coping with sadness

This blog post is kind of a follow up to my recent post about how I became vegan. I realised that becoming vegan and my feelings about animal welfare since are so entwined with sadness and grief that it is a big subject and one worthy to talk about. And maybe it will help others, I doubt any of us are ever alone with what we feel. I also wonder if non vegans struggle with beginning the conversation within themselves about the correlation of their food choices and animal farming because the reality is so abhorrent. And so by opening up a dialogue of how to cope with learning about suffering, maybe that would help some to consider where their meals have come from and make changes that would ultimately reduce suffering around the globe.

For me making changes to be vegan were not really hard from a diet point of view. There are so many vegan options, recipes, nutritional advice, vegan blogs, instagram accounts out there that I knew I would get to grips with that in time. Although it was still a learning curve after having ate animal flesh and their secretions for 30 years. For me it was more about if I made a change to my diet then I had to look at why I was making that change. So that meant having to learn about animal farming. And although initially I only looked at it in small detail, what I read and saw was so horrifying to me it has actually erupted a lot of sadness. So going vegan was not an easy move because I had to face the reality of what happens to animals in farms, transport and slaughter houses to be able to make that choice. I was so much more comfortable in my ignorance.

And once you make that choice to be vegan you are then surrounded by people who you love and care for who continue to fund the abuse. And thats hard. Because you don’t want to upset people by telling them about the reality of what animals go through to become their food, its not really a nice dinner table topic! But you feel a disservice to those animals when you don’t speak up. You feel like part of the problem because you’re keeping quiet rather than telling the truth. Which is that animals are abused in the most sickening and abhorrent ways by us. We fund it and we ingest their flesh and their secretions. And it’s unnecessary. Although veganism is becoming more mainstream, I do wonder if more of us could live healthily on a vegan diet and significantly reduce animal abuse and climate change.

I have been vegan for 2 years and as I said I have felt so much sadness around it in that time, anger that it is allowed to happen, frustration and judgement that friends and family fund it and helplessness at what can I do about it. Towards the end of last year I was feeling so much judgement towards others that I finally realised it was an opportunity for me to address how I am processing my sadness and anger in an unhealthy way. Up until then I would feel angry or sad and either take it out on my husband or child in a short tempered way or I’d distract myself with the multitude of distractions available at our fingertips. I noticed that when those feelings came up I would hop on instagram and loose myself scrolling. Or I’d watch a film I’d seen a trillion times. Comforting and the perfect way to avoid nasty thoughts. I was completely missing the chance to find a way to process my feelings so that I could move forward and actually become helpful to animals. At that stage I wanted to donate some of my sales to animal charities but couldn’t bear the feelings that would come up when I began researching organisations. Theres no avoiding images, animal abuse stories when you are looking at several animal rights websites. I wanted to speak up more for them but I knew that would also involve more research into farming practices. And I thought I wouldn’t be able to cope with it.

Around a year ago I had begun meditating. I would practise every morning, getting up early and sitting downstairs before the house woke with a cup of tea. All it involves is breathing in and out, noticing when you start thinking about something and then going back to your breathing. And repeat. The point of it being to realise that you are not your thoughts. Your thoughts are just an amalgamation of what you have learnt from your care givers, your experiences and society. They are very repetitive and often unhelpful when they keep leading you down rabbitholes of sadness, anxiety and anger. Through my meditation I have slowly learnt (and continue to do so) to watch my thoughts rather than get consumed in them. So now if I feel anger for example, I try to watch the anger rather than getting caught up in it. I let it flow through me, allowing it to be part of me. And if I am able to watch it and not get consumed, then it politely leaves me. Like a cloud passing through me. And then I question why I felt that anger. And in the case of me feeling anger towards those who fund animal farming, I realise that my anger is actually coming from sadness for the animals affected rather than anger towards anyone. And then from that sadness I can decide what I can do about it.

In the same way, if I see an upsetting post about animal cruelty in farms or worse an image, instead of reaching for my distraction, I recognise I am feeling sad, I let the feeling come up. It either comes up as a strong sensation in my stomach, deep sadness or tears. And as I watch the sadness and allow it to be in my body it slowly drifts away. After practising this for a while I feel stronger and stronger to cope with upsetting things like animal abuse and other upsetting things I see and hear. Its gone from me feeling completely consumed and paralysed, to feeling that although its incredibly sad, whats really important is what I’m going to do about it. And that has empowered me to begin blogging about animal rights, making farm animal jewellery (I seriously couldn’t have even drawn a cow and her calf 6 months ago), researching animal charities and donating money to them. And as I practise dealing with my feelings healthily I feel stronger and stronger and my voice feels louder and louder.

