katethysianism, which is my own plate from the ideological buffet. I like to describe the tenets of Kathethysianism as, “Whatever I feel like believing in at the time.” It’s a mix of this story bible, new-age spirituality, and other things I’ve picked up from books like Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael and the like.

I think the Bible is just fine and dandy, but it needs to be interpreted – run through the translator – and not taken literally. I’m not so into organized religion because I like that I have my own pick-and-choose interpretation that doesn’t quite fit in with the package deal, but sometimes I do like to go to church for the familiar and holy-feeling routine of it, and as a place to remember about your spirituality. The same way sometimes I like to go for a hike, or to sit in a tree. I want to pass that on to Henry; that beliefs don’t have to be a package deal, and that he can opt to compile his own plate from the buffet.

So anyway, I’m reading this story and right in the first few pages there it is: The meaning of life.

Wowza! It ain’t some big secret, folks. I’ll tell you what it is.

The Story Bible says: “Now another kind of creature was needed to enjoy all this beauty and to take care of it.” A little later it also says, “God was making Man so wondrously that he would be able to understand Who had made the animals and the amazing world around him. Understanding that, Man could then know and enjoy his God… Thus God would never again be lonely.”

That’s our job, simple as that. The meaning of life. (Of our lives as people, that is.) To enjoy the world, to take care of it, and to appreciate the mysterious ways it came into existence, and be glad it did happen.

After reading that, a sad thought occurred to me: We are NOT doing our job.

We are not taking care of nature and the world’s animals. We are destroying their natural habitats, mass murdering the world’s amazing creatures for food, clothing and other unnecessary reasons, dumping our trash all over the place, torturing via animal testing and on and on.

And we don’t appreciate it, either.

We whine, complain, are generally mopey and sad. It’s rare that we just look at a sunset or a tiger or the inside of a starfruit and muse on how incredible and unlikely it is that any of it exists, much less how incredible and unlikely it is that we would actually be aware of the incredibility and unlikeliness of it all.

IMG_7655Then, reading the story of Noah, it occurred to me that 2013 isn’t the first time we didn’t do our job.

Climate change is our own self-imposed apocalypse.

Landfill in Poland, from Wikipedia

We screw up and we wipe ourselves out, except for a few who catch on early and escape it. Call it God’s wrath or call it a bed we made and need to lie in, it’s headed this way and it’s dang scary.

I can’t figure out the translation of the rainbow, though, because in the Bible, God says he’ll never do that to us again. And the whole Jesus thing was supposed to be about forgiveness. I suppose we will get there later, though – right now I’m just up to Noah.

Anyway, I do think there are lessons to be learned from reading the Bible. Not literal lessons about avoiding women on their periods and hating on gays, but lessons about being nice to each other and caring for animals and the environment.

Part of me wants to toss the book aside and get back to Facebooking on my iPhone, watching videos of cats doing cute things and buying mozzarella sticks to eat during the super bowl… and part of me wants to sell the house, donate the money to charity and live in the African outback in a hut, away from plastics and factory farms, living a vegan lifestyle and preaching my own interpretation of the end times and how we should all just get along.

I guess I’ll have to find an acceptable compromise.

But I want to do my job, and to help others — especially Henry — to do theirs.

I think we’d all be happier.