Lighthouses, Ships & Norcadia

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After having a suitable break at home in Exeter from searching for the ideal location for our vegan eco-village, we headed back to Wales last week. This time visiting friends as networking was our priority, not house hunting. It’s become more and more important to us to get to know the lovely people we could end up buying collectively with. Plus, not everyone is ready yet to buy land – some still have houses to sell like us or are waiting until Christmas and winter are both out of the way.

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A vegan ‘Bring and Share’ buffet at Anastasia’s house.

We took our electric bikes hopeful that the rain would stop long enough to go for an exploratory ride around Cardigan or the coast roads, but it was relentless and our bikes sat in the cabin unused. Fortunately I like the rain and we took sanctuary in a small log cabin we rented through Airbnb in a woodland holiday park. We played the guitar, made and ate wonderful food, canoodled like teenagers, played our favourite board game Carcasonne and donned our raincoats for some muddy walks.  I couldn’t get internet and I think it broke the spell many of us are under with our addictions to our screens. We grounded ourselves. And then we went to a vegan lunch organised by a wonderful lady who has just moved to Cardigan and also reconnected with other fellow vegans we already knew. We networked. octblog31

There’s a price to pay for spending time with people – particularly strangers and the effort required trying to find connections with them. In fact it was so exhausting, I had to then cancel the plans we had for the the next day to see other friends just so that I could recover. I probably need to adjust my boundaries to incorporate this and not be overly optimistic that I can do it all. It’s okay to visit an area and not necessarily see everyone that lives there.

 

There’s something about the smell of British woodland in Autumn after rain that is so earthy I find it seductive. Like sipping a hot toddy or a slipping inside a heavy velvet cloak and feeling instantly calmed by the weight of it. Sitting with the doors to the cabin open listening to the rain and breathing in the crisp air felt soul cleansing. The woodland birdsong spoke into my heart and healed much of the negativity I had come away with.

I had come away with a heavy heart over what has been happening in our personal lives and also how this has been mirrored on a massive scale with people globally. The divide has never felt so great; splitting families apart and creating a disquiet between us. This last week or so has seen a bizarre wave of anger aimed at Greta Thunberg – even climate activists saying she is a no more than a puppet for capitalists who have decided to invest their billions in more renewable energy sources and profit from the climate crisis. People have commented very unkindly on her looks, made judgements on her ‘acting’ skills and been so cruel I feel ashamed to be part of this species.

I found myself embroiled in debates online and then it struck me that much of it feels manufactured – that perhaps climate crisis skeptics and oil billionaires have been funding new trolling algorithms so that we get so busy arguing with each other we stop trying to save the planet at all. Therefore I’m going to try to resist arguing online with the eejits that think it’s okay to crucify a sixteen year old trying to change the world as it can profoundly affect my well-being. It would seem that even my armchair activism may well be too triggering for me, and as it forms just another distraction from what I should be doing, I really ought to limit my time online. Otherwise I’m just a zombie, floating around on a lilo in the ocean not noticing the tide pushing me further and further away from being able to achieve anything at all. It feels like this is the zombie apocalypse, with the majority of us hypnotised, brainwashed and controlled by power hungry sociopaths. It’s so easy to lose three hours trawling the internet. Plug in and zone out.

It seems to be a disproportionately high number of white middle aged men challenging what Greta stands for and she has hit back by telling them they are clearly threatened by her and this shows that change is coming. And it is. I feel it and whilst it’s easy to get caught up in the waves of grief that come with waking up and seeing how stupid, selfish and lazy most of the world is, I also know that just by being the change, we are at least doing our bit. More and more people are waking up.

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Lorenzo Quinn’s Giant Hands sculpture emerging from a Venice canal to make people more aware of climate change. 

