A bird needs both wings to fly

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I only realised that my political views were a bit more left than right when I took part in the ABC’s Vote Compass ¬†in 2013. ¬†I still couldn’t vote at that time as I wasn’t a citizen and as such found the result interesting, amusing even but certainly not life-defining. ¬†Even though I came out as more left that right it was only just. ¬†I polled strongly liberal on all things money and slightly more green on matters of the environment. ¬†Trying to be all things to all people or just pretty remarkably normal? I’d go with the latter.

By the next election in 2016 I could vote and this time my vote compass showed that I’d swung far more to the left – maybe even radically so! ¬†As a scientist I found myself feeling much more skeptical of this result than I had of the 2013 findings – surely this level of swing is minor radicalism? ¬†I didn’t feel radical. I hadn’t even read the list of left-wing propaganda that lefties are so often accused of parroting. ¬† The left-wing agenda was something that I was not in on.

But I left it at that and voted the way that made sense to me.

It’s only a few months since that last election and the world of politics has gotten very nasty and that’s made me think.

I haven’t fundamentally changed much since I was a teenager back in the UK, a teenager living in a conservative household, reading the Daily Mail and the Sunday Telegraph, studying chemistry and dreaming of owning my own home and becoming a company Director…..

The world is what has changed and it has changed in a sick way that is obsessed with pigeon holing the whole of humanity into left-wing or right-wing boxes as if there is no possibility of seeing the good (and bad) in both thus totally ignoring the place where I suspect most of us really sit.

And I’m worried about that.

When things become so black and white the atmosphere changes. ¬†It becomes harder to have a conversation with people from the ‘other side’ to you as it seems so pointless when ‘they’ are less on another page than reading from another book entirely! ¬†We have a situation where common sense has been branded as a conservative construct and where anything to do with gender issues, equality, the environment and benefits is radical left-wing. ¬†But where have those thoughts come from?

I don’t know but I do have my suspicions.

You only have to observe the comments under a slightly controversial Facebook post to see how quickly people stop talking and start trading insults. ¬†I used to watch football (both soccer and Rugby – soccer crowds in England in the 1990’s were more violent and aggressive than the Rugby crowds so I’ll use that analogy). ¬† Soccer crowds were separated by entrances on opposing sides of the stadium – left and right. ¬†Once inside the chanting would start – depending on who was playing this could either be light-hearted banter or downright nasty goading. ¬†Whichever it was there was an undeniable air of ‘why the F would anyone even think of supporting them’ directed at the opposition. ¬†It was just unconscionable.

And that’s what politics is beginning to feel like.

We’ve chosen or been allotted sides.

These sides then define, not only how we vote but everything about us. We become bleeding heart lefty snowflakes or racist right-wing bigots full stop.

So who benefits from this?

Well a few months ago I might have sounded like a complete fruit loop for saying this but these days the proof is in the pudding – the political landscape has shifted and we can all see it with our own eyes.

The media love a good fight, it sells papers, makes great click bait and generally gets people addicted in a ‘what’s going to happen next’ kind of way. ¬†So while the media don’t necessarily have the power to start this once that fire has been lit they will at best hide the hose pipe and at worst fan the flames.

But they are not the only ones.

Politicians also know and take advantage of the fact that when we are passionate and angry we are less likely to think rationally, examine the evidence with a fine tooth comb and ask questions to help us understand.  What we tend to do instead is either accept or reject outright what is put in front of us, blinded by our own passions.  I think this is where we are now and sadly we are falling into its trap.

I would have said a month ago that politicians have more control over the media now than ever (professional lobbyists etc) but after reading some Australian history from the early 1900s that simply isn’t true. ¬†Australia’s second Prime Minister, Deakin was adept at prepping the soil for his future political policies by writing either overtly or under a pseudonym in the national papers. ¬†Just like when you are weaning babies, you have to introduce a new food (or new idea) a few times for the baby to get used to it – the same can be said for policy and if you can get into people’s hearts and minds without them realising you are 3/4’s of the way to a win!

Of course these days we have social media to counter and temper the influence of the professional media – we can all ‘create’ news be it by blogging, tweeting, Facebook status updating or sharing or snap chatting. ¬†However, we are shouting into a crowded market that has already been primed for left or right so it is more likely that you get lost in your own echo chamber than find your way into the hearts and minds of the opposition – to do that requires the development of a platform and in this political climate you won’t stand on a neutral one for long before someone shoves you either to the left or to the right!

So what can we do?

I don’t think there are any quick fixes that we can employ to help prevent us from falling into a left or right identity pot (unless we want to) but there are some slow ones and I guess it all starts with becoming aware of how the world is being divided.

I truly believe that we still have more in common than what divides us and as such will continue to try to seek out both sides of the story even when it doesn’t suit me and my personal tastes and views to do so. ¬†This divide and conquer mentality is not going to end well as it is simply not natural. ¬†As I said in my title, a bird needs both wings to fly but not only that, a bird also needs its core, ¬†its centre and I’m happy to stay centred for now.