Through processing my feelings it has also stripped away my judgements towards those who either are ignorant to many farming practises or who choose to continue to be a part of them. Although I know that this results in cruel treatment of animals and that makes me sad for those beings I also understand that suffering is part of our world as we know it. Whenever there is any wrongdoing in the world, there are always those who encourage it, those who do nothing about it, those who try to make changes and those who are victims to it. And there are a multitude of reasons behind each one of those. From privilege to be in a position to make change, poverty, ignorance, greed, habit, culture and so many more. My 30 years of consuming animals were definately due to ignorance, greed, habit and culture. Me getting caught up in anger and judgement will just waste my energy, and its uncompassionate to those who can’t for whatever reason make the changes I have made. Its also hypocritical to have any judgement of anyone because unless you are perfect yourself you have no right to judge someone else. And if someone was perfect, they would probably choose kindness over judgement anyway! Me judging is hypocritical of my 30 years of animal eating and any other way I have been selfish and unkind in my life. ‘He who cast the first stone’ is something I remind myself of daily.

Rather than spending my energy in judgement I’d rather spend it doing what I can to help. Even my small donations and little blogs will make some difference. And not consuming animal flesh, eggs and dairy for 2 years will have already saved lives. I’m a big believer that big changes come from our small actions and that even if governments will not choose compassion that there is so much power in us as individuals. If there is no one to fund these practices they won’t exist as they do now. The less people who buy animal flesh and their secretions the less animals that will live an existence of abuse. I remember seeing an instagram post years ago from my sister in law Jen who is a vegan ultrarunner. She had shared another of her delicious vegan meals and her caption read “if you want to reduce suffering in the world, start with whats on your plate”. I wasn’t vegan at the time but have never forgot the message that we can all make positive changes to the planet and its inhabitants.

At the minute some people seem to have lots of time on their hands and others seem to have less. There is no time for learning an extra language in this household. But I urge you to take some time to think about how you process your feelings around animals and their quality of lives in farms as a way to move into compassionate action towards eating less or none. It may help you leave a place of feeling paralysed and helpless to a place of confidence and power. If this virus is teaching us anything, its telling us that we *can* make significant changes to our lifestyles and even to the planet when we have to. That we are compassionate beings at our core.

Thanks for reading,

Marie

x

P.S My first step in learning about veganism and nutrition was via the Vegan society and I go back to it often, reminding myself of calcium, omegas, iron rich foods etc. And my favourite go to chefs are Aine Carlin , Anna JonesBosh , Meera Sodha , Rebel recipes and domestic gothess.

Feelings

my vegan journey

I thought I would share more about my vegan journey. As since becoming vegan I get asked about it a lot. And its something my own views have changed with over time. More recently I am feeling compelled to do more to help animals in need which is probably showing through my social media and ceramic pieces and I feel it may be useful to hear how and why I became vegan in case it was something you were considering too.

I grew up in a animal meat and 2 veg household. Until my 20s I doubt I ever had a vegan meal and I didn’t question it either. the ethical or health benefits of veganism never crossed my mind and I didn’t know any vegetarians or vegans. After a short career in the NHS I re trained in ceramics. During my design degree I took a trip to New Zealand with a friend and spending so much time in the countryside noticed the trucks of animals on their way to the slaughterhouses. I remember feeling so sad and sickened. My first realisation of what happens to animals so that I can eat them. I immediately attempted a vegetarian diet, failed, tried again and failed again. I failed because at that time I had a rubbish diet so a few months in each time I had strong cravings for protein and iron. I wasn’t substituting animal flesh I had just eliminated it. There wasn’t a lentil, seed or bean in sight.

A year or so later I rented a small shared studio space in Liverpool. All of a sudden I was surrounded by vegetarians and vegans. We had many social gatherings and studio events where everyone brought a dish. There was never any animal meat and the food was so colourful, fresh and varied I learnt so much about being a healthy vegetarian. At lunchtimes all my friends tucked into their delicious meatless meals and it helped me to make the step to becoming a vegetarian with a balanced diet. But I still thought being a vegan was going ‘a bit far’, ‘a little extreme’ and I was vegetarian for around 5 years.

When I was pregnant with Ted who is almost 3 I began to learn more about the dairy industry. I had never (even as a vegetarian) considered what life could be like for a cow, the demands for her milk, the demands that are so high that it results in her calf being taken from her at its birth or well before nature intended the separation. If the calf was ‘lucky’ to be female it could live a little longer than her brother who would be slaughtered very young for veal while she continued her mothers lineage at becoming a milking machine. I could no longer buy my animal products from the supermarkets and I spent time researching organic, higher welfare farms where I could buy dairy and eggs. I found a farm in Yorkshire and continued to buy from there for another year. It was more expensive so I ate less of it.

When Ted was 9 months old I no longer felt that me consuming eggs and dairy wouldn’t be affecting another beings quality of life. I remember feeling so strongly about animal welfare at that point and it was a decision made in a second to never consume animal meat or their secretions again. I learnt all about how to have a healthy and balanced vegan diet, the necessary supplements and found lots of new recipes and chefs for delicious meal ideas. But there was definately an adjustment period. I think heightened by the fact I still had a young baby. So self care was only imagined and it took some time to get on top of taking my supplements – particularly b12 (just remembering to really as I was often so tired my brain didn’t work) and to have healthy snacks rather than just sugary and caffeinated ones. It maybe took me 6 months to get into a rhythm.

