Desperately Seeking Beauty in Everything

“Even posi people get sad”, a friend once said when I expressed that sadness feels like failure when your default mode is optimistic.

I don’t often use the internet to complain or express when things get hard, despite my strive to always be authentic. I am aware that, by deliberate omission, I am a part of the “everyone seems like they are doing better than they really are” illusion. I don’t find comfort in public commiseration, and most of the time, would rather shift my focus to something good than to rehash a problem every time I get a Facebook notification.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have them. And lately I feel a sticky lump of guilt lodge itself in my throat every time someone mentions how happy I am all the time. Listening to a recent podcast interview (we recorded over two months ago), I hear myself sound like a self-help book I need to read.

Last week, after months of deliberation and despite that it’s existed for over two years, I made my instagram account public. I had listened to enough podcasts and read enough articles to know that for creative work, networking and gaining business, it’s smart to have one. I never used instagram for it’s intended purpose (to share!) because I don’t like the “life is perfect inside this tiny flat square” false reality. I don’t want to be a part of that, and I don’t want to be affected by that.

instagram:  @SavetheKales

instagram: @SavetheKales

And yet, I spent hours deleting, editing, and curating my account. I got rid of 500 hundred pictures (shifted them to a new private account), some of which are my proudest moments of the last two years, because I don’t want to “brag”. I don’t want to be perceived as having things figured out more than I do. Is that a pathetic downplay of my accomplishments and most wonderful moments? If everyone else is using the internet to make themselves and their work sound AMAZING all the time, shouldn’t I? Is the rejection of that a noble attempt to bring some normalcy and honesty to the LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME culture that surrounds us all. the. time.? (Does it even matter?)

The truth is, anxiety and depression have been part of my everyday life once again, especially since the concussion. Emotional and mental health aside, my injury means I physically can’t do everything every time I want to do it. I need to rest, I need quiet, I can’t be on the phone too long without a migraine so intense that it makes me sick, sometimes I can’t stay awake past 9:30pm. People get frustrated and angry and call my involvement and enthusiasm into question. Then I feel worse.

The injury and lack of work (and money) from that has been stressful. There is the jumble of things it’s not my place to talk about publicly. And everyone is dying.

My immediate family has had five deaths in the last several months. When I called people to reschedule meetings, request extensions or explain I’d be out of town this week, I realized the phrase “I have to cancel, there has been a death in my family” has become commonplace in my correspondence. (More on this soon.)

A hard year. All around, a very hard year.

I think our capacity for loving is infinite, but our hearts and minds have a limit for pain and I have had enough for now.

In December, I wrote pages and pages of plans, projects and new ideas. “This will be my YEAR!” I triumphantly told myself, as I crafted a timeline of creative dreams and professional goals. This would be the year I got out of my own way and finally fucking made things happen. I thought so many more of them would be checked off by now. I’m disappointed in myself and frustrated by circumstances. Every time I get my footing there is another tragedy that  knocks me out emotionally and/or physically and, while I don’t like to sink into feelings of “why me?” and victimhood, my god it’s hard not to think that way.

 

wordoftheyear2014

And all this time to myself has been a balance of anxiety – knowing I can’t do things as well as I want to and living with the shame and embarrassment of that – and distracting myself so I don’t have to think so much. For this I have books and walks in the park. Trying to help my friends through their stuff.  Venturing in public for a few hours to be present and experience actual life. Season 2 of Orange is the New Black.

While organizing my book collection I rediscovered a copy of The Writer’s Market from 2008, gifted to me by someone who believed in me more than I believed in myself. Now it’s years old, but the symbolism of that is too powerful and I can’t bring myself to add it to the “donate” pile. Maybe this is part of healing, getting past the blinding hurt so you can get to a place of sincere and simple thankfulness.

A lesson learned too late is still a lesson learned.

And I thought about the expectations we set up for ourselves, what we should have done by now, and the pressure we create where there was none.

Writer Cheryl Strayed said her whole life she had a book inside of her that she never got quite right. She was 32 when her mother died and with her grief grew “a second beating heart”, a book, that she could finally purge out of herself. It was published when she was 35.

I have to believe through intense life experiences (not always tragic, but often enough they are) can come our own second heartbeats. They force us to face ourselves and maybe maybe maybe, when we start to breathe again, we can finally create what has been there all along.

View of the Market St. Bridge in Wilkes-Barre

A few nights ago, my mother and I were having coffee in her backyard, and I admitted its very hard to see the point in anything right now. She said, “I think there is a point, and I guess we’re just supposed to keep going until we figure it out.”

Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.

 

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Moving, Adopting a Dog and Other Overdue Updates

I’ve been doing most of my writing off the internet these days. Some new freelance jobs and personal projects have me filling my bag with scribbled scrap paper and taking advantage of the voice recorder on my phone, an effort to make sense of all the thinking. Inspiration is coming from all directions and at the forefront are some self-discoveries (or perhaps “been-there-along-and-finally-paying-attentions”).