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The Value of the Pause

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It occurred to me today, as I stepped onto the scales only to find that I’m the same weight as yesterday (I don’t usually weigh myself daily or weekly for that matter but right now, post-Christmas, feeling ¬†like I’m 7 months preggo I’m doing it and mainly because I am fascinated in the science experiment that is my body….) that the pause is as important as the progress.

I’m wanting to drop 2Kg in weight not necessarily because of how I look – although I admit to looking more rounded at the mo – but because of how it makes me feel. I have various food intolerance issues¬†and have let thinking and planning for that slip by the wayside over the December¬†due to a combination of tiredness, busy-ness, ¬†partying and not wanting to even think about what I was eating. ¬†Consequently I’m now heavier and less healthy than I want to¬†be. The weight for me is as much a sign of my guts going into shut-down as it is a logical consequence of consuming more than I expend or can reasonably cope with. ¬†I’m not even sure I have consumed too much but anyway…. The net result is feeling sick all day, every day. ¬†I’m not sure that people who just put on a couple of pounds feel totally sick too.

So that’s the position I find myself in and on seeing the numbers – the exact same as yesterday- I did come up with this thought. ¬†The pause here is that my weight hasn’t gone up or down. It had got stuck (albeit for a day so far). ¬†I was momentarily disappointed in that. ¬†I sat thinking about this reality for a moment. ¬†I wondered how long it might take for the scales to reward me for the work I’d been doing in bypassing croissants and gingerbread in favour of avocado, nuts and tuna salad. ¬†I wondered if it matters how long it takes? ¬†I concluded that it doesn’t matter that much.

Another thought came to me.

I am often so focused on the end goal that I forget about all the stages in the process and have a tendency to either miss the planning and the pause stage entirely (I can be quite impulsive) or rush it so I can get on with the good stuff.

The planning in this situation was to do with what I was going to eat and how I can make that happen.

The pause here physically is in weight loss but mentally it’s much more than that. I didn’t lose any weight today but what I gained here was a chance to really think about my life and the care I take of myself. To feel like I’ve created a space.

I remembered why this mattered to me long-term and all the ways that rushing and stressing were counter-productive to my long-term health goals.

My mind shifted towards this being a metaphor for life in general.

I realise that the most important part of any action is not only to busy ourselves with the plan and the practicalities of the situation but to also take the time to pause where we are and to shuffle around there until we create ourselves a safe and firm base.  Holding firm, standing strong, securing our position, creating room to rest, reflect and grow.

I conjure¬†up an image of an army base where no matter what happens on the field the troupes can come back and rest safe in the knowledge that all-being-well they won’t go backwards from here.

I’m feeling grateful for having been reminded of that today even if it did take something that I regard as a pretty silly thing for me to do to bring it to my attention.

My motto for today is:  Pause, embed your Plan and Progress will follow.

Vive le pause ūüôā

 

 

Humans are social animals. Discuss.

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‚ÄúMan is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ‚ÄĚ

Aristotle – a long time before I was born.


 

What was Aristotle trying to say when he said this?

Is being social really key to being human or is society and humanity separate?

What kind of social was he talking about and by the same token, what level of anti-social is enough to be labelled ‘sub human or indeed Godlike?’

I’ve just finished reading Steve Silberman’s best seller ‘Neurotribes’ and as such the issue of sociability is something I’m ruminating on intently today.

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Context.

So I’m not the most social person in the world but neither am I the worlds biggest loner. ¬†I can be comfortable in crowds, at parties and even in noisy shopping centres if I need to be but as I’ve got older and more self-aware I’ve realised that the further away from my comfort zone (alone or with people I know very, very well) I am, the more I daydream / zone out/ go AWOL. ¬†Even just writing this now makes me draw a link immediately between the two states – this may well be the key to where and why my Attention Deficit disorderliness exists – a way of coping with a world that I don’t much care for but realise I have to participate in (and yes, sometimes it can be fun). ¬†Well, that might be at least a part of it, makes sense to me especially since it has become so ingrained in me that I don’t consciously decide to opt out of being somewhere, I just find myself gone for a while, usually when I realise I’ve put my keys in the fridge, locked myself out or thrown away the letter instead of the envelope. ¬†Big, important stuff like that.

Attention Deficit is my big hitting Neurodiversity tick box but it isn’t the only one. ¬†Even when I’m not floating around in my imagination I’m not entirely sure I¬†fit in (and yes, I know that everyone thinks that from time to time). ¬†It doesn’t bother me much now but in the past I’ve questioned whether I’m a ‘real’ woman for not liking shopping, cooking, babies, pink, nail polish, gossip magazines, girly dates and so on and so forth. It sounds silly writing it and I’ve now got plenty of friends that are equally ‘weird’ but you would be surprised at how often ‘society’ tries to put us back in our box, resisting that does take its toll and does not go un-noticed in terms of energetic output.

So that’s that really.

Back to Sociability.

Even though I quoted Aristotle at the beginning of this piece, I’ve not read enough of his work to have a well-rounded idea of what he was getting at and accept that I might be making assumptions about what he said that are entirely based on my own bias. Just thought that was good to know!