Artists are showing us the truth, musicians are singing it, and if the amount of corporations jumping on the vegan bandwagon is anything to go by, we are changing things. We watched a bit of terrestrial telly while we were in the cabin (we don’t watch it at all at home) and were stunned by the amount of vegan products being advertised.  Even if it’s supply and demand profits for the capitalist vultures, we are changing things. So to the climate crisis skeptics, I say this: if it turns out we were wrong about climate change, we will have created a cleaner, kinder world to live in, but if we are right and yet do nothing, we could be heading for mass extinction. Doesn’t it just make sense to do what’s right anyway? I find it astonishing that there is all this information out there – so much knowledge about how to live sustainably and how to reduce our impact on the planet yet so many of us still choose tastebuds and convenience over these fatally important issues. But the movement to take responsibility for our actions is growing. I have non-vegan staff making announcements on Facebook that they are going to try going vegan for a month because ‘You can do nothing, or you can do something. We want to do something.’ (I cried when I read that). It feels like our cunning plan to infect the world with kindness is working. And by ‘our’ – I mean the people choosing the right side of history to be on. The side that are evolving into kinder people. The side that embraces empathy as a well needed trait in a world currently run by sociopaths and psychopaths.

Gandhi said ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’. It seems we are at the fighting stage then and I take comfort in that. ‘Change is coming whether you like it or not’ as Greta has been reminding us. I personally do not care if greedy capitalists are jumping on the Greta bandwagon and paying for her yacht to get her to the states to show Trump what the future looks like. If they are promoting change in order to profit from it, or attempting to groom a genuine icon to further their agenda I care not. Let them help our cause with their greed! When we have averted the ecological disasters we will be stronger and the revolution to end capitalism won’t be radical at all; just the next step.

Next week is the start of the next Extinction Rebellion take-down in London. I wish crowds didn’t trigger me, or that I wasn’t so empathic I can feel the dark emotions of the haters to the point of making me feel ill, or that noise and chanting didn’t make my heart race like a hunted gazelle. I’d like to be there in London supporting the brave people prepared to be arrested. I wish I could be there on the front line and know how to respond lovingly to Tory commuters who are so greatly inconvenienced by the rebels trying to save the world that they spew hateful diatribe at us. To me, even the verbal assaults are like hurling curses that I feel in my chest like an air blaster hitting me with a sonic boom. I’m autistic. Or highly sensitive if that helps to better understand how these things affect me. I’m deeply empathic. In fact everything is deep for me. Too deep sometimes. I wear myself out so much it’s overwhelming and I need to take special care not to burn out. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed, I have to shut down and introvert.

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Networking is difficult for me. Whilst I met some amazing people who I look forward to spending more time with, I also met an emotional vampire who insisted on finding my profile on Facebook in front of me, and demanding friendship. I used to get the urge to befriend every lost soul and think perhaps I could help them, but I have now learned I have to conserve my energy and be selective about who gets my time. I thought it through with some anguish as I do not take rejecting someone lightly, but in the end I had to ignore her friendship request. There was a time when I would have been flattered by the attention and honoured that someone so charming should feel so strongly about me they will insist I must go and see them when I’m next in their town, but I am realising with more and more certainty that I cannot be around people like her.

I had hoped perhaps my initial instinct over my aggressive new ‘friend’ was wrong, but when I looked at her Facebook profile and the endless pouting selfies, ‘Kardashian’ style bodycon dresses, false eyelashes and body building poses I had to admit I am still attracting narcissists and I simply can’t cope with them anymore.  I’ve been a magnet for people like this all my life and whilst this woman may well have been a good hearted individual, and I have judged her far too harshly based on her profile – the image she portrays acts as a red flag for me now. It triggers me as one of my sisters is also of the same ilk.  I am very grateful that I am no longer subjected to anymore of her pouting vanity, and more importantly that I am no longer under the spell of any charismatic, yet shallow narcissists that use charm when they need you and drop you when they don’t.

I realise of course that many people are like this because they are products of our sick society and the constant need for approval is a symptom of the damage it is causing. Trying to work out whether insecure souls are really manipulative narcissists playing victim is exhausting, however it turns out you can spot these people quite easily as they turn into nasty aggressors very quickly when challenged. And they never back down or acknowledge a nasty outburst and apologise for it.

