Category Archives: New Year

Cultivate Joy: Part One (John Wesley and Mother Teresa)

My first goal of 2013 is to cultivate joy. In my last blog post, I wrote that in order to cultivate joy, I would “do things which me bring me joy. Embrace the random. Enjoy the mediocre. Don’t stress over things I can’t control. Live in the moment and revel in those I spend my time with. Put down my phone or my other distractions and really love and live the moment.” For me those are the beginning steps to cultivating what I perceive to be pure joy. Because I am not the most joyful person, I decided to learn from what others have written about joy. What is joy? How does joy work? Is joy the same thing as happiness? Is joy what some mystics call ecstasy? Is joy something that one must experience every day in order to be considered joyful? I suppose I had (maybe still have) many, many questions about a theological, psychological, and behavioral characteristic I claim I am going to cultivate this year.

I intentionally used the word cultivate for what I intend to do with joy. There are really three types of cultivation. One type is more like refinement, which would require that I already possess some amount of joy that I simply plan to nurture and shape into much more mature, refined joy. This is not the type of cultivation I will be accomplishing. I will be using a combination of the second two types of cultivation: improving by the care or study of joy and fostering the growth of joy.

Much like a farmer cultivates crops in a field or a scientist cultivates specimens in petri dishes, I plan to plant, encourage, maintain, and harvest this joy. I plan to do the backbreaking work of starting from the ground up, digging little holes, planting little joy seeds, growing little joy plants, and then harvesting whatever little joy flowers or fruits grow from those plants. This is a whole new endeavor, and I didn’t even buy crop insurance. I’m not sure this is the sort of thing that can be insured. I’ll either come away with a bouquet of flowers or a peck of fruits from this year of cultivation, or I won’t. The pursuit of joy is mostly up to me and my willingness to work for it. Sounds weird: work for, cultivate joy.

Similarly, much like I have studied for the past few years to cultivate my knowledge of literature, I hope to study to cultivate my understanding of joy. I started by reading four articles, which is of course where I would start with this damn rational mind I’ve been given, but I plan to pay more attention to those people in my life who seem to be joyful. How is it that they can experience joy, when there is so much sadness, so much angst, and so much depravity in this world? Do they maintain certain habits? Do they hold certain attitudes? Do they rely on their spiritual lives, whatever religion or non-religion they may be? How do they seem to be so filled with joy?

Naturally, I first turned to John Wesley for thoughts about joy. Not because he was necessarily a joy-filled man, but precisely because he strove toward joy and sometimes fell short, did I turn to Wesley for wise words about the topic. In the article titled “John Wesley’s Moral Pneumatology: The Fruits of the Spirit as Theological Virtues,” Joseph William Cunningham writes: “The cultivation of spiritual virtue is abstract from community. Believers develop the holy tempers of righteousness, love and peace in relation to their neighbour. The fruits of the Spirit, though inward dispositions of the soul, are always socially oriented” (284). When I read these lines, I had three thoughts. First, I was elated that he used the word cultivated because that’s my word! (:)) Second, I was thrilled that he used the virtue, because when I was writing my goals for this year, I had in the back of my mind Ben Franklin’s thirteen virtues. Third, all theological concepts work best, and are meant to work best, when practiced in community. We are not designed to be solitary beings.

This photo was taken from http://anglicanhistory.org/wesley/.

This photo was taken from http://anglicanhistory.org/wesley/.

On a more serious note, I really was elated when I saw these lines, but it was more because it has always seemed that joy is an inwardly focused theological concept; joy is about how I feel, right? The above quote made me think of the many ways in which joy is much more outwardly focused. Though Cunningham doesn’t list joy here in this passage, I can’t help but think joy comes in community, that joy is an “inward disposition” that should be “socially oriented.” I’ve experienced joy in my life, and usually that joy was felt in community. I have been in love, which was joyful. I have won competitions, which was joyful. I have experienced God, which was joyful. I’ve sung spirituals and released my pain and suffering, which was joyful. In every situation, while I was the person experiencing the joy, there were others experiencing it with me. I am not sure I have ever experienced joy alone. And if I have, my first inclination was likely to share that joy.