Society:

A group of people living together in a more or less ordered community.

Community: 

A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

Social:

Needing companionship, best suited to living in a community.

Sociability: 

A personality trait, the ability to be fond of the company of others.  Tendency to seek out social contact.


Reading all of these and thinking about that Aristotle quote I start to see how much grey area there could be in this social/ humanity equation.

Let’s start with being social, living in society that includes interacting with people you don’t know.

It seems perfectly reasonable to assume that people may exist in a society, respect or at least adhere to the rules and participate usefully without necessarily enjoying it or feeling it to be the ‘best and most essential part’ of being human. ¬†For example I live on a street with neighbours that I can occasionally hear and often see. ¬†If I was brutally honest I’d rather not see or hear my neighbours ever and I would absolutely really love it if they never saw or heard me either – I like my home to be my retreat and for me, a retreat has to be private. ¬†But that is not the case. My neighbours are, on the whole nice people, interesting enough, helpful, fun and kind. I accept living this way because I like my house, find it conveniently placed and comfortable. ¬†I also accept that it is better for me to put in some effort to build my street community (as much as I can muster) rather than putting that same effort in pretending that nobody else exists (hiding from neighbours is not an emotional energy-saving plan). ¬†So does that make me social and more importantly does that prove I’m human or do I need to relish and thrive in it for that diagnosis to be mine?

The dictionary definition of ‘social’ seems to encompass any type of desire for human interaction thus leading me to conclude that Aristotle might have been referencing both¬†the person who only enjoys the company of their family at the same time as the¬†person who likes nothing better than living in a communal house so busting at the seems that there has to be four people to a bed just for sleeping!

So we can be social but not gregarious and live and participate in a community while holding a preference for our own company. I wonder if we have forgotten that in our modern, connected, can’t-live-without-a-crowd life?

 

 

I am indeed fond of company but on my own terms and in bite sized chunks. ¬†When I fantasize about my ‘perfect’ day’ it would most often be a fantasy where I’m alone or have only my immediate family participating along side me but not demanding things of me – like toddlers tandem playing in their own little worlds.¬†This attitude plays out in my ‘real’ life, I take myself off for 1-3 hour solo walks through the forest, I¬†love working from home with only the radio for company and am extremely comfortable with travelling solo.

So what does this mean in the context of the above book?  

Well I wonder if somewhere along the line, we (community) became so focused on trying to create the perfect society¬†that we forgot to appreciate the difference between the two, firstly that community may develop organically but that society is more strategically planned (man-made/ constructed especially now given we have a variety of birth control at our fingertips, can parent together or alone and can pretty much ‘design’ our families to suit ourselves) and secondly, ¬†that society¬†can be designed to accommodate and celebrate all sorts or individuals that¬†naturally¬†constitute a community just as long as it shares and achieves a common goal and assuming it has the (political) will.

I see it like this:

People might have naturally settled around a natural spring or water course because all people, whatever their personality share the need for fresh water. In doing so they become a basic community. That community may or may not have shared any other communal traits but over time the fact that they shared the same space, experienced the same fortune in weather and witnessed each others lives would have (possibly) built some type of society. ¬† At some point that society may have expressed a desire to get organised and appointed a leader or leadership structure. ¬†Over time I feel it is likely that these ‘natural leaders’ would have been elected from the handful of people in the community who were most charismatic, most able and that most looked and felt like leaders. In the western social narrative that was the point when the quote from Animal Farm rings true:

All Men Are Born Equal But Some Are More Equal Than Others.

And that brings me back to the book Neurotribes.

The dominant social narrative throughout modern history is one of easy and insatiable socialization of which the ultimate achievement and success is measured in ones fame, popularity and fortune. The more the better. The Kardashians are just about past their prime now but they epitomise the magnum opus of such thinking and are no doubt just the modern-day incarnation of leaders and society builders that have gone before them.

This narrative is not one that celebrates or even makes room for neurodiversity, especially not of the types seen at the end of the spectra described in the book¬†Neurotribes. But that is not un-expected and neither is it particularly illogical, we have to focus our attention somewhere and¬†with people the easiest place to target is the place where most people ‘sit’. ¬†In mathematical terms this would be the mode (assuming that all members of a community were sampled so that an accurate distribution of society were presented for analysis).

Mean – Typical average.

Median – The middle value or ‘type’ in a range with all others being ‘deviants’ to one degree or another.

Mode – The configuration that is most common.

But rather than think that a logical, strategic plan of action was developed around serving and ‘talking to’ the¬†middle in the hope that both ends are so tiny and insignificant that they will look after themselves it looks like there was no plan at all!¬† After reading Neurotribes it looks more likely that ‘other’ in terms of brain wiring/ brain operating systems were, in the past (and even, to some degree still today) thought of as nothing more than defective, to be pitied, exterminated, locked-away, fixed, medicated or otherwise marginalised and ignored.

And that, I find, is significant especially when we look at the other part of the Aristotle Quote that society precedes the individual.