Whilst I have spent my life assuming the best of people until they prove me wrong, it’s perhaps time I also acknowledge that I just can’t tell with some people. None of us can if someone has crafted their fake persona well. octblogg2It’s how the charismatic sociopaths get into power – they trick and deceive with fake smiles and false promises. They claim to be the new prophets and that they are here to save us, but really all they do is split us apart so that we compete against each other instead of sharing. People do not feel like they are part of a community anymore, and getting ‘likes’ on a pouting selfie and having people comment on how fabulous you look is what support looks like these days. It’s tragic. Kindness is the only way we are going to survive as a species now and that means thinking of others. Kindness doesn’t mean accepting someone else’s darkness. I’m trying to find the balance between helping those that are lost and not absorbing their negativity. It’s almost impossible when you are autistic; I feel the pain of others like it is my own.

Please don’t think I expect everyone in my life to be all good. If you have issues but want to change, I’ll save up all my spoons and go to hell and back to rescue you if you need me to. But if you don’t want saving, or you think I’m wrong about what is important then I’m not going to waste my energy. It’s too precious.

There’s a divide between us and it simply comes down to this: you’re either ready to face yourself and all the ugly truths about who you have become in order to address it and change, or you will refuse – for whatever reason that is; perhaps you are a sociopath or a narcissist, or perhaps (and I hope and pray this is the majority) you’re just asleep. You’re a zombie floating around on a lilo not realising the planet is dying. Not realising the pain and suffering inflicted on your behalf. It’s time to wake up, and to try and wake up everyone else around you! If you are hated and persecuted for this, move away. These people are not ready to see who you have become yet.

My life is immeasurably better since cutting ties with my biological family. We as a society should stop tolerating narcissists and sociopaths full stop. No more gratuitous fawning over celebrities. No more falling for the glib flattery of sociopaths.

sociopathNo more voting psychopaths into power. It’s all connected – accepting the bad behaviour of a family member is not far removed from accepting the sociopathic behaviour of a prime minister. Gentlefolk with kind hearts are constantly being manipulated by people who seem devoid of a conscience. Let’s stop that please. It starts at home, so look around you and set some boundaries that protect you from anything that isn’t born of love and kindness. It’s time we started measuring success and love differently. It’s time we make kindness our priority.

Like the grand emotions I spoke of in my last blog post, I am finding that the bigger picture and focussing on the mission to create a kinder world helps me overcome feelings of guilt or fear at rejecting a friendship request from a potentially toxic influence.

Over the past few weeks, someone from Paul’s family has been regularly taking umbrage online with his vegan and far left political views on Facebook. A couple of times it briefly triggered Paul into someone I barely recognised. It was as though their darkness infected him while he allowed them to antagonise him. I tried to help him respond to their vitriolic rants and spiteful emojis with love but it just made it worse. In the end I found that they reminded me too much of the narcissistic traits of my own family and then I too was triggered. When both of us are triggered, it takes me to a place that doesn’t feel safe. I found myself yearning to belong to a tribe who could support us through these times. To strengthen us as we fight this battle. We all need a family, but perhaps it shouldn’t necessarily be the one we are born into. We need to surround ourselves with kind people and if you’re family is unkind, it is only social conditioning that tells you that you have to put up with it. You don’t. If we refused to turn a blind eye to cruelty and named it, talked about it and found solutions to deal with it think about the different world we would be living in.

When I came to think about my triggered angst later, I realised I had been quite specifically reminded of both my mother and my sister with Paul’s family member trolling him, and also of all the many sleepwalking zombies who are angry at me for making them feel bad. In my autistic inability to let go of my past pain, I relive my abusive childhood and all the painful rejections from my family every time I am triggered. It means all these people meld into one caricature of something very dark and ugly. They, like so many others have taken against us. Against me personally, for what? For being good? For being truthful? For being different? For feeling things too deeply? For being over-sensitive?  For being too much? For making people feel uncomfortable? For choosing to live more conscientiously? I think most of them choose their ‘side’ based on fear, and like so many humans facing the dilemma of whether to evolve, self reflect and face the truth about who we are and what we are responsible for, they have chosen denial and hate. Some people will never see themselves, or who you are as they can’t see beyond their own false reality. It’s cognitive dissonance. It’s a pity, but make no mistake, this is war we are in. If you are not with us, you are against us. It’s empaths versus sociopaths. Perhaps these are the end days like some religions will have us believe – perhaps this is how the meek inherit the earth? While the narcissists and power hungry capitalists are all fighting with each other, we gentlefolk will build a garden of Eden quietly in the background. It’s what we are trying to achieve with our eco-village, with my kindness course, and with our determination to live by example even when we are persecuted for it. I may not be able to rebel in London with my fellow XR activists but Paul and I will be rebelling everyday in our own ways.