One reason I may not be the most joyful person is that I abhor those shiny, happy Christians I grew up with. Seriously, you can’t possibly be that happy all the time. Joyful? Maybe. Shiny happy? I doubt it. I was thrilled when I was reminded that Wesley struggled with the concept of continuous joy. Later in the same article, Cunningham quotes Wesley: “A will steadily and uniformly devoted to God is essential to a state of sanctification, but not an uniformity of joy or peace or happy communion with God. They may rise and fall in various degrees; nay an may be affected either by the body or by diabolical agency, in a manner which all our wisdom can never understand or present” (285). In other words, all of those people who told me I had to be happy to show my Christian faith were wrong. My will has been constantly (or nearly so) devoted to God. Only the outward signs of the fruit of the spirit have wavered. We, in this lifetime, cannot be filled with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). We are human, yes? Perfection is something to be attained.

My quest for an understanding of joy was likely fueled by reading An Unquenchable Thirst. Much like the author Mary Johnson, I fell in love with Mother Teresa when I was young. A drawing of Mother Teresa with the words Living Saints in large, bold letters graced the cover of time magazine when I was about 18 months old. There is no way that image could have impacted me like it did Johnson, but I grew up having a knowledge of saints (likely from my mom’s Orthodox family) and having a certain reverence for Mother Teresa. I read everything I could about her, and I believed I had been a nun in a former life (okay, really I still believe it). There is simply something that appeals to me about living with other women whose thoughts are directed toward God and others; there is something that strikes a chord within me when I think about regulating my day with service and prayer. I have always thought that I might experience more joy in a place that was filled with Christ’s love.

This photo was taken from http://topics.time.com/mother-teresa/.

This photo was taken from http://topics.time.com/mother-teresa/.

When I read Johnson’s book, I learned what I knew deep down: sometimes things aren’t what they seem. I had always assumed, until the August 2007 Time Magazine article,  that Mother Teresa was the most joyful woman on earth, and if I believed what Cunningham writes about Wesley’s thoughts of joy she might be: “Joy is a theological virtue implying habitual self-sacrifice and service of neighbour, even in the midst of sorrow and despair. The desire to love and serve is animated by true joy in the Spirit, and cultivated through commitment and practice” (286). Half-heartedly I agree with this. Before I read Johnson’s story, I (maybe) would have whole-heartedly agreed with it. Joy seems to be fed by giving to others, but I worry, now, if giving everything to others renders us not joyful but broken. Theologically, I suppose that very brokenness is where some folks would say that God works when we can’t. You know, the “Jesus works through our brokenness” idea? I am not sure I can buy that line of reasoning anymore, not the brokenness reasoning, but the idea that if we sacrifice and serve, we’ll be joyful. In fact, Wesley himself writes: “Yet it cannot be denied that many times joy is withheld even from them that walk uprightly” (Cunningham 286). Does pouring one’s whole self out into others and loving and serving provide joy? Yes, but not always. No, but sometimes. Maybe.

So, here I am at the end of my first consideration of the cultivation of joy, and I have studied and learned what one person thinks about joy. After thinking about how to cultivate joy, do I feel more joyful? Not yet, but I am hopeful.

The End and the Beginning

New Year’s Eve asks us to look back into the past year in order to assess where we’ve been, and it simultaneously begs us to look forward with hope that our future is brighter than, or at least as bright as, our past. Everybody and their brother is posting their reflections and their resolutions, so I figured why shouldn’t I. At the very least, this post will give my friends a heads up about the resolutions I’ll be breaking come January 3rd or 4th.

