Progress Fatigue

Change can be hard. Change can also be good. When those two truths collide , exhaustion can take over.

I am not a believer in New Year’s resolutions. In our house, we’ve been steadily working toward a more sustainable life. I don’t mean sustainability in the sense of self-sufficiency. I am speaking more in terms of attainability.

We decided to grow a garden this year to offset our expenses. Living on Vancouver Island produce is very expensive, especially when out of season. Just this week one head of cauliflower was 7.99 at the grocery store. When the minimum wage is 12.65 an hour it’s unsustainable (unattainable) to eat nutritious fresh food. Items that were priced in the 2 to 3 dollar range were 5 to 8 dollars on our trip to replenish today.

Though we have to fork out 200.00 for the lumber and likely 300.00 for the proper soil, we will save up to 5000.00 this summer alone. I’m tired from spending money to save money, but I know the end result will be worth it all.

Likewise, there are three people with a uterus in our home. This means spending around 60.00 a month on menstrual products. Instead, we invested nearly 300.00 in reusable pads and period underwear from https://lunapads.ca  This will save us thousands of dollars in the years to come. The best thing about Luna Pads (aside from being local, environmentally friendly, machine washable, and trans inclusive) is their commitment to providing period products to people in underprivileged countries.

With eating fresh veggies from the garden we needed to invest in ways to make the familiar interesting. I don’t know about you, but I get tired of eating the same thing over and over again. Thankfully Epicure has many solutions (that after an initial investment) save money over time. For example, veggie broth costs 2 to 4 dollars a carton here. One jar of all natural powdered broth is 10 to 12 dollars depending on the type. I can make 60 or more dishes from the one jar effectively saving myself 226.00 annually for that one item.

I’ve had to let go of convenience to save money. Returning to baking bread, making granola bars, canning fruits, veggies and pickles. A call back to my mother’s and grandmother’s recipe boxes while employing modern time saving techniques like a magic bullet, a smart chopper and an instant pot. All these initial investments hurt the cheque book, but are worth it in the annual savings. The amount we’re spending to reboot an attainable life style will refund itself in less than the time it takes to grow a squash.

I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t hurt my heart a little to spend money in large chunks. I prefer to pinch as many pennies as I can. I budgeted to include student loan payments for next year and realized the defict in our two incomes was the EXACT amount we were paying for groceries. Aside from a Netflix subscription, half a dozen movies and a pizza addiction, we don’t have many non-essential spending habits. The only change we can make is to reevaluate how we source our goods, where we get our essentials, and try to cut costs that way.

It is not attainable or sustainable to work two to three jobs to cover the cost of living. We do not go on extravagant vactions. We have one car that my partner brought brand new 20 years ago. We do not have cable or air conditioning. We don’t go to the bar regularly or attend concerts or other forms of live entertainment. We, like so many other people, are living simply and barely making it.

How do you live an attainable life?

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I’m 32 and also living paycheque to paycheque

I read an article today on #HuffingtonPost titled I’m 37 and living paycheck to paycheck. As I read, I realized how familiar the author’s story was. You see the pressure to go to events to support friends and loved ones is real—even more so during the holiday season. Many of us are just one or two unexpected expenses away from not making it.

This year we had to replace a furnace to the tune of 6000.00. (We DID get a rebate and it decreases our heating costs…but that’s a huge chunk of money that was supposed to be spent over time on other house related things.) Then, we chose to keep the cat that came with our house. This meant that he needed to see a vet pronto and get all his shots, that was 300 bucks…shortly after that appointment he required an emergency visit for dental issues and some other stuff. We decided to try and save him (to the tune of 1200.00). This all happened during a period of time where Olivia was indefinitely laid off from her long-term job and I went back to school for my final year. Our budget was tight! Then, Olivia found some work, but now it’s winter and she’s facing another potential lay off.

Due to the lay off over the summer, my minimum wage job just covered expenses and we were not able to save anything. This is the reality for most folks. What’s more is most folks don’t have the ability to put unexpected expenses on credit. We thankfully did, but now we have balances to pay each month on our already taxed budget.

Please know I’m not sharing this to whine, but for the folks who find themselves in a similar situation. We see you. You are not alone. If all you can do this Christmas season is to tell people how much you love them, please don’t feel guilty. AND if you’re hard up for food, reach out—there are plenty of resources available in Nanaimo where we live (and other communities if you’re not from here), and you can always come to our house for a modest dinner if you live close by. The challenge is to escape the shame of poverty. If so many of us are (or have been) in a similar situation, why are we reluctant to be honest and to access resources available to us?

This year when people ask what we want for Christmas we have two answers. First, we cheekily reply home depot or PetSmart gift cards (because the cat and the house are eating all our money). Second, for those who are closest to us, the reality is we need time with the people we love that has no financial cost…this can even include gas costs. We’d love to come to see you, but we can’t afford the gas bill—we need it to get to work.

What I didn’t know was missing

Sitting, rather, laying on top of my patchwork quilt yesterday, I said, “Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing until you have it.”

I’ve always been an independent person. I was the strong-willed child that knew what she wanted, the edgy teen who didn’t take flack from anyone, and the travelling idealist looking for a place to put roots down—in her own time.

Over the past few years, I’ve begun to do just that. I’ve met more amazing people since moving to Vancouver Island than I was prepared for. I’ve had the privilege of working with non-profits and social justice warriors to invest in the community and better the lives of lose less fortunate. I went back to school to pursue my passion, became established in the local writing community, started working full-time for the first time ever, and have a strong support network.