Even if it’s small rebellions like sprouting our own beansprouts instead of buying them wrapped in plastic from a supermarket, or choosing a delicious plant based diet instead of eating sentient beings. Or selling everything to go and live in a cabin without all the trappings. We hope that doing these things inspires others, not angers them but ultimately that’s not down to us. So if you hate us for trying our best to be good people, I suggest you look at what it is we are triggering in you. Is it time you chose to do something too? octblog3

It’s no good making excuses anymore like “Oh, but I can’t give up cheese’ or ‘Some of us have to make a living’ or ‘I haven’t time to shop locally’ (I could go on) because this is an emergency and I have stopped worrying quite so much if my goodness is offensive to those who refuse to wake up.  My family is anyone who chooses kindness – every day and in every way that they can. My tribe consists of people who would never separate a mother from her baby because it’s milk tastes nice.

Or that thinks that other species are here to be our slaves. The family we choose isn’t toxic, isn’t self serving, isn’t determined to put us down and doesn’t hate us for trying to be better versions of who we used to be. Our family is your family if you want to leave behind the lies and the brainwashing and instead of being self-serving, choose to serve each other instead. There’s an enormous amount of joy to be found in helping others. So much, it makes me a little sad I didn’t learn this twenty years ago.

I feel like I’m a lighthouse now – shining my light like a beacon so that ships can see their way. I may not be able to set sail quite as bravely as my XR comrades or Greta, but my light is strong. I will not apologise if it also shines a light on the ugliness I keep encountering. Until it’s brought into the light, we can’t deal with it. And deal with it we must.

At the risk of taking my lighthouse and lilo analogies too far, plagiarising other authors, and using far too many cliches this is how I see it: lighthouse Most of us are ships. But we sit resolutely in our docked harbours and do not set sail for distant shores because it feels safe not moving. (I think I stole that from ‘Women That Run with Wolves). Some are ships with huge beacons on them like lighthouses at sea. Some are fleet leaders. Greta is one of those – complete with beacons, armoury and a fleet behind her. I see her autism as a super-power driving her to achieve justice for the planet. But you don’t need to be autistic to want to save the world. Or be more empathic. We all have skills. we all have choices. Many people have forgotten they are ships and instead their vessels have been weakened by society until they have become deflating lilos, carelessly floating about  – manipulated by the media and brainwashed into either believing everything is fine or that the new iPhone is all that matters. They are unaware we are heading towards disaster, and do not want to hear the bad news from those that have woken up. Then there’s Norcardia. If you don’t know what that is, it’s that soapy looking scum that sits on the top of the water. It behaves like a fungi with it’s branching filaments, but is actually a bacteria – one that can make you sick. Tories are Norcadia. Boris Johnson. And Trump. Dare I say it – even Brexit supporters. They surround and infect the lilos until they all dissolve in a jellified soup of filth. Even hearing their voices or seeing their stupid Facebook updates is like catching a spray of it in a sudden unkind gust of wind. It’s up to us to decide what we are, and to also decide who we want with us in our brave new world. So. What are you? Lighthouse, ship, lilo or Norcadia?

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Lemon Curd and Christmas

Now that the shortest day of the year is behind us, and days are stretching out before us once more, I feel an intense excitement that is almost an anxiety it’s so powerful. There’s been a chain of events that has set us on a different course and now it looks like things are finally coming together. In trying to work out how best to help Oliver get through university, we thought about downsizing when we moved and how best we could help him financially.  blog8I got letting agents in to value the flat for when we rent it out and one of them suggested I see a financial advisor to consider a buy-to-let mortgage. Well I did just that and discovered that despite my low earnings, I have considerable equity in the flat and that has opened up a world of possibilities. As popular as the flat has been with Airbnb, it was never something I could have considered long term. After our first nightmare Airbnb guests (just before Christmas), and the option to move out very soon, I’m pleased to say that January will be our last month being Airbnb hosts. It’s been an experience and we have met some amazing people, but I’m more keen than ever for Paul and I to have our own wee space that we don’t share so we can create our own private haven. We more or less live in our bedroom these days so tiny house living would suit us perfectly. The more possessions I part with (or realise I am happy to leave behind) the freer I feel. Stuff is just stuff.