Obviously, if you’ve read this blog in the past year, you’ll notice that the past 365 days haven’t been a cakewalk for me. While my life has been incredibly blessed, I’ve had a really difficult time recognizing my blessings and reveling in them. My goals for this year in no particular order were:

  1. Eat paleo.
  2. Watch less TV.
  3. Exercise in a variety of ways (including swimming) while running (barefoot) a race a month.
  4. Meditate.
  5. Read more, including the Bible and Common Prayer.
  6. Play and find my inner hippie again.
  7. In short, do things which bring me joy. Relax.

Listing my goals out like that reminds me of Benjamin Franklin and his list of 13 Virtues or John and Charles Wesley’s tabulations of their moral behaviors. I suppose if I am going to list my resolutions or goals, I should keep track of how well I am doing with them in some manner. I don’t. I ate mostly paleo and lost about 50 pounds (I did gain some of that back this holiday season!). I can’t say I’ve watched less television; in fact, I may have watched more (Oh, Mariska, how you tempt me!). I did exercise a lot, but not as much as I would have liked. I finished my first triathlon, so that’s pretty decent. I totally left out meditation and prayer for a good portion of the year. I felt so disconnected, and I am not sure whether my lack of meditation caused the disconnection, or if I didn’t meditate because I felt disconnected. Either way, I didn’t spend enough time alone with my thoughts and God. I read a lot more, but not the specific texts I mentioned I would focus on. I played more, and playing was lovely. I did things which should have brought me joy, but they didn’t always. Instead I feel as if I just focused on the negative, even when I swore I would focus on the positives. I’m a realist; it’s difficult for me to be to be positive. I am going (to try to) to fix that this year. #PollyAnna2012 will become #joyful or #merrymaking or #radicaljoy for this year.

In short, I want this year to bring less of this:

535465_10100890792332028_552955746_n

And much, much more of this:

309358_10100711963581278_1649099758_n

Speaking of this year, here are my goals in order of their current importance to me and my mental and physical well being:

  1. CULTIVATE JOY: Do things which me bring me joy. Embrace the random. Enjoy the mediocre. Don’t stress over things I can’t control. Live in the moment and revel in those I spend my time with. Put down my phone or my other distractions and really love and live the moment.
  2. CONSUME CLEANLY: Eat better food. Drink less cider and more water. Put into my belly those foods which will best fuel my body for physical activities and mental joy. I’m going to attempt to jumpstart this with a new Whole 30, beginning on January 7. I want a clean slate and a clean body for the new year.
  3. EXERCISE: Exercise in a variety of ways (including swimming) while running at least a mile a day. Finish a Half Ironman triathlon before my 39th birthday. Carpool or walk or ride my bike to work every day. Use the body and the buses for transportation as frequently as possible.
  4. BE INTENTIONAL: Watch no TV, except an occasional movie. Use social media for no more than half an hour each day. Replace the time spent on nothingness and meaningless conversation with strangers with pursuits of intellect and kinship. Meditate, pray, read, and contemplate theological and academic things. Practice silence. I also would love to finish this dissertation.
  5. PLAY: Play and find my inner hippie again. In the spring, I’ll start a disc golf club at school.
  6. STAND UP: Begin standing up against injustice in a real and tangible way. Use grace and love to resist those things which are unethical or immoral. Help the Burris GSA, Prism, to be more active and visual by bringing meaningful activities into my students’ lives.

These are my hopes, dreams, goals, resolutions for 2013. I hope to use Sunday mornings to write in this space about these goals and about current events. I will begin tomorrow morning, though it isn’t Sunday, by writing in depth about that first goal of practicing joy. Practicing joy will no doubt be my most difficult goal, but for me it is by far the most important. I can’t have another year like this year. Any suggestions you have about cultivating joy are welcome! How do you cultivate joy?