The more I learn about myself, the more I have made peace with being somehow an introvert and extrovert at once. My energy level and creativity are at their peaks when surrounded by happy, interesting, involved people. (Bethlehem Food Co-op meetings are wonderful for this. You should come, learn more HERE.) I start to feel a pang of urgency and even sadness when the meetings wrap up, please please please can we keep talking? 

The night I got the keys, my best friend came over and we sat on the floor talking until the wee hours. A christening, a new home full of love and ideas.

The night I got the keys, my best friend came over and we sat on the floor talking until the wee hours. A christening, a new home full of love and ideas.

But those days…the days off when duties are: go for a run in the woods (alone), to make a great big pot of soup from dried beans, just me in the kitchen moving slowly, when cooking becomes meditative again instead of a thing I have to blog about or a recipe that has to top another. (And that’s a lot of pressure as my cooking has become simpler over time. Most things are just incarnations of themselves, enhanced with fresh lemon juice and fresh herbs.) Surrounded by my books and my *furballs and the thickest knitted sweater to burrow inside of, I feel such peace.

A small percentage of my library, still inhabiting various corners of every room until I find the best way to organize them. This home didn't have a soul until they arrived.

A small percentage of my library, still inhabiting various corners of every room until I find the best way to organize them. This home didn’t have a soul until they arrived.

Today, this one last burst of snow before Spring completely takes over, and everything is quieter. I feel overwhelmed with projects to be completed by the week’s end, though it’s exactly the work I’d want to do if I could choose any work in the world. For that, I’m grateful.

AND!

We have a fuzzy new member of the family! *This is Chubby. He is a mini-Dashchund/Jack Russell Terrier mix, and just turned five. He was raised by an incredibly kind, loving family who came into circumstances and were no longer able to keep him and wanted to avoid sending him off to a shelter.

"Draw me like one of your French girls."

“Draw me like one of your French girls.”

Lazy mornings.

Lazy mornings.

He sleeps on my lap, and burrows under the covers, and loves roasted sweet potatoes and I’m just head-over-heels. A goner. Some Saturday mornings, Ryan and I walk him to Main Street for coffee and bagels, something I’ve dreamed about as a Perfect Weekend Morning for several years. It’s wonderful. My heart has expanded and carved out a special Chubby-shaped space.

AND!

We’ve moved, quickly and without much of a plan. Perhaps you can blame my love and bit of background in interior design, but I firmly believe (and can even physically feel) that our environments greatly affect the way we live and who we are. They can support our sense of self and creative exploration, or stifle them. The latter was happening for me and on a whim, I went to look at a new place and immediately it felt like home. It has so much character, more space, and is somehow cheaper than the old place. And we can paint. (!)

An incredibly offensive blue in the office becomes a bright white with the just the softest hint of warm gray. It looks like the room took a huge sigh of relief.

An incredibly offensive blue in the office becomes a bright white with the just the softest hint of warm gray. It looks like the room took a huge sigh of relief.

It’s so funny how people change, our influences and environments shift as we do. I used to ache for a super modern industrial loft space with lots of metal and concrete and square, angular furniture and now I want the softness of natural light, worn wood, space to wander through with a knitted blanket wrapped around me and mugs and mugs and mugs of coffee.

The living room has windows that begin at the ceiling and touch the floor, making it perfect for lounging cats, and dogs with tiny legs to fulfill their duties as impromptu Neighborhood Watch.

Snow silhouettes.

Snow silhouettes.

I’ve been working on a long post about why I’ve been so quiet here (as Allyson calls it, “going to bloggy sleep”), and look forward to finally – heaven help me, finally – feeling satisfied with the final edit.

“Basically, I realized I was living in that awful stage of life between twenty-six and thirty-seven known as stupidity. It’s when you don’t know anything, not even as much as you did when you were younger, and you don’t even have a philosophy about all the things you don’t know…” 

-Lorrie Moore

… Hibernation is good for a mind rest, but I’ve rubbed my eyes open and what I see is new and beautiful.

.

“Our Truthfulness Can Change Lives” – On Writing, Blogging, Sharing and the Year Ahead

On the evening of the Winter Solstice, I took a pen and scribbled tiny, torn scraps of paper with the words and ideas I wanted to let go in the year ahead. I was at the home of a friend with a handful of other folks, some I knew better than others, and we shared the very sincere and open experience of acknowledging what we no longer want (writing it down) and symbolically releasing it (burning it to ash). Passing paper and pens around and each of us, silently, taking our turns saying

g o o d b y e

to any negative untruths, what has held us back, or prevented growth.

solstice

If it sounds a little eye-rolling and new-agey, it was. In the best possible way. There’s nothing like seeing your weakness literally turn to dust to give you a new frame of mind.