With that in mind, I went on a crusade to find our haven but alas, tiny houses on sizeable plots just don’t seem to exist. Or we can’t afford them. Or they’re too far away from Pi Acres. We’ve been asking ourselves in all the chaos of the many options open to us what it is we really need to be happy. What do we want? Oliver still needs financial support, so moving out and downsizing will help us to help him, so that means the next two and half years we have to keep earning, but then after that, we can go anywhere in the world, live anywhere and do anything we fancy. When you find yourself with that kind of freedom, you have to think wild, think outside the box, think big! But also think about going small, think simple. Break it down and ask yourself: “What really makes me happy?” Too many of us work to afford things that we just don’t need. The latest iPhone perhaps, or a new car. We’ve been conditioned to think we need a house made of bricks, and that it must be decorated in up to date trends. blog10.JPGWe are bombarded with imagery and advertising devised to make us feel bad about how we look or smell without the product they are selling so we buy it. It’s a trick to keep us enslaved. I catch myself thinking things like ‘Well, I haven’t bought any new boots this winter, so why not?’ when I have perfectly good boots. I find myself caught in a loop of spending and then having to earn to feed my addiction to spending when actually, I don’t need half of this stuff. When you break it down, what do you need? I mean really need?

I’m a great list writer, so I did indeed break it all down into what we really want and need and then had to find acceptance that we can’t have that yet. Not all of it just yet. But, with one more canny move before we make our dreams happen, we could set ourselves up financially and ensure we get everything on our list. The mortgage advisor called it ‘gearing’ and basically what I am now doing is releasing the equity on the flat to buy another property here in Exeter (at the end of our road funnily enough) where we will port my small personal mortgage. It’s a small end of terrace house, so while we do it up we will be free from Step-heavy upstairs and have our own space. Hurray!! Then, when it’s had my special interior design magic makeover, we will do another buy-to-let mortgage, release more equity and then hopefully move to somewhere small but with enough land to have a big cottage garden, maybe a couple of acres if it isn’t near Pi Acres.

We shall have to wait and see, as I’ve now started a Facebook page for Pi Acres (Pi Acres) and have started meeting people online who want to come and help us with our projects, but who also want to set up communities. I’ve started planning the next steps at Pi Acres and even putting events in diaries and inviting people, so regardless of what our long term plans are likely to be, we are going to press ahead with making Pi Acres a haven and in the process, spend more time there this summer. I am still in favour applying to make it an outdoor education centre and sharing it with schools, colleges and of course the scouts. I have now offered the space to the local scouts, so as soon as Karen and I can get together, we can work out how to share the space. They currently only have the football field to do their outdoor badges and can’t have fires there, so I am excited for them being able to come and use Pi Acres and get some of their bushcraft and outdoorsy badges. I used to be a scout leader for many years (Cubs and Beavers) and do love a bit of singing around a campfire. I have to say, apart from dealing with parents, it is probably one of the few times that my Autism made me a perfect leader. My science and nature ‘special interests’ coupled with a no nonsense bossy tendency meant those boys always had an interesting meeting (and always clean fingernails too as I used to do inspections!).

I’m excited about the coming summer at Pi Acres. We will be around a whole lot more than we managed this past year. I’ve wondered if our handfasting last June and the way Paul’s family abused both us and our sanctuary put me off sharing it for the remainder of last summer? Maybe commuting to the land from Exeter will continue to be a problem, or perhaps it just takes a bit more determination to choose to opt out of the rat race and just go be in nature? Perhaps we need a bigger plot, maybe even pool our finances with others and buy a farm. Maybe we could create out own small community by choosing who our neighbours are, as I don’t want to live next door to carnists anymore.