What?

Wait a minute?

What does that mean for the neurodiverse growing up in a world that has, until very recently shunned any type of ‘other’ brain?

On a macro level the family is the first, most basic and most crucial unit of society and as such, I find it easy enough to accept that the family precedes the individual in as much as the family and its culture moulds the individual ‘potential’ into ‘person’. ¬†It is interesting that this fact wasn’t given more consideration during the dark years where Autistic people were mis-diagnosed as feebleminded and put away in institutions with minimal love or hope for a productive and meaningful future. Within that framework it is especially cruel that for many years Autism was blamed on refrigerator mothers. ¬†God I’m glad I wasn’t alive ‘then’. ¬†I’d have been permanently angry and distressed! ¬†It is also interesting that Professor Asperger recognised the need for these softer, encouraging forms of interaction and consequently unlocked the key to the gifts and beauty of his ‘little professors’.

Alternatively, if¬†we focus on society being the bigger picture¬†– the newspapers, the streets, the shopping malls, the politics and the popular, if we only celebrate and publicise the mode (neurologically speaking) where does that leave our neurodiverse families? ¬†Feeling inadequate? Misunderstood, Under-valued? ¬†Worthless even? ¬†We are back to where we started only instead of the powers that be taking our neurodiverse children and locking them away we are silently gaslighting diversity out of our community and encouraging the different to stay quiet and invisible so that we might all just carry on as ‘normal’? ¬†It’s no wonder that people are depressed and feeling anxious.

Something has to change. Society has to change. We have to wake up to the diversity that is all around us.

Within the pages of this book I see the potential for it to stop and stop now.

Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes shows us that we (as a society) were wrong to pass over neurodiversity. That those of¬†us who deviate significantly from the norm in terms of neuro programming are more ‘different’ that ‘defect’ and need acknowledgement and love¬†more than medication.

And I think that because of this book we’ll start to get it!

For so long we have readily accept diversity in appearance, ¬†musical preferences, ¬†food taste and more so why not go the extra centimetre and accept that we (humans) come with a variety of operating systems that all have their own unique features and (drum roll…..) ¬†benefits?

Personally I have come to see my own Attention Deficit Disorder as a positive and enjoyable part of being me. In fact, after reading this I’m less inclined to see it as a disorder at all and nor do I feel the need to use the word deficit – if anything, it enriches my life AND my thinking. ¬†¬†I’m not yet sure what words I’d use to describe how my brain adds colour to my life and how my neurological difference from the main stream has contributed to my own feelings of strength, purpose, beauty and value, maybe I’ll find those words in 2017, maybe they will open the door to more self-discovery or maybe I don’t need them at all.

Whatever happens both for me personally and for the world as a whole I think it will be a brighter and more productive place if we celebrate, support and include (in whatever sense of that word makes sense for people) every brain into the fabric of society.

Now more than ever we can’t afford to waste a brain!

 

The marriage between culture and ego.

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Culture:

“The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society”

Ego:

“A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance”

Without getting all ‘I think therefore I am’ about this I feel it is true that I can’t actually know what and who I am without context, ¬†in isolation.

That in order to exist, I (Ego) need Culture (community).

Maybe it’s because we (humans) are sociable creatures or maybe that doesn’t matter at all – I’m not particularly sociable. Maybe I need to understand different cultures in order to know what I’m not and use that to contrast what I am. ¬†But that would be a rather negative way of viewing things.

Maybe it just is what it is.

This type of thinking can seem to lead one on an endless feedback loop of philosophical meandering that can end up feeling like things¬†are moving further from the light and more into chaos.¬†In order to prevent that, I like to peg my camping spot out¬†early, explore it from there and then tackle the next question that arises from that starting point. ¬†“But what if the starting point is wrong?” ¬†I hear you ask. ¬†Well, ¬†as long as one keeps one eye open to that possibility and the will open to testing and analysing one will know when it is wrong and¬†will be more than happy to up-sticks and move on.

So today’s camp is of culture and ego.

This thought camping spot was triggered by my watching of SBS’s ‘First Contact’, a program that was pretty much exactly as I thought it would be and for that reason was only mildly interesting as an ‘eye opening docco’.

First Contact is an Australian short ‘fly on the wall’ documentary series that followed 6 well-known Australian celebrities as they made their ‘First Contact’ with Aboriginal communities around Australia.¬†

The program  was, nevertheless, mind-opening because of the subtleties that it raised within my mind. This being one of them.

The thoughts that the show triggered in me follow:

Every human alive was born into one or another culture, sub-culture or tribe.  Sometimes all that is common to us within a culture is language but mostly it is more all-encompassing than that.  Our values, our customs, taste, preferences, hopes and aspirations. The story of our bones, where we belong, our very essence if you like.


