offwiththeirdollheads: (Default)
Summers seemed to stretch on for ever when I was younger. Each day would be filled with a untapped sense of euphoria and the scent of freshly mowed grass. For a few weeks I was offered a chance to experience true freedom. The rigmarole of attending school Monday to Friday was temporarily abolished and the only commitments to adhere to relied solely on eating, sleeping and how many books I could consume over the course of a week. Those were the good aspects. Of course growing up on a council estate proved interesting (for lack of a better word) and the extra free time meant having to be slightly more aware of my surroundings. Some days I had to do my best to avoid the gangs of teenagers that seemed to flock at each end of the block or not make eye contact with the Heroin addict who offered her 'services' by trying to seduce the slightly older boys so she could get her next fix. I'm sure she wasn't aware that the baseball cap and the way her eyes rolled in the back of her head weren't doing her any favours. There was also the summer a registered sex offender moved in and not to mention the number of times I had to skip over the plethora of used syringes and condoms that littered the estate like gifts that had escaped Bad Santa's sack. An insane version of Hopscotch. You don't realise these things aren't normal when you're younger. I spent those sun-tinged days imagining how my future summers would play out. I was well aware that there wouldn't be a reprieve for six weeks once I had gotten a job, yet the concept of adulthood seemed like an illusion.

Sometimes I would be friends with some of the other kids on the estate but mostly I wasn't. There was always that seed of an idea that I 'wasn't like them'. At this point, the idea of being gay in a place like that was not only unheard of, it would probably be beaten out of existence. I guess I was lucky in the sense that I was deeply in denial about that aspect of my lifestyle until I was Seventeen. Needless to say, I enjoyed the summer holidays. It meant I didn't have to be in school and I can only liken that feeling to what I would imagine it would be like for a wrongly convicted criminal to be released from Death Row. Sometimes, the summer nights got a little hard to bear especially when the house was opened up to host an all night party. The loud music and shouting from downstairs would pummel the floorboards and my sister and I spent many late nights sitting at the top of the stairs, trying to make sense of the drunken ruckus below. The worst part was the morning and the heavy stench of sticky alcohol and cigarette smoke that hung in the air. However, there was still a distinct feeling that 'anything could happen'. For some reason those few weeks in summer brought with them a promise of change. Even if it was just temporary.

I would spend afternoons lay on my bedroom floor, feet perched on my bed, watching the clouds roll past my window. I would attempt to see past that blue void and see if there was another world just waiting on the other side. It doesn't sound like much but this was when I was at my happiest. Some days the other kids would let me play with them; I remember collecting ladybugs in recycled yoghurt pots and picking cherries from the trees which have now been long cut down and built upon. Sometimes the kids would play a game called 'Let's run away from...'. I think the point was that they would insert a name at the end of the sentence and then proceed to run away from 'said person'. As soon as one of them piped up, 'let's run away from...' in a sing-song voice and a smile on their face, something in my chest fell into my baron stomach and I didn't need a mirror to know my face had transformed into a translucent shade of pale. Of course, the name was always mine, maybe it was because they knew they could get away from me because I was a little bit bigger and a little bit slower. Maybe it was because they just wanted to get away. I would compensate the experience by going for a walk, pretending I was going somewhere when really I was hoping that the destination would find me. Most often or not I would return home to read for countless hours. Joining the local library had probably saved me from being consumed by that estate. Finally, I was able to escape. It was as easy as turning over a page. I had even taken to writing my own stories upon my grandmother's old typewriter. The summer allowed me to open up the door to experience as many different worlds and characters as possible. The pages melted away and I was suddenly transposed into the stories and I didn't have to think about who or where I was.

This was summer.
offwiththeirdollheads: (Default)
Life can be pretty horrifying. That's what they refuse to tell you when you are small and fresh from the womb. Some of us learn pretty quickly just how horrifying it can be, whilst others glide through life blissfully unaware with the blinders securely fastened in place. Some days provide more challenges than others and require patience and casual reminders to yourself that there can be more beyond the superficial cuts and grazes. But it is never going to be easy. Especially, not for the ones who learnt those prickly lessons earlier on.

Forward can be a difficult direction to take but you bite the bitter fruit and you squeeze away the tears and realise that it's the only direction to go. You realise you learnt those lessons for a reason. They became your armour and they became your motivation. You use what you have and show them that you are still in the game and even though those scars still sting, you don't show an ounce of pain on your face.
offwiththeirdollheads: (Default)
We never really break old habits. We just learn ways to distract ourselves from them. If we dig deep enough or stop going against the grain, they will be found stored away in little boxes at the bottom of our souls.
offwiththeirdollheads: (Default)
'Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace' ~ Albert Schweitzer

I have often debated whether or not I should post anything about this subject matter as it more than likely presents a minefield of various different reactions. I have landed in numerous debates around the dinner table about this topic, where I have tried to put my point across or explain my views but a lot of the time, it is either undermined or glossed over. The very last thing I want to do is to come across preachy or condescending and I can understand why some people may get defensive or don't want to talk about it. I used to act the exact same way. However, if it makes one person stop and re-think their lifestyle and make a change then I believe it to be justified.