Unless the apocalypse occurs in my lifetime, I would rather live somewhere with a bathroom. I know what a princess that makes me sound, and that if I were to truly live like a eco-warrior I would just live in the horse-box lorry (when it’s finished) and stop washing my clothes or bathing, but I just can’t. Proper bathing facilities makes me happy. I don’t need jewellery or holidays or fancy cars, but I am autistic and my daily routine starts with a poop and a bath. And I’m not so good at sharing my bathroom as I discovered when we had Airbnb guests. I can’t relax in the bath at all, so my morning routine became very hurried incase someone else needed the bathroom. It often set me up to feel stressed before the day even got going. And we often had a lot to do when there was a constant stream of guests. But we have still found time to go for glorious walks on sunny days and dare I admit it, I have enjoyed the way having guests has made me plan our day to accommodate guests. Routine suits me. But I’d like a routine that included nature every day. Proper nature,not just the local park to walk the dog.

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Exeter to Countess Weir canal walk December 2018

I’m trying to take a more Buddhist approach of acceptance, as we could be equally if not more happy buying a plot of land with a house on it in North Devon and being near surfing waves. So I’m trying to detach myself from where and how the next move will be after this imminent one. Maybe we will move to France? Or Canada? I’d like to live somewhere with a sense of community.

I would like to be surrounded by people who love us and make us feel welcome. I yearn to feel a sense of belonging somewhere. We don’t have that in Exeter. Despite knowing lots of people, I have very few friends and neither of us have any family we see any more. Oliver spent Christmas with his father and has now gone skiing, so it was always going to be a quiet one, but I hadn’t expected to feel so orphaned this Christmas.blog3 In fact, I’ll be straight up honest and tell you I would have cancelled Christmas entirely had it not been for our dog Tuki, who gets the whole concept of opening presents and so for her, we opened a small number of gifts – nearly all for her, and for ten minutes it actually felt like a celebration.

My manageress Claire gave me some Christmas gifts including some homemade vegan lemon curd that she made herself. I love homemade gifts and I was deeply touched. It’s somehow tragic that the most thoughtful person in my life outside Paul is someone I pay. When I looked at the faces of people frantically shopping last week I couldn’t help thinking that Christmas has become a marketing tool and the holiness has all gone. It doesn’t feel spiritual anymore and I find the level of consumerism and waste quite ugly. I think from now on, I would rather opt out for ethical reasons. Like the Quakers believe: everyday should be as holy as the next.

This has been the third or fourth Christmas in a row with zero contact from anyone in my family, and many years longer than that with others like my sister Julia. I think the court case from earlier this year has drawn a line under any chance of reconciliation. The more I walk with integrity and the less I tolerate sociopathic behaviour from anyone, even family, the less I want to have them in my lives. When I look back over the course of my life, I’m not sure what it is I think I miss. How can I miss something I never had? My very beautiful (on the outside) sister Julia has always been a bit of a narcissist and only ever been nice to me when I am useful or she needs something. My stepfather has always been mean. I shan’t go on, as I am sure you get the idea. To expect anything different from any of them now is delusional so I am closing the door. I’ve had a full EMDR session on trying to reprogram my brain to let go of them, and whilst it probably helped to make moving on more achievable in everyday life, it didn’t help me Christmas Day morning when I felt that yearning for a family so strongly it made me cry. But thankfully, Paul was an angel and made Christmas Day a beautiful, romantic, fun, gorgeous day and I’m utterly blessed to have him as my husband. Apart from his daughters, Paul had no contact from his family either this Christmas, and so we find ourselves now really quite isolated. It would appear the rift in Paul’s family continues in the aftermath of our wedding where his family were like something out of the Shameless cast. To resolve it would mean talking about it, and no-one seems willing to do that. It mirrors my own family issues and I feel bad that it’s so often the way that when you decide to live with integrity and travel the road less travelled, how resentful the people you leave behind can become. It’s as though the more conscientious you become, the more self aware, the more the haters hate you. I had hoped that Paul’s family would become my family but they’re just as selfish and unkind as the ones I’m blood related to and have finally got away from, so I’m certainly not going to tolerate their negativity. Life is too short to battle with toxic people. I hope that before I’m fifty (my next birthday so its not far off) that I figure out the whole forgiveness with boundaries thing. I can forgive, but that doesn’t mean I have to keep that person in my life. I was reading how ‘door slamming’ to people and toxic relationships is a very INFJ thing to do (Myers Briggs personality types) and also a very autistic thing to do. When I can master not experiencing intense loss when I slam the doors, perhaps then I will have mastered Buddhist detachment but I’m not there yet.