For some running inspiration, join us with this challenge:

IMG_2790

The Day Before the Day Before Christmas: Spiritual and Physical

Spiritual Things Today was the last Sunday in Advent, and I am a bit ashamed to say that I didn’t make it to church one time during my second favorite season in the liturgical calendar. I’ve been using my Sundays to catch up on grading and the like since school started this year, and apparently the impending coming of the Christ child really didn’t make enough of an impact on me for me to change my ways in anticipation. Unwittingly, I’ve become one of those Gen-Xers who just doesn’t have time for a child, even a holy one. Sadly, I think I’m becoming a Gen-Xer who doesn’t have time for anyone; I’m so focused on career-oriented trivialities that it seems as if many of my relationships aren’t what they could be, or should be, or used to be.  Maybe my posting of this quote on Facebook was some sort of wake-up call to myself: “There comes a time when it is vitally important for your spiritual health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, ‘Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped. I live here. This is my soul’s address.” Barbara Brown Taylor is hands down my favorite theologian/preacher, and her words remind me that I need to get my spiritual shit together. My spiritual life doesn’t look like anyone else’s, because it is mine. My body, my physicality, my experiences and how they’ve shaped me, like it or not, are my soul’s address. The scars and the decorations are all a part of who I’ve become in Christ. My soul’s address, unfortunately, looks a bit more tattered and torn than some of yours.

Physical Things The newest goal I’ve set for myself is to complete a Half Ironman. There’s a race here in Muncie on July 13, just a week before my 39th birthday. My friend Teresa has already signed up for the race, and I plan to sign up for it in January. That being said, I’ve got a long way to go in seven months to be able to complete it. I’d love to complete it in some sort of respectable time as well. I am pretty sure the running will be the most difficult for me and the swimming will be the easiest. I’m still hoping to finish a trail marathon before I’m 40, but I think this goal takes precedence over the 26.2 mile jog. All of this means I really need to step up the exercise regimen f0r the next seven months, including adding some strength training to the running, biking, and swimming. I really wish the morning swim was an option, but I just can’t deal with the grumpy ancient ones, so I’ll deal instead with the master’s swim team who works out at night. Yay.

Strange, then, with all this thinking about my body and exercise that I can’t seem to kick my addiction to sugar. I feel so much better when I am not eating sugar, but unleash me on some fudge and watch me go! I have devoured nearly a whole recipe of eggnog white chocolate fudge this week: that’s THREE cups of straight-up white sugar in one week, which doesn’t even include all the other candies I’ve eaten. Wow. I’m going to try another round of this Whole 30 business starting on January 7. A friend of mine who’s been quite successful with her Whole 30 adventures is willing, yet again, to have me tag along. I made it 16 days the last round and then ate some ice cream. This time I am going to have plenty of legal fruit on hand for those nights when ice cream seems like the thing that will cure all of my ills. Fruit and water seems like a legitimate replacement for ice cream, right? I just need to keep reassuring myself with the words of Violet Beauregard’s mother from the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: “Eyes on the prize, Violet. Eyes on the prize.” Perhaps if I remind myself in such a way not to eat sugar, it’ll happen. And, hey, I’ve got this pesky 40 pounds I’d like to lose before lugging it around for 70.3 unnecessary miles.

Unnerving Things I have been trying to avoid thinking about the stuff in Connecticut, but in trying to avoid it, I think my mind just keeps returning to it. Sometimes not thinking about something, failing to deal with it, really becomes the means by which the thing haunts you. My God-daughter is 6 and in kindergarten. My grandchildren will one day go to public school. My President broke down in tears. I cannot even imagine the terror in the hearts of the parents whose children attend Sandy Hook. I cannot imagine the giant holes torn in the fabric of the hearts of the parents whose children died in those classrooms. I can, however, imagine the last fleeting thoughts of the teachers in those rooms, because they are the same as the thoughts I’d have in that situation. They are the same thought that any teacher of any type of worth would have: I must help these children. I must save them. I must do something, though I feel as if I can only do nothing. I feel helpless in the face of this.