It was a warm, sunny day in early summer in 2010. Not a cloud in the sky. It felt like any another other standard day; I awoke the same way, drank my coffee in the same manner and went about my day as I usually did. Unbeknownst to myself, I would not be going to bed as the same person. I had been browsing the internet for some part of the morning and I stumbled across a post on Facebook with a link to a video by Paul McCartney. An ex-Beatle was about to change my life. The video was called 'Glass Walls' and I distinctly remember Paul's introduction, '... I have often said if slaughter houses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.' The next fifteen minutes broke my heart. It literally felt as though someone had slashed open my own chest with a rusty blade, torn out all my internal organs and thrown the bloody mess into a meat grinder. This video had reduced a grown man to tears and made me swear from that moment onwards not to play a role in any part of that process I had just witnessed.

The strange thing is that I had always had some form of awareness about how the meat industry worked but I had found it was quite easy to detach myself from those events that took place in the slaughterhouses and farms. The neatly packaged, processed meat that can be purchased from any supermarket did not resemble the living creature it once was. It was easy to not form the connection. I had often shrugged off stories from vegetarians and vegans in the past. I did not want to acknowledge the truth and the last thing I wanted to do was to change my eating habits because someone was trying to make me feel guilty or bad about it. It was difficult not to get defensive and claim 'well everyone else does it' and 'it's unhealthy not to eat meat'. I am a little bit embarrassed looking back at those comments now. I had spent twenty-five years quite happily not acknowledging what had happened to the food on my plate. From the moment that video ended and I swore to myself 'never to eat meat again' I threw out all the meat products I had previously bought and started researching vegetarianism.

The transition was relatively easy. I did my homework on the topic and with trepidation, I looked further into the meat and animal-product industries. I was shocked to read that humans are not evolved to be carnivorous; that in fact our teeth are blunt and square and our jaws 'grind' in order to better masticate vegetation rather than sharp and pointed teeth prevalent in carnivores that are established to tear at flesh and chew. Our large intestinal pathway is not developed to process meat as with carnivores who have small intestines to quickly dispose of the flesh to prevent it going bad and causing disease. Humans also don't have claws like carnivores and so forth. I was fascinated to discover these facts but also somewhat upset and angry that I had not received this education at a younger age. I also learnt that some vegetables, nuts and seeds have high protein content and there are an abundance of health benefits as a result of not eating meat. A whole new world had opened up.

To this day, I can not comprehend the torture and barbaric treatment of sentient beings. My stomach turned as I witnessed 'factory workers' and 'farmers' secretly filmed while they cruelly beat, kicked, stabbed, threw and tortured these helpless animals. Seeing calves being taken away form their mothers and hearing their cries and seeing the fear before they are killed was unbearable. It was beyond difficult to view and I still can not understand how a human-being who is supposed to be capable of empathy and compassion act in such a way. I will never understand it.

I think there is definitely a stigma attached to vegetarians and vegans but what we have to realise is that we all have a choice and choices are not always easy things to make. I have been subjected to a lot of judgement and jokes because of my eating habits and lifestyle choices. All I ask is that people open their eyes and mind and acknowledge the truth. That is all. Whatever choice they make is up to them and that is not my business. I will not pass judgement or make jokes. My only regret is not being aware or having this information at an earlier age but the important thing now is that I am and I do.

So here is a link to that very video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql8xkSYvwJs

Please be warned, it is very graphic but I urge everyone to watch it just once. Maybe an ex-Beatle will change your life too.
offwiththeirdollheads: (Default)
I was having a conversation with a friend earlier this week and we ended up talking about time travel and alternate universes, which is pretty much bog-standard fodder for us to discuss. She asked me if I could go back in time and tell the younger version of myself one thing what would it be? My first inclination was to advise of either winning lottery numbers or to stop eating meat immediately or avoid getting into a relationship with a particular person. As I conjured up more and more answers, I began to realise that changing one specific thing might sound beneficial there and then but I would have no idea of what the consequences would be. Since I have known only this life, there is no way I could comprehend it being any different. After our conversation and my inability to come up with a solid answer, I began to ponder on it a little bit more. What one piece of information could serve useful to the younger version of myself?

I got caught in a web of specifics. Situations or circumstances that I could either avoid or make an alternative choice but all I was left with was a bucketful of 'what if's?' My focus was solely on changing one event and maybe that is what my friend had meant. Which one event would I change? But what if I was armed with one piece of information that could help not only myself but anyone who may look back on an event and wished for a different outcome. Then it struck me. The one thing that either hindered or caused me to make a bad choice or not act upon something.

Fear.

It is something we can all relate to. The cold grip that grabs by the arms, the constriction in your throat, an overwhelming sensation of turning to stone. Fear is the instinctual emotion that takes over in order to keep us from harm, however it runs deeper in some of us. Fear tells us to run from the axe-wielding maniac or the venomous spider the size of a small cat or alternatively it spurs us to fight against them. The rush of adrenaline persuades either 'fight or flight' and we have no choice but to act. This is fear in the extreme sense. Fear infringes on many other aspects of life; confidence, social interactions, changes. It can make the difference between a good choice or a bad choice. A pleasant experience or a bad one. We have all known fear in one degree or another. When I was younger I lived with fear on a daily basis. The fear of people finding out I was gay and that I was 'different' from everyone else. The fear that I could not relate to anyone else or that they could relate to me. That I was not 'good enough' or that I should be punished. It ran deep and in a way I was victimising myself with these issues. I wish I could have been more fearless. If I could have just banished those limitations that I placed on myself and realised that later in life, those sorts of things would not matter anymore. I would grow to learn that others have had similar experiences and these did not define who we are.
If I could go back in time and tell my younger version one thing it would be; 'be fearless'.

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Not an Oracle

January 2016

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