A Time To Give

It happened where I live, on the first of November. The coffee shop which I frequented had their Christmas drinks ‘go live’, which is something that I can get behind as they are very delicious. But unfortunately, along with that with that came the Christmas jumpers, antler boppers and the music…oh, the music. The children in the school in which I teach, know me as a Scrooge; when asked if I enjoy Christmas, I always say ‘no’ and they always presume that I hate its entirety. I usually don’t take the time to explain my thoughts about this time of year, but I suppose that this year, with my new-found Veganism, compassion has been my buzzword, and with this new sense of love and compassion, I finally feel the need to explain my distaste for the season.

I guess the coffee shop scenario kind of explains it; the fact that the season starts in November, and that is purely for profit. Suddenly, we are propelled into a flurry of ‘sales’ and ‘bargains’ and for some bizarre reason in Great Britain, we’ve adopted the insanity of Black Friday. It’s the sense that one extra helping of mass-produced, often inhumane processed food ‘won’t hurt’, it’s buying an extra £50 of presents just in case the kids aren’t satisfied with what you’ve bought them, it’s squeezing people around the confines of a table and being on our best behaviour, it’s wish lists and pressure, it’s the obsessive mantra of ‘treat yourself, it’s Christmas’ – like that waiver covers a multitude of sins. It makes me feel claustrophobic and tight-chested.

This year, I changed my life. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have a wish list and I still end up inevitably buying myself some treats as I buy presents for others – I fall short of my own expectations frequently. However, this does not mean that my ideals are not important or something that I should give up on aspiring to follow. Part of my lifestyle change has resulted in me and my husband committing to ‘tithe’ a proportion of our income to charity every month. This is not a religious observance and it is not in the hope that karma is going to be kind to us. It is not some kind of attention seeking act so all of our friends see how pious we are. It is not something that we are smug about. It is a community act, designed to help us spend the money that we obtain more responsibly with the outcome of helping as many charities that we can in the process.

Our charities have been chosen by friends, friends of friends, inspired by Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and our own life experiences. Sometimes they tie in with awareness days. There are no rules or reason to our choices; there is an abundance of charities just waiting for donations. This year, we have raised money for The UK Sepsis Trust, Brainwave, Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, Coram Voic,e and many more. We have invited our friends to join us in supporting these charities simply by setting up a Facebook page and linking it to the Just Giving website.

Doing this has made us think about causes that we want to help, and in some cases have introduced us to new causes that we knew little about. For me, it has stirred up passion about causes that I have never really cared about, let alone actively helped. I want to instill this feeling in others and at times this has worked. Sometimes, however it has not. Perhaps it looks too ‘preachy’, perhaps too ‘holier than thou’. Perhaps it is a sincere lack of money, but the beauty of tithing is that you can set it to fall in line with what you can actually afford to give, no matter how small it is. This inspired the name of our charity collective: Little Change.

At this time of year, when there is so much waste, in food and in money, I urge you to do what you can to help alleviate this greed. Please choose presents which are made with care and compassion from companies that respect animals and humans. Buy charity Christmas cards, instead of regular ones. Try to buy only the food that you really need and please do the same when buying presents. Small changes like this are ways that you can do your part in being responsible partiers this year. Most of all, please pledge to do something responsible with your money this Christmas, and beyond. This could be buy joining us in our endeavour, or making your own community tithing group. Christmas is of course a time to be merry and to give. Please do so responsibly, with love.

 

Little Change: https://www.facebook.com/littlechangeuk/?fref=ts

For Scary Days

I have this folder on my laptop called 'For scary things'. It's basically full of cool quotes, and pug pictures and Parks&Rec GIFs, and it's where I go when everything gets a bit too much.

You know - those days where you feel rubbish and sad and awful and you convince yourself that you're the worst at EVERYTHING, so why are you even trying? Those days.

As a writer, those days happen fairly often. I'm constantly putting my heart on the line, and it is terrifying. Like panic-attack-pacing-back-and-forth-terrifying. Usually, my 'For scary things' folder helps me see some perspective.

I mean, how can you not be happy when looking at Ron Swanson and sad pugs? But sometimes, I need a little something extra to help me over the scary days. So I thought I'd write a list of what helps me when I'm feeling down, in the hope that it will help someone reading this.

 

1 // Exercise

If you're like me, exercise is usually the last thing that you feel like doing when the scary days hit. BUT, hear me out a sec. Exercise is such a great stress relief, and it's something physical that you can do to respond to something scary. If your feeling angry - why not try boxing?

I personally LOVE yoga (which is something 16yr old me would never have believed I would say) - it helps me focus and calm down mentally as well as exercising physically. I really recommend Yoga with Adriene - it's a great starting point& there is SO MUCH content! I also really enjoy walking. Again it clears my mind, I get to listen to music and I also just take in my surroundings.

 

2// TREAT YO SELF

Okay, that was a Parks&Rec reference, but the concept is universal.

 

Take an hour/day/week - paint your nails, or read a book or watch that TV show you've been meaning to catch. Taking care of yourself is an underrated necessity. Be selfish and do what's good for you! A calm, stress-free, happy you is FAR more likely to take on the scary stuff like a pro than a you that is rundown, tired and frazzled.

 

3// See your friends

As a writer, I am sometimes VERY guilty of neglecting my friends - I am usually chained to my laptop most evenings tapping out the words. So when things get tough - phone a friend. Have a cinema/lunch date, or if you're long distance - talk on Skype. Do something fun like going to the zoo or a museum (I know - I'm a nerd). Talk about it. Talk about everything and anything that is worrying you. Chatting to friends is cathartic - you sort out and analyze your problems, figure out a way to solve/minimize them... and maybe, you realize they're not as much of a problem as you first thought.

By the way, I'm not just talking about IRL friends here - internet friends can be (and are) just as valuable. The writing community online is such a massive support to me - and hopefully - to others. So email, DM or message to your hearts content until your worries seem manageable again.

This is what I do when stuff gets really, really scary. Exercise, self-care & friendship is my key to feeling like I can take on the scary monster I've created in my head. These three things might not be the key for you, but I promise that you have one - maybe you need a hug with someone special, or to eat out at your favorite place. Whatever it is that makes you feel brave enough to take on the scary things, do it - because, as one of my favorite quotes says:

Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone
— Neale Donald Walsch