I was born into a dominant culture. One whose narrative was of winning, empire building, success won through a stiff-upper-lip and strong work ethic. ¬†Of getting up early (the early bird catches the worm) and putting in an honest days graft. ¬†Of loving the Queen and country, of dressing for dinner, family Christmases, the Leicester Fortnight holiday season, Labrador dogs, fresh air, Enid Blyton, talking about the weather, 1066 and St George. ¬†I was born white and I’ll die white. White skinned and Blue eyed. At least on the outside.

I was born into The Daily Mail and BBC, into public education, the NHS, democracy and pounds and pence. Born into the aspirational class: conservative, prudent, savers, achievers, WINNERS (not battlers, we were too well off to be called battlers, we were above that culturally and practically and I knew it). Battlers is an Australian term for the working class)

I felt like a winner growing up. Everywhere I looked were signs that I would do well at life, succeed. ¬†Even before I could¬†legitimately make my own effort and be judged on my own merits I felt it. ¬†My dad had a successful business in the town, we had a big house – maybe the biggest house out of my friends. I don’t know for sure but it sure did feel like it. ¬†I did ballet, had lots of toys at Christmas, went abroad sometimes for holidays but mostly went away in the caravan – not an ordinary van but a massive twin axle job with a posh toilet and shower room and a fully fitted kitchen. ¬†We also had an awning and a nice table set.

I was intelligent in the way that mattered to those in charge (apparently). I did well at school, ¬†was recognised, rewarded with positions of authority, trusted and confided in. ¬†I didn’t realise at the time that it was easy for me to be recognised because I already stood out as being a winner. I came from a ‘nice’ background and nobody was suspicious of me or my motives. I had the face of a winner, my subsequent actions only served to back up that bias.

Looking wider afield I also grew up surrounded by a family of ‘successes’. ¬†My aunties and uncles all had their own houses, my grandparents did too. ¬†They were a mix of interesting, intelligent, law-abiding, hard-working, compliant people who nobody would suspect anything bad from. ¬†We even had a farm named after us in the village where my dads family had resided for years – maybe 200 years. I’m not 100% sure of the detail but I was sure enough of it to be proud. ¬†One distant family member even had a Rolls Royce (albeit an old one) that I got to have a drive around in. Very posh!

Of course all that only gets you so far and life isn’t just a picture book rosy glow of niceties. Some things didn’t turn out the best for me and that took away some of my in-bred advantage. Then there were the times, as I got older where I did live and die by my own decisions, luck and abilities. There was nobody to give me references when I travelled to Australia alone aged 21. There was nobody to sit my uni exams for me, to tell me when was a good time to leave a relationship that I’d outgrown, to pull me and my car out of the ditch when I crashed and broke my hand or to sit inside my skin as it itched its self to what felt like near death when I got sick in my late teens.

But all through life, through the dark times, the dark night of the soul, the 2am tears, the panic attacks on the way to work, the accidents, financial crises, arguments, wrong-place-wrong-time moments and more I had a gift. Something that stayed with me and protected me. Something that I could rely on in the darkest of times when all around me, including the physical me seemed to crumble.  That thing was my ego.

Ego can be somewhat of a dirty word around these places. I have come to the conclusion, not least after watching First Contact that it is because it is so easy for people with my background to grow too much of it…..

Too much ego will trap you, put your mind in a cage and throw away the key. ¬†Too little will see you victim to a world that isn’t as fair as it ought to be. ¬†Just enough will keep you safe, grounded, whole.


And so back to First Contact.

Underneath it all, for me, came a simple realisation that Ego is born out of¬†Culture. I’m not convinced I’ve captured everything here but I am convinced that if the parent (culture) is threatened, the Ego will suffer.

What I saw in this program was a dance of the egos. Some dancing to protect, some to defend, some to grow, some to share and some just to be seen, acknowledged.

I saw no good or bad, black or white, right or wrong in the dancing.  The dance of the ego is deeply personal.  But what I did see was a commonality underneath it all that was wanting to reach out and connect.

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It reminded me very much of this Alexander Milov sculpture from the Burning Man festival.

So what next?

That’s up to everyone to decide in their own way but I take comfort in the wisdom gained from my own journey:

It only takes one deep breath in and one slow breath out to let go of that which no longer serves us when we are ready.

To unleash tears that will cleanse us of our guilt, hurt, loss and shame.

To open us up to the future, our future.

There is enough for everyone as long as we have the will to see it.

Let’s walk forward together.

………………………………………

A final word on culture.

I believe that culture and cultural practices can evolve but only with respect. Evolving doesn’t mean superseding or, the triumph of one over another. More that it means growing, learning, enhancing, sharing.

We accept as normal that parents worry how they will find enough love in their hearts for their second child – a fear that dissolves the moment the baby breathes its first breath. ¬†At that point the family changes everything and nothing at the same time, in the same breath. ¬†Why can’t culture be like that? Like Love?

Meat – To eat or not to eat, that is the question

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So I’m not a vegetarian and neither am I a vegan.

I feel that admitting being a¬†meat eater is becoming more and more loaded but that might just be in the circles I move in (or maybe it’s just in my head). ¬†Like many modern-life issues the issue of what to consume has become somewhat politically loaded and is no longer a case of ‘meat and two veg because that’s just what we eat’ it’s more a weighing up of environmental, health, budget and social justice issues.