. . . . .

Last night, I got an email from a sweet girl who wants to start a blog. She asked, “How do you handle putting so much of yourself out there?”, impeccable timing because I have been wondering the same thing.

2012 was the year I put less out there. Moments and experiences and opportunities, and even some of the beauty of the minutiae of day-to-day life, were kept to myself or those I shared them with. It can be so exciting to have these magical tools that you tell anyone and everyone about anything and everything… but before long your life doesn’t feel valid if not enough people “like” it, and you’ve created a weird reality-show version of yourself (albiet unintentionally).

There’s another part, too. While hate-mail and comments are inevitable for anyone with a blog (or anyone doing just about anything, thanks to the internet) and I’ve learned so much about how to handle them when they come, there’s one that continues to stick out and I’ve let it prevent me from blogging some of my most important experiences.

Without glorifying The Meanest Email I’ve Ever Received, one small part of it suggested that Save the Kales! had become what so many other “lifestyle” blogs can become: A perfectly curated illusion of a perfect life with a perfect home and perfect food and a perfect relationship along with perfect clothes, friends, social life and material goods.

Wow.

It shook me, mainly because 1) I know those blogs, I have felt that way looking at them, the way you slink around your house after reading them, feeling ho-hum and wondering how you pulled the short straw in life and 2) I didn’t want to be a part of anything that made people feel bad about themselves. Because life is beautiful, but not perfect.

oasis of health food in Maryland

So I never wrote or shared photos of the biggest experiences of the last year. (Some are too precious, even now, and I like the feeling of keeping the best secrets just between me and the stars.) But in omitting experiences, I omitted the best part of blogging: reflection and appreciation, figuring-things-out and seeing life outside your own mind.

In her book This I Know, Susannah Conway writes on blogging:

“My blog began as a simple space to share my passions and talk about my days. There was no great plan… But as I became more comfortable sharing my feelings online, the healing path wasn’t far behind.

Blogging gave me back my voice after a year of feeling mute, the daily writing as a way to measure progress, the support from my readers such a boon on the days I crumbled, a collective cheer on the days I soared. I felt seen again, that I had a purpose, that my story was helping others, while they in turn helped me.”

Looking forward, I’ll continue to mind the gap between over-sharing and shamefully hiding. Save the Kales! began as an outlet in a time of crippling anxiety and depression, and to look back on how life has changed in almost three years since it began… that really is something. And it wasn’t because anyone handed me an answer — it happened because I worked my ass off to get better and actually got out and did things. I changed my perspective, I changed my life. Easy? Nope. Essential? Oh, yes yes yes.

While this blog will always be a “vegan blog” by default, I’m thrilled to get back to the roots of why I love to write (which are not unlike why I love to read): because through shared experiences we find purpose and connection.

I hope you’ll be a part of it.

Cheers to writing and dreaming and scheming and full-heart-believing.

Happy New year!

xo Jaime K

.     .      .     .     .

in 2012:

ballerinas

For a few months, I worked for an Arts Organization/Festival and have a whole new respect for these types of nonprofits, especially with a small staff (of two) and the faint hint of a budget. The behind-the-scenes work is more than I could have thought possible if I hadn’t seen it first hand. Keep fighting the good fight.

cafe santosha

I had some truly spectacular food.

h20kitchen

Including the fanciest, prettiest, 14-course dinner of my life, with special vegan dishes made just for me. This was edible art from a dear artist/chef who I’m happy to call a friend.

somuchcoffee

… and so much coffee. So. Much. Coffee.

jaimeandryan4ever

I began the fourth year of the dearest relationship to my heart, and along the way learned so much about expectations, commitment, remaining an individual while being one-half of a partnership, and deep, soul-brightening love.

trees

I found my way back to nature, to running, and learning more about what my body (and mind) are capable of.

masonjarlightsinNYC

I embraced concepts of minimalism, and continue to get rid of what doesn’t support my vision of the most beautiful life, tossing everything from spark-dimming ideas to material possessions. Stripped down, there’s a whole lot of beauty.

veria

I found myself in places I’ve only dreamed of, for reasons I still can’t believe are… real. (Sometimes photographs serve as the pinch on the arm, the you-aren’t-dreaming reminder that life is so weird and crazy and good.)

purplehouse

I found my way to new towns.

eastonpa

And rediscovered my own town.

cavetour

And traveled through underground caves.

nycskyline

And navigated the biggest cities.

beach

And went to the ends of the earth.

The Meaning of Thanksgiving

Colleen Patrick Goudreau talks at Vegetarian Summerfest about Holiday Traditions and Thanksgiving ideas and ideals, and “the human ability to cling blindly to one’s rituals” – with an analogy drawn from Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. 

