Back in LA, homeless and jobless (which PS, is actually super funsies), I find myself carefully settling back into “real” life. Which is not to say that standing on top a small mountain in Torres del Paine, in southern Chile wondering whether the wind will blow me away from the spot where my trusty feet, toes curled in faith that they would not fail me now, gripped fearlessly at security. It’s not to say that wasn’t real life.
I'm also not suggesting that the early morning boat rides through the Tapiche Reserve in the Amazon Rainforest with the pink dolphins and the eerie calmness of the river wasn’t real life. That was very real. I still remember the smell of the heat, kind of real.
Or the time I woke up to an earthquake, only this time I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, I was in Chile. I’m not saying that wasn’t real either.
Or, or, or…
D’ya see what I’m getting at?
It’s just that that part of my life was so temporary. Is always. So temporary. And my life in L.A., it seems, continues on with measured consistency; old faithful – like grandma’s choco-chip cookie recipe – the same every time.
I have no job; I know I said that already, but it means I have all this time. Plenty of time, say, to go to my storage unit and grab some things I need, like…clothes?
But every time I grab my keys, ready to go, something stops me. I chocked it up to laziness, but I realized it was something more. I’ve had the same small suitcase of essentials for the last two months, and never once did I need anything more. Want? Oh yes. I wanted those pants that made my butt look awesome, but oh well! I guess I have to wear my jeans or my stupid stretch pants and deal with it. And yes, I definitely wanted a pair of shoes that weren’t hiking boots or flip flops, ya know I wanted to look good, but I didn’t have cute shoes, so I wore what I had. And I’ll tell you what…after some time, I kind of stopped wanting for those things, because when you spend some time in a place where people are grateful just to have shoes at all (because the purpose of shoes in most of the world is to protect your feet, not to get noticed) you sort of feel great living a minimalist life.
And this was my only real fear about returning to L.A. I wasn’t afraid of having no guaranteed income – I had faith it would come. I wasn’t afraid of not having an apartment to come home to, because I have incredibly loving and supportive friends who are here for me while I look for my new home. I was, however, afraid of that all too familiar L.A. culture getting to me. Now, please understand I do not blame Los Angeles. I used to. Ohhhh how I used to blame the shit out of this town for making me hate myself for a litany of reasons:
Not skinny enough
Not pretty enough
Not enough make-up
Too much make-up
Should I get Botox? What age am I supposed to start getting Botox? We’re all getting Botox right?
Not talented enough
Jesus. It’s exhausting as you can see to keep up with the concept of being “enough,” when the reality, and I’ve said it before, is that YOU ARE ENOUGH. And so am I, in case anyone was wondering. Our collective lives have inherent meaning, because we are human beings with a fu*&^$% pulse for crying out loud! When are we going to embrace the beauty that is our uniqueness and our differences?
Hopefully in my lifetime.
But since I already started to feel my number one character defect (perfectionism and people pleasing) shedding naturally like scales on a fish, I wanted to hold on to that feeling. I wasn’t about to let all that spiritual growth go because I feel like wearing something different today.
But I do. I really want to wear something different today. I want to go to my storage unit, like a kid in a candy store, and go to town. I wanna go get high off of what’s mine, what can’t be taken away from me, because I own all that shit. It belongs to me.
And look, I really like clothes. I like expressing myself through fashion and how I do my hair and my nails, and no I don’t think that makes me a bad person.
So where’s the balance? How do I stop living in excess, while maintaining my desire to express myself?
For starters…maybe I trade in my old suitcase for a new suitcase worth of things. I don’t need all 30 pairs of pants that I own right now in this moment. I need one or two. Actually I need one, and I’d like two so I can exercise the luxury that is choice. And every time I choose exactly which pants I will wear I will stop and practice gratitude for having so much. For never being without.
It wasn’t just my trip to South America that got me thinking about all of this. While shooting our documentary, The Vegan Road Trip, a really nice couple in Omaha, NE let us cook for them. These are the folks with the chickens, so I was pretty much in love and ready to move in. When they asked me what I needed to cook they warned me: “We’re minimalists so we pretty much only have two of everything. One for each of us.”
“Wow. That’s so cool. What happens when you have dinner parties?” I asked, wild with curiosity?
“We don’t really have dinner parties.”
“And if you did?” I pressed.
“Actually, a friend of ours was so tired of coming over and having no plate to eat from, he bought us two extra plates, so now we have four!” She said proudly.
I chuckled. Like, actually. Because I thought it was really sweet. A little extreme for me, but that’s because I am a collector. Of clothes, kitchen equipment, art, photography, books, you name it! So a minimalist life is hard for me to relate to. But I really liked the concept, and I couldn’t help but think about my travels and how most people live that way because they have no other choice.
And then a light bulb went off!
I couldn’t help but wonder if my fear of getting rid of my “stuff” was just like people’s fear of giving up meat. Or leather. Or cheese. I mean it’s all so good, and life is so hard. We deserve to indulge these luxuries, no? I was starting to relate to my meat-eating brethren.
We know we can give these things up; alternatively, we prefer to be grateful that we don’t have to and call ourselves the lucky ones. But in effect, what we are really doing is turning a blind eye. And if you’re okay with that, then….well, okay! (I’m not gonna judge you because I do so many things immensely imperfectly). But if you’re not okay with it, I encourage you to start letting go of some of the attachments you’ve formed to the things that aren’t good for you, the environment, the animals, and ultimately the world.
In my last post I shared that I was willing to give up palm oil that wasn’t sustainably or ethically sourced. For more information visit: http://www.rspo.org/ - I've known for awhile that I should just cut the stuff out of my diet entirely, especially given my ethical reasons for being a vegan, but holy hell, I didn’t want to. Palm oil is in EVERYTHING. And I use it in almost everything I bake. It’s like, crucial, yo. But I was just in a tizzy, because I knew giving it up would mean hours of research, probably having to buy the “better solution product” from Canada and pay double to amount for shipping, not to mention if I run out? Can’t just run to the store anymore…. But again, I remembered I have the freedom of choice to live in this world and make as small an imprint as possible.
So will I?
And most importantly, at least in my humble vegan opinion, can we be kind to ourselves and to one another as we make room for these changes? Instead of passing judgment, can we support each other as we find alternatives? Can we stop hating each for being hypocrites or imperfect? Because I really don’t think that tactic is working. For more on THAT check out my homie, The Vegan Strategist at: http://veganstrategist.org/