Will I have eggs for breakfast?  

Well if I do I have to accept that the boy chicks are ground up alive after hatching just to keep my egg choice cheap, cheap.

Lamb, beef, chicken or Kangaroo?

Well lamb is tasty but lambs are heavy hoofed and they are helping to destroy our fragile soils here in Australia. Beef? ¬†Well that contributes to the global methane cloud and they require so much land for feed (grain) I mean that can’t be good for the environment. Chicken, nice but I no longer trust the ‘free roaming/ free range’ stickers when I see them. Kangaroo? ¬†Should it be farmed? Should we eat one half of our national emblem?

Milk with your tea madam?

Cow’s milk? ¬†Yes please but do you know if the farmers got paid fairly? ¬†And how old are the calves when they are separated from their mothers? Do they cry for long? Do you think they get over it? ¬†Do the cows mind being milked?

And then there’s the inevitable death question.

How do you feel that something died so that you could eat that?

Ummmmmm well OK.

Yes but it is so cruel, have you seen the secret footage?

Well yes, I do feel bad about factory farming and I do try to buy my meat from farmers markets or butchers that can tell me where the animals came from and a bit about their processing but I have to admit it is a hard part of the food chain to handle as a meat eater?

And then the other big one.

But would you be prepared to kill your own?

And to that I’d have to say ‘yes’ but that doesn’t mean I’d like it or do it gratuitously.

Game over, friendship lost in some cases.

Peculiar judgements from others including the secret fear that I am actually some blood thirsty animal torturer who feels it is their god given right to take life.

Complicated?  

Totally.

And do you know what makes it all the more complicated? It’s ¬†the myriad of pro-veggie websites that publish misleading information to further complicate what is already quite a complex issue – believe me, there are lots of legitimate reasons to give up meat without resorting to fabrications. ¬†I just happen not to want to at this point in time and that is partly because of my families and my complicated allergy issues which includes but isn’t limited to fish, nuts, garlic, onion, alcohol, banana, mango, melon, gluten, soy and sesame.

Anyway, this is the type of erroneous information available to those who are debating if to ditch the meat or those who are looking for pro-veggie arguments:

VEGGIE REASONS

This table has formed the basis for hundreds of articles and has been widely shared. ¬†When I first saw it I, like I’m sure many people would, thought WOW, that is quite compelling isn’t it? ¬†But then I thought ‘but humans have been eating meat for thousands of years and if it is that bad for us surely we wouldn’t be thriving like we are?’

And I say that even though I know full well about the other scientific studies that have shown that meat eaters get more cancer etc…. ¬†I have researched that too and my conclusion was to keep eating meat but to feel OK about not being able to drink alcohol and to steer clear of refined sugar and poor quality processed meats. Easy as I do that already.

Anyway with regards to this table I did want to look into some of these comparisons just to get a general feel of the thing.   As someone who enjoys eating a diet that includes meat I have a bias towards this table being wrong but as a science minded individual I have a desire to find out the truth.  After all, I have adapted my meat-eating behaviour based on research before and am happy to do it again.

So I found a lot of interesting stuff and plenty of reasonable explanations as to why some of these things are so and some thing that are misleading. For example, the fourth point about the jaw muscles is misleading because humans use four muscle groups in their jaws – Massetter, two types of Pterygolds and Temporalis. ¬†That our human teeth have got smaller over time due to evolutionary changes in our diet. ¬†That the use of tools, cooking (we’ve been doing our own human masterchef classes for over 200,000 years) and pottery (making it possibly to eat very mushy food) has all played its part in shaping our dental history. ¬†This part was expecially interesting to me as our eldest child is currently undergoing dental work and has had issues with her jaw muscles in the past!¬†In addition I found that our development of¬†verbal language has also helped shape our mouths and teeth!

Another interesting thing I found was to do with the metabolism of vitamin A. The table is right and humans can’t detoxify vitamin A but vitamin A is usually found within the offal of an animal rather than the meat so it is most likely our ability to detoxify vitamin A is a mute point being as though we practically never chow down on a diet of¬†liver these days ¬†and even eating cooked liver is not something most people do daily or even weekly. ¬† So we still can’t go past evolution in this regard. Omnivorous animals such as some pigs, badgers, bears, squirrels, mice and rats can probably detoxify Vitamin A because they are often scavenging or exert a large amount of energy to catch prey and so require all the calories they can get from the kill. ¬†We have shops.

So if I can dismiss a good proportion of the information on that table as bias half-truth’s or misleading by omission does that justify my decision to eat meat and does it make me feel any better about my choice?

No and No.

It’s not that I feel BAD for eating meat, ¬†it’s more that I feel the weight of that responsibility heavily, that I don’t take eating meat for granted and that I am working towards full mitigation of as many of the negatives as I can – choosing meat that is less environmentally impactful, less cruel, less glutonous (not eating so much) and healthier. ¬†That said there is one impact that I cannot mitigate for and that’s the death of the animal.