We are all on this journey and learning what we are supposed to learn at just the right time, but I wish people would hurry up and wake up and stop being twats. I want to meet people less messed up than me. I want to learn from people that have figured it out. How can I be one of the wisest person I know when I am so aware of how stupid and naive I am? Where are my elders to guide me to becoming one of them?

Paul and I have been campaigning with Extinction Rebellion to try to do our bit to encourage change where it matters. Extinction Rebellion are all about lobbying, campaigning and organising peaceful protests to change things at government level. We sang in the Extinction Rebellion choir all over Exeter just before Christmas to try to reach people and help change attitudes, and I watched with interest who our allies were and who clearly hated us just by looking at us. I wrote a pledge, as I believe the change needs to happen in our hearts as well as in our governments. The more I learn about how disastrous the meat and dairy is for our planet, the more I think we should all be vegan. So, here’s my pledge:

I pledge to be kind and live with compassion and empathy for all life.

The pledge to be kind and live with compassion and empathy for the all life is akin to swearing an oath of allegiance to your planet and your fellow beings. You are pledging to become a custodian of them instead of their destroyer. Making the pledge is a promise to become a better person and to join the revolution by being the change. It is no longer any use blaming society. We are society.

To pledge this isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. It’s the proverbial rabbit hole and once you fall down it, you become Alice as you fall deeper and deeper into the abyss of veganism and what that actually means. Being kind isn’t just a fluffy sentiment however. To have empathy and to live conscientiously, the full pledge needs to expand to this:

I pledge to consider what implications ALL my actions have on the planet, my fellow beings and myself, and to always try to pick the action that has the least negative impact on all.

I pledge to hear my conscience, whether it tells me to pick the vegan option on a menu, or to not buy that plastic bag, or to say something constructive rather than be unkind.

I pledge to be inclusive to all around me, and treat everyone as my equal regardless of race, colour, religion, age, gender and neuro-diversity.

I pledge that whenever it is possible to boycott food, products and industries that harm animals or the planet, I will make that choice. I will choose kindness over convenience and integrity over taste-buds from now on.

I pledge to slow down, get off my phone, spend more time in nature and contemplate my purpose.

I pledge to give more time to do good deeds, whether that’s helping someone vulnerable, volunteering or campaigning for change.

I pledge to stop convincing myself that happiness lies in capitalist ventures, consumerist products, or selfish ambitions and instead do more to help others. I will stop buying into the illusion.

I pledge to speak out when I see injustice or cruelty whether that’s from our leaders or my friends, colleagues and family, but I will also try not to judge people too harshly and remember everyone is on their own journey. I will not be unkind in my anger at the injustice or cruelty I witness or experience.

I pledge to consider my carbon footprint when I travel and when I shop. I will buy local produce where possible, to buy handmade or second hand, to buy from small ethical independent businesses and to make, mend, borrow or share whenever I can.

I pledge to own up to my mistakes and be held accountable for my actions.

I pledge to forgive myself for making mistakes, and to self-parent so that I am kind to myself but that I also never give up trying to be a better person.

I pledge to educate myself, whether that’s learning a new skill or opening my eyes to what is really happening around the world; ignorance is no longer an excuse when all the information is out there and available to anyone prepared to wake up.

I pledge to wake up.

I pledge to try to wake everyone else up too by sharing this pledge and encouraging everyone to make it.

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‘Hope’ by Laurie Maitland (my art name)

Phew! That’s all quite weighty and full on, and I feel the need to lighten the mood as I end this blog, and end this year as I can see it is almost midnight. So I shall sign off with a picture of my latest paintings. The colours feel happy, and the butterflies symbolic of the chrysalis I feel 2018 has been for me. Either I’m about to burst forth, spread my wings and fly, or maybe, just maybe, we as a species are. People are waking up, and if you’re reading this I hope you are one of them. Let’s all be the best that we can be this coming year and make the changes we all need to make to evolve into better versions of ourselves. And save the planet into the bargain.