Now that I’ve been vegan for just over 2 years I feel on top of it and healthy. While I decided to be vegan for ethical reasons rather than health I definately seem to have a more stable and healthy weight now. I don’t seem to fluctuate like I used to. I opt for as little processed vegan food as possible. The only animal flesh alternative I use is tofu preferring to steer clear of the processed alternatives and eat veg, nuts, seeds, grains, beans and pulses instead… for the most part… I’m not perfect. I do that to stay healthy and to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging, which may just end up harming marine animals rather than farm animals. Its also so much cheaper. And if you have a zero waste shop nearby, even better for the environment and even cheaper. Plus all the tubs and jars make your kitchen cupboards look nice ;)

When I first went vegan I was happy with being vegan alongside making other personal efforts to protect the environment. I had no cares about other peoples views, preferring to leave people to their own choices. Not even my husband’s who continued to eat animal meat and dairy. And my son who was vegetarian until age 2 (he is now vegan and thriving). But its funny, as soon as you raise the bar, you are satisfied initially and then you see the ways you could raise it further. And further. So began more learning about more aspects of farming, of sheep, chickens, fish, pigs, cows, the slaughter process, living conditions, life spans. I’ve met rescued pigs and chickens, learnt about their history and been sickened to my core at what I’ve heard and seen. I’ve also read the reasons against veganism to try and educate myself outside of my obvious emotional feelings towards animals but I haven’t been able to find anything that would make me personally change my views for this moment in time. I have gone from avid animal meat consumer to failed vegetarian twice, to vegetarian, to vegan, to animal advocate. Well I guess I’m at the beginning of being an animal advocate. So far I have hopefully saved many lives by being vegan for 2 years, through my donations to animal charities personally and through my sales. I feel in a place where I can begin to do more. I’m not sure how yet but I feel my place in the world is to be a voice for animals and to certainly support those who are so good at doing that already.

My first step in learning about veganism and nutrition was via the Vegan society and I go back to it often, reminding myself of calcium, omegas, iron rich foods etc. And my favourite go to chefs are Aine Carlin , Anna JonesBosh , Meera Sodha , and I’ve just come across domestic gothess.

Whilst this is an overview of how and why I became vegan. There has been alot of underlying sadness, suffering and feelings of helplessness under it. I’ve done a separate blog post here which is more in depth of some of my mental and emotional thoughts around the subject and how I cope with knowing what I now know about animal abuse in farms and finding the strength to learn about it and then do something about it over ignoring it. I know this is a heavy subject for many of us and I thank you for reading this far with me.

Warmest,

Marie

x

Despite it all, spring arrives

And so despite it all spring arrives.
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And with it blue skies, green grass and delicate blush blossom. The birds chirp well into the evening, frogs cross my path, daffodils cover the verges.
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I find myself delighting in it whilst at the same time thinking about the NHS workers. Hoping that they too get a chance to enjoy spring. That it doesn’t pass them by while they work hard to save people. That’s my duality right now. A mix of unabashed joy of being alive in this season of new beginnings. And stomach churning sadness for those working so hard so as many of us as possible can enjoy many more springs.
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And isn’t that life. There is no life of pure joy, of absolute perfection. There is always sadness, suffering somewhere close by. Learning to seek and embrace joy, no matter how small has got to be one of humanities greatest struggles. To find the light in the darkest moments. And if you get that far, then learning to let go of guilt when you feel happy whilst the rest of the world appears to be in pain.
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And its so important as without that ability you will follow the rest of the crowd straight down the dark rabbit hole. But if you keep your head, or even just the tip of your nose in the light, you’ll be able to navigate this time in thoughtfulness for others. If you are strong you will be strong for others. You’ll find energy you didn’t realise you had to give to animals and humans in need. The world doesn’t need us to just sit this out, to wait till we can get back out no different then we were a month ago. It needs us to look at ourselves and how we can come out of this remembering who we really are. Remembering that under all the nonsense we have been surrounded with our whole lives that really we are loving and giving beings and nothing else matters. That taking care of our own family is not enough anymore. That we need to take responsibility for other people’s families, for animals, and for the planet. And this doesn’t have to be in the form of big financial gestures, it may be or it might be planting flowers for the bugs and bees, composting your veg scraps, eating less or no meat and dairy, offering help to elderly neighbours, ringing a struggling friend, the list could go on and on.
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Spring is a season of new beginnings, a chance to look inwards and a chance to appreciate. An opportunity to clear out the old and embrace the new. If you can just keep looking up to the light.
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Today I’ve had some precious hours to make. And I’ve re stocked my online shop with my porcelain daffodil wall flowers. Thank-you for all your orders so far for these and my animal studs. You might have seen in my stories it’s enabled me to make donations to 2 nature supporting charities as 10% of the sales are donated. So thank-you for giving me the opportunity to do a job I love and the opportunity to donate money to help our planet and its inhabitants.
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Thanks for reading,
Marie
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