Death ¬†of anything is not a subject that many people want to talk about and I totally understand that but I am not entirely sure that is helpful to our emotional development as humans. ¬†Death is as much a part of the cycle as birth, indeed history has shown us that the two can often come together. ¬†The way I see meat-eating is somewhat primal and earthy. ¬†I see humans as part of a cycle of nature that gives and takes, that is born and that dies. ¬†I feel that as humans we all too readily work that system to our advantage, take the benefits without counting or taking responsibility for the costs. ¬†I to do this with my meat as I’m yet to kill and eat my own (and I’m not in a desperate rush to start either although I am curious about this side of the food chain and the detail and art involved it). ¬† I remember watching a documentary about an organic farmer who was setting rat traps in his veggie patches then ploughing the dead rats back into the soil. I wondered what the vegetarians would think of that, of the blood and bone enriched broccoli? ¬†And it was a serious, sober wondering, the kind you do with compassion and trepidation. The circle of life.

But we don’t need to eat meat these days, we can find all of our nutrition in plants and keep ourselves very healthy, in fact we can thrive thanks to our ingenuity, ability to source from the global food bowl and our problem solving abilities. ¬†So that really does leave the meat-eater with just one question and that’s ‘do you eat it or not?’ ¬†Because if you say yes you know the animal is going to have to die for you and we have to start taking responsibility for that.

 

 

 

 

 

The benefits of negative self-talk.

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They don’t call this the ‘age of entitlement’ for nothing……

It’s 7am. I’ve been awake since 6.37 – I actually slept in after slamming my alarm down when it started singing at 5.10. ¬†I was going to get up early and get on with work but my body quickly vetoed that and I didn’t dwell on or analyse my decision.

So I’ve only been up for twenty three minutes.

During that time I have ‘had words’ with myself on three occasions.

  1. ¬†I opened the door where the dogs sleep, let them out then couldn’t lock the bloody door again. ¬†I bemoaned the ‘typical me’ behaviour on display. ¬†Can do something perfectly one minute then struggle as if it is some mensa puzzle the next. What’s with that Amanda?
  2. On taking the kettle off the boil I set fire to the tea towel that I was using to shield myself from the hot handle. But there was no time to lament that because….
  3. I then realised I’d boiled a practically empty kettle. ¬†On comes the inner dialogue of ‘what a waste of gas, gas is a fossil fuel, that’s wasteful to the environment’ and so on.

And then I snapped out of all of that¬†with a big ‘aha’ moment¬†¬†and came here to write about it.

flower

———————

The language that cheerleads todays woman onward and upward is powerful, direct, forthright and totally unapologetic. ¬†It screams ‘I’m me, I’m here and you should get used to it and get over it’:

 

Sassy (The American equivalent to Saucy)
impertinent; insolent; saucy.
Urban Dictionary Version:
possessing the attitude of someone endowed with an ungodly amount of cool.
Fierce
menacingly wild, savage, or hostile
Urban Dictionary version:
A term that gay men used in the late 1990s and early 2000s to describe absolutely everything that was of “exceptional quality”.
A Sassy, Fierce woman simply wouldn’t scold herself for not being able to re-lock the door she just un-locked two minutes ago. ¬†She would just turn her head, hand the keys to someone else and walk off into the sunset without a care in the world or an ounce of self-reflection or doubt.
But what if she did take a second to doubt herself?  
To feel even mildly annoyed at her predicament.  
Would she then be lying about being fierce and sassy?
Would she have failed?
———————–
Maybe it is how I’ve been brought up, maybe it is just my self-reflective personality, maybe it is the patriarchy or maybe a mixture of all three but I just can’t help critique my own performance.
Whatever it is it is fine because theses days it doesn’t sting, it only teaches.
———————-
For me being Fierce and/or Sassy (if that’s what I want to be) is all about how I deal with my¬†reality. How I accept and deal with life’s ¬†little hiccups and inconveniences. ¬†
After being alive in THIS society for 41 years with THIS personality I’m not entirely sure if I can burn the tea towel and not immediately have my inner voice scream ‘what are you doing there, be careful, you do this too often, you need to try another way’. ¬†
I’m absolutely sure that I don’t want to achieve the¬†level of nonchalance that our modern language seems to be encouraging:
the state or quality of being nonchalant; cool indifference or lack of concern; casualness.
This brings me back to reflecting on the language we are being encouraged to use to describe ourselves as women.
Everybody is different but for me this fierce, unapologetic and sassy language is not something I naturally gravitate too (old dictionary) and don’t really understand (urban dictionary). ¬†
I feel that in using this language ¬†we have over-shot society’s¬†central axis and landed into the zone of individualism. ¬†
As much as I’m an introverted loner I still respect, appreciate and enjoy the beauty that is a well functioning society. ¬†I want to be a part of that.
So, my own personal preferred word is strong:

Strong: mentally powerful or vigorous.