I was happily single. Free for adventures, late night talks, random road trips, and content with it.

Then, I was happily single and crushing hard on someone.

For all my bravery, moving to other countries with my clothes on my back, coming out as bisexual in a Christian church (subsequently losing what felt like everything), and coming back from nothing countless times—it was the single most terrifying experience to put myself out there.

I’ve had a history of barking up the wrong tree. People are beautiful. In my life, I’ve known some rare gems. They don’t see their potential, their impact on others, or their sheer brilliance. As an observer with my heart on my sleeve, I notice those individuals with the capacity for great love right away. I sat on it for a long while. I thought, this will pass and then I can carry on with my plans of graduating and work towards publishing.

Then, my good frenemy tequila intervened and I sent that notorious drunk text. Now, thank GOD drunk Cheryl isn’t an idiot. I didn’t say anything regrettable. It was literal liquid courage. I told her that I liked her.

What happened between now and then can only be explained as a miracle. Like, finally all the good karma I’ve sown is coming back to me. I didn’t know I needed to feel safe like I am with her. I didn’t know that I needed to feel beautiful even when my hair is standing straight up and I’ve got last night’s glitter and camping dust stuck to my face. I didn’t know that I needed someone to hold my hand while my heart broke for the pain of a loved one.

It’s funny how you don’t know what you’re missing until you have it.

What do you call a writer that doesn’t write?

For the last few months I’ve barely been able to catch up on life duties. We’ve all been there. Work, volunteer commitments, friendships and relationships new, old and budding. All of those events eat away our time. As finite beings, bound by the 24 hour clock, we can easily lose days, weeks, months, and sometimes years before we take the time to do the things that fill us up.

I’ve been challenged, with noble intent, by fellow writers in my community at my lack of wordsmithery. “Write a little each day, even if it’s not for sharing.” “Take time to write Cheryl.” “Have you been writing?”

Though I’ve not been writing, words, stories and concepts have been floating around in my brain. It’s almost as if I have TOO much in my heart and on my mind to make sense of it all. Though I am in the middle of an intense busy season, the events filling up my calendar are also filling up my heart. It begs the question, what do you call a writer that doesn’t write?

  1. Dreamer—Half finished poems and post-it notes clutter the piles of papers in my living room and bedroom. The poems are unfinished because the experiences informing them are still in progress. I imagine, when the Fall University Semester commences in just seven short weeks, I will have endless inspiration to draw from for my portfolio.
  2. Introspective—As a verbal processor, I see my emotions as a heap of jumbled words within my heart and mind. It’s essential to spend time untangling and sorting these words into the proper places in my internal storage space. (God I sound like a nerd.) With the new experiences and directions, I am taking the time to create space within myself, and my life, to place the moments and memories I am collecting. I suppose a photographer collects photos and sorts them, the geologist rocks and precious stones, the artist images and media—as a writer, I collect words, phrases and metaphors; all contained inward.
  3. Avoidant—The downside of enjoying oneself this much, I don’t want to stop, sit and write. Some folks can take a notebook or device with them and write wherever they are. I am not so lucky. I crave, NEED, down time to let down my guard, open the gate, and write from a place of vulnerability. I get flustered, almost a flight or fight response, when something interrupts this process. As a result, I avoid sitting and opening that avenue. Out of fear of being caught in a tender and raw place, I collect more moments, memories, and words than I can hope to handle like a hummingbird greedily syphoning a sugar feeder.

There you have it. I am an avoidant introspective dreamer who, on my best days, is a writer, and on my worst, a hot mess. Being absent from writing is a direct result from being present in long dormant portions of my life. Once I figure out this heap of heart words, you’ll hear much more from me. Until then, keep in touch and tell your stories.

 

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2017: Will It Be a Good Year?

I suppose any year where I make it to the next year unscathed can be counted a success.

I don’t know about you, but there are a few things I see happening this year that only a year like 2016 could’ve initiated.

On January 21st, people around the world are taking to the streets marching in solidarity and protest of Trump’s inauguration. His presidency is likely to set back freedoms and human rights of marginalized people of colour, LGBTQ+ individuals, women and immigrants to worse than 25 years ago.

What can I do about it as a Canadian? I can create space for one. If you need a platform to be heard from, take mine.

I can listen, empathize and fight for the freedoms I’ve long taken for granted. Reach out to our neighbours south of us. I’d be naive to think that this new leadership will not effect my life. Already, racial and gender based hate crimes in Canada have increased.

Reactively, minority groups have begun to band together in support of one another. People have become more generous where others have pulled back. It seems that collectively we are bracing for something volatile but what?

Reading Twitter battles between Trump and, well, anyone–I am fearful for what will occur at the hands of someone so hot-headed. At the same time, I am hopeful for those watching from behind relatively safe borders to open their hearts and homes to the wave of disillusioned voters and political refugees that we are certain to see.

For anyone who is doubting this, take a minute right now and review the immigration numbers of Americans to Canada after Bush was elected, and then remind yourself of all the internet memes depicted Trump as worse. There’s a reason the Canada Immigration Site crashed for over 24 hours after the election closed.

Now is not the time for the world to be silent, but we have to be careful that our voices don’t turn into another bully chant. Let’s be preservers of human dignity. Let’s feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and love the broken-hearted. Only then will it be a good year.