In a similar vein, I feel helpless in the face of the sadness experienced on a daily basis by so many of the teenagers I work with. I am Facebook friends with many of my students through a teacher-only account I’ve set up for this school year, and I can scroll back through previous posts and just sense this overwhelming sadness. Is it cultural? Is it spiritual? Is it emotional? Who’s to blame? The parents? The teachers? The students? Politics? So many of my students just appear to seem so hopeless. When I was sixteen, I thought I would change the world. Were we more naive then? I just don’t get it. I feel helpless, but not hopeless.

Lent Day 6: Joy and Confession

I am sure you are thinking, What a strange juxtaposition for a title! Joy and confession? How do those two go together? I am not entirely sure theydogo together completely, but I can tell you that I am beginning to experience pure joy again. I find myself laughing with reckless abandon more, and I find myself getting incredibly grumpy and sad less. And it hasn’t simply been the past six days while praying three times a day, following the liturgical hours; this joy has been slowly growing—like the bright green moss on the hillside by the river—since the new year started. I posted the other day, maybe yesterday, how I feel like I am finally taking control over my moods, rather than them controlling me, but just today, I felt complete joy. I actually threw my head back and laughed my big belly laugh. And I wasn’t embarrassed by it. Which, in turn, gave me more joy. I am no longer the shadow person I have been.

Part of my joy comes from observing Lent and knowing that in a few short weeks, we’ll be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. But another good portion of my joy comes from suggestions picked up from Pema Chodron’s The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Lovingkindness. InWisdom, Chodron advocates making friends with those parts of us that cause us anger, aggression, or aversion, because those attributes that irritate us about others are the same that irritate us about ourselves. Through the act of making friends with those attributes, and no longer trying to rid ourselves of those attributes, we learn to give kindness to others. Our desire to rid ourselves of those qualities results in an aggression toward those qualities when we see them in others. We become unkind to both others and ourselves. Because Chodron teaches how to be kind, I feel like I can begin to honestly look at myself and decipher what it is that I don’t like about myself, recognize that those features are simply part of who I am, make peace with that, and eventually stop trying to remove those attributes from myself and from others, thereby gaining a kindness and a sense of peace in regards to myself and others.

(Side note: My next spiritual read is Thich Nhat Hahn’s Living Buddha, Living Christ.)

How can Inotexperience joy when I have made friends with my whole self, with all of my attributes?

This is where confession comes in. First, I must closely self-examine to figure out what those attributes are that I don’t like about myself. Once I decipher that, I must confess those qualities to myself, to others, to God even. Through this confession, I name my weaknesses or those things which cause me pain. I claim them out loud. I call them what they are. Then I make friends with them, not “comfortable, hey let’s go have some pizza and beers friends,” but I acknowledge that those qualities are a part of who I am, and I sit with them. Get to know them. Make friends, like “sitting on opposite ends of the couch, but I am not trying to kick you out” friends. My weaknesses and I learn to coexist after I confess them. And through our coexistence they eventually cease to be a cause for anger or malice or injury. They just are.

I confess that there are a whole bucket of attributes of my personality of my life that irritate me, that I need to make friends with. And I hope that once I make friends with those facets, they will just sit at the other end of that couch and be quiet. That’s my biggest flaw: I don’t know when to be quiet. Maybe I need to take a silent retreat. Every day. One of the things I appreciate about this Buddhist idea of embracing our own flaws is that I don’t end up with a bucket of shame at what I’ve confessed about myself. I end up, instead, with a changed heart. Too many times, Christians miss this bit and would rather shame someone than encourage their wholeness. That, in and of itself, is a shame.

This whole discussion brings me around to what prompted these thoughts. Part of the evening prayer, which I have been praying for six days without recognizing this part, says, “You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, O Giver of Life, your glory fills the whole world.” I think this part jumped out at me tonight, because for the first time in a long time, my heart feels light and joyful. I’m going to cling to that joy.

Peace.

Giving Thanks. Running. This Whole Vegan Thang. Health.