 

Urban Dictionary Version:
someone who comes off as confident
someone who is comfortable in there own skin
someone who can take on the world
someone who should be very proud of themselves
I feel strong.
I feel I can¬†and do accept¬†the negative self talk for what it is, that it doesn’t touch the heart of me but rather it helps to push me onwards and grow. ¬†For me these fleeting moments of negativity also serve as a reminder of the¬†gap that exists between societies idea of ‘perfection’ ¬†and¬†what I can¬†personally deliver. Whether it be about my ageing looks, my choice of clothes, my inability to lock the door or my burning of the tea towel. This reminder of my limitations keeps me humble ¬†(as in not arrogant. Modest), ¬†reminds me to show compassion, to treat others kindly.
¬†I am strong because I’ve worked hard to accept and love the parts of me that run opposed to societies version of perfection. ¬†The parts of me that put me in danger, slip me up, cost me time and money, ¬†hurt my pride. ¬†I am strong because I know that I am all of that AND MORE.
So, I’m not fierce or sassy I’m strong.
And I owe a big part of that to my negative self-talk.
and so I’ll keep it.
Yes indeedie!
Amanda x

Attention Deficit Disorder and Me

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I would have never have guessed that I have A.D.D or even A.D.D tendencies but it turns out that I probably do.  See, it was towards the end of last year that my sister questioned whether that might be a possibility for me, whether maybe some of my awkward traits, my slip-ups and foibles were clues to a brain that prefers to work another way and struggles with predictable order.  I decided to follow it up.

I’ve always been aware of the possibility that maybe, just maybe I do see things very differently to most people. ¬†I have an extraordinary capacity for work sometimes, as if I am being driven machine like ever onwards. ¬†I can go through periods of time where I literally buzz like someone who has taken waaaayyy to many uppers as I speed through work, writing projects, walking challenges and travel. ¬†But then I crash.

brain tree

My crashes are more physical than mental. ¬†Mentally I’m always either in a state of excitement/ amusement or asleep. ¬†I became aware of my ability to bring pain onto myself somewhere between my 35th and 37th birthdays when, while driving to work I realised¬†¬†how tightly I’d been gripping the steering wheel. I honestly could have strangled it. ¬†That time also co-insided with a traumatic slowdown of my digestion and a slump into what felt like chronic fatigue. I won’t go on in any more detail and yes, I’ve worked on and fixed my guts but looking back I think I had burned through the next five or so years worth of brain chemicals by just being me leaving me flat.

I had to change and I did.

Anyway, fast forward back to last year and I took myself off to a psychologist specialising in adults with A.D.D. ¬†I was interviewed, filled out the questionnaire and got my hubby to do one too. ¬†My results came back as a high level of A.D.D (self-assessment), my husband ranked me lower (borderline A.D.D). ¬†Neither result came as a surprise. ¬† As I didn’t see the point in paying extra for the psychologists written assessment because a) I didn’t want medication and b) for me the dots had been joined, the psychologist could only give me so much ¬†– a professional opinion – I left it at that. ¬†Just knowing that my brain was wired in a way that sometimes had it skip a step or two was enough for me.

One never knows what goes on in another persons head, what pathways they walk to get to the conclusions they draw but I have to say that I wouldn’t change mine for the world. ¬†My A.D.D tendencies have caused me grief, that can’t be denied. ¬†I am prone to mixing up words when I write, to mis-spelling the same word in the same piece at least three different ways (much to the utter dismay of my past teachers), to being seen as careless or not interested, ¬†to being physically clumsy, awkward and a bit rough around the edges and to being judged as erratic at times (although my motivation and energy reserves usually see me correct this pretty swiftly), boisterous and dis-organised. ¬†But I still wouldn’t change a thing.

On the plus side I have a brain that is beautifully networked. I visualise myself as a tree with many branches feeding off sturdy limbs and rooted by a trunk that is stands firm, that is nourishing and strong.  My energy highs are like the springtime where growth is directed upwards and outwards, producing fruit, flowers, greenery.  In the summer I stall, shaded by the efforts of my spring, quietly but steadfastly working underneath to hold up and stand tall until the heat abates.  And so it goes on, cyclical, natural, beautiful.

After living unlabelled for 40 years I now find myself in a state of relief, of comfort. ¬†It is easy for those outside a mental health box to think that A.D.D, A.D.H.D, Autism and the rest are modern inventions to classify people who just can’t toe the line or ‘be good’. ¬†I know myself that I’ve had fleeting thoughts along those lines, especially when viewed against the figures for our medicated youth. ¬†However, my own reality has given me a new perspective on the issue of mental health and more specifically the up-side of being labelled.

Relief, complete, utter and total relief.

I can stop hating myself for forgetting things, for knocking into the furniture, for not being able to spell even though I try SO BLOOMING HARD and for everything in-between.

Relief that I don’t have early onset dementia – another theory I had as to why my brain couldn’t get it together.

Relief that I was actually quite normal.  Just a different kind of normal.

For me, A.D.D isn’t a disease it is a difference, an alternative wiring loom and one that requires slightly different management but I’m cool with that.

I like different.

I like trees.

and I finally like all of me.