“Because we’ve always done something doesn’t mean we have to continue to do it. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.”

[youtube http://youtu.be/yJEBYbKi_aA]

More videos under the cut…

Continue reading

WHY DO YOU HAVE ORANGE JUICE FOR BREAKFAST? No really… Why?

This is one of the best articles I’ve read about food in quite some time (link at bottom).

Breakfast or dinner or neither?

At it’s heart, it points out that so much of what we think about food is because of ingrained marketing. This is something I talk about often when given the chance with relation to veganism and nutrition – WHY is the first question EVERYONE asks veg*ns “How do you get your protein?” Why is everyone so concerned with protein? Why does everyone think meat is the only/best source of it?

How come no one ever says “Wow, you must get a whole lot of phytonutrients”?

Why do we immediately associate milk with calcium?

What about THIS for breakfast?

 Why do we immediately think of fish when seeking sources of Omega 3’s? (And more specifically, if I asked, “What kind of fish?”, you’d probably answer “Salmon!” Hmmm, those salmon farmers sure are happy you said that.)

Why is salad not considered a breakfast food, but pancakes are? Have you ever ordered grapefruit juice at dinner, not spiked with something? Regardless of whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or neither, consider your notions of food and think about where all of that “nutrition information” (quotes intentional) comes from:

ARTICLE: Why The Breakfast Most Americans Will Eat Today is a Corporate Scam

PASSION AND COMPASSION

She so eloquently sums it up…

“If I profess to be a compassionate person, it doesn’t mean I get to be compassionate only to those I like or who agree with me. It means I strive to be compassionate towards everyone.

That’s the thing about compassion – it’s gotta be equal opportunity or it’s just inauthentic. It’s easy to be compassionate towards like-minded people. The challenge is choosing to have compassion towards those with whom I disagree.”

As per Colleen Patrick Goudreau, super-woman with incredible knowledge and the biggest heart.

This is something I think about all the time, not just in the way of vegetarianism/veganism but in so many aspects. What would happen if, instead of criticizing someone for not knowing, we were happy to teach them something new?

If instead of jumping to conclusions, we asked?

If instead of polarizing each other, we became more considerate?

Instead of taking something as personally insulting (even if that was the intent of the sender), we used it as a constructive way to make an improvement?

BE PASSIONATE: “60 Tips for a Stunningly Great Life”

Welcome to 2011!

Until I kick it off right, allow to present to you this list of 60 ideas for helping you to make your life exactly what you want it to be! This article is by Robin Sharma, via Intent.com – I’ve bolded the ones I particularly like. What ideas resonate with you?

—————————————————-

by Robin Sharma

I want to shift gears from leadership to a pure focus on crafting an exceptional life for this blog post. Ultimately, life goes by in a blink. And too many people live the same year 80 times. To avoid getting to the end and feeling flooded regret over a live half-lived, read (and then apply) these tips:

1. Exercise daily.
2. Get serious about gratitude.
3. See your work as a craft.
4. Expect the best and prepare for the worst.
5. Keep a journal. 
7. Plan a schedule for your week.
8. Know the 5 highest priorities of your life.
9. Say no to distractions.
10. Drink a lot of water.
11. Improve your work every single day.
12. Get a mentor.
13. Hire a coach.
14. Get up at 5 am each day.
15. Eat less food.
16. Find more heroes.
17. Be a hero to someone.
18. Smile at strangers.
19. Be the most ethical person you know.
20. Don’t settle for anything less than excellence. 
21. Savor life’s simplest pleasures.
22. Save 10% of your income each month.
23. Spend time at art galleries.
24. Walk in the woods.
25. Write thank you letters to those who’ve helped you.
26. Forgive those who’ve wronged you.
27. Remember that leadership is about influence and impact, not title and accolades.
28. Create unforgettable moments with those you love.
29. Have 5 great friends.
30. Become stunningly polite.
31. Unplug your TV.
32. Sell your TV.
33. Read daily.
34. Avoid the news.
35. Be content with what you have. 
36. Pursue your dreams.
37. Be authentic.
38. Be passionate.
39. Say sorry when you know you should.
40. Never miss a moment to celebrate another.
41. Have a vision for your life.
42. Know your strengths.
43. Focus your mind on the good versus the lack.
44. Be patient.
45. Don’t give up.
46. Clean up your messes.
47. Use impeccable words.
48. Travel more.
50. Honor your parents.
51. Tip taxi drivers well.
52. Be a great teammate. 
53. Give no energy to critics.
54. Spent time in the mountains.
55. Know your top 5 values.
56. Shift from being busy to achieving results.
57. Innovate and iterate.
58. Speak less. Listen more.
59. Be the best person you know.
60. Make your life matter.