Since the first day of November, I have been posting on Facebook those things for which I am thankful. I have not been alone in this. Nearly every person on Facebook has posted about being thankful for something in this month. The thanks range from sickeningly sweet posts to random posts about being thankful for the ability to block people. I’ve tried to not waver too far in either direction. You can decide for yourself if you think I’ve gone thanksgiving crazy!

November 1: I am thankful for steadfast family and friends.
November 2: I am thankful for my soon to be acquired punching bag and boxing gloves.
November 3: I am thankful for Burris’s FCA huddle. What amazing students!
November 4: I am thankful for carbohydrates that will fuel tomorrow’s insanity.
November 5: I am thankful for the ability to even think about completing a marathon.
November 6: I am thankful for being able to recognize beauty.
November 7: I am thankful for students who are open to new ideas and who aren’t afraid to speak their minds.
November 8: I am thankful for coffee, vegetables, and wild rice and the farmers, truck drivers, and grocery store workers who bring them to us.
November 9: Today I am thankful for waking up.
November 10: I am thankful for falling asleep at 7 last night and waking up at 330 this morning. I think I could get used to that schedule. Maybe that’s why opening shift at Starbucks always worked so well for me!
November 11: I am thankful for all of those who choose to serve our country and to guard our liberties, even when they don’t necessarily agree with trivial wars or the choices made for them by their superiors.
November 12: I was thankful when all the sour milk smell was finally off of me after Harvest Fest. There are so many reasons I have never had children, and I think that smell is one of them.
November 13: I am thankful for the beauty with which we are surrounded. I saw two deer while I was running this morning; they ran on the trail with me for about 100 yards and then turned abruptly, jumped over the fence, and scampered up the hill.
November 14: I am thankful for my rainbow toe socks and cabbage/broccoli stir fry.
November 14: Again today, I am thankful for Julie M., who provides me with fresh herbs. Tonight I am making whole wheat linguine topped with butternut squash caramelized with sage and olive oil.
November 15: I am thankful for options. Being able to choose makes me happy.
November 15: I am thankful for the high school choir, who just kindly seranaded my classroom with a musical rendition of “Jabberwocky.” Only at Burris.
November 16: I am thankful for the small things: tootsie rolls, incense, Coke Zero, and gel pens. I am thankful for the big things: compassion, kindness, love, and peace.
November 17: I am thankful for Burris FCA. The faith of these students is amazing. And, we always have good breakfast.
November 17: I am thankful for driving and spending a weekend away. I am thankful for new babies and their beauty and innocence.
November 17: I am thankful for mini-vacations and for Chicago, the city that makes my heart sing.
November 18: I can think of nothing I am more thankful for than running to the end of Navy Pier watching the sun rise over Lake Michigan, then turning around to see the light shimmering off of the windows of all those skyscrapers. Natural and manmade beauty collide, and I love it.
November 19: I am thankful for family in all shapes, sizes, and relationships.
November 20: I am thankful for long drives and a nice comfortable bed at home.
November 21: I am thankful for two days until break, otherwise known as the grading marathon.
November 22: Today I am thankful for my Facebook friends. Some of you I barely know in real life, but you make my days better and my mind stronger. I am thankful for those of you who challenge my beliefs and for those of you who camp in the same thought camps that I do. I am also thankful for my students who come to my room early (or on their lunches, or during their study skills classes) every day to try to solve the puzzles my secret pal bought for me!
November 22: I am thankful for Faith Pennington-Serf. I always leave our meetings with sore abs from laughing so hard, and I never leave wondering why I am a teacher.
November 23: I am thankful for long walks by the river with my dogs. Two miles with the sun coming up and the river burbling is the perfect way to start a long day of grading.

Today, as I sit here typing this in Starbucks, I am also thankful for grace. I look around and realize that I don’t deserve any of the amazing blessings I’ve been given. I am so blessed, but it’s easy for me to lose sight of that blessing when I get bogged down in the rut of my days. I am not a Christian who tends to revel in her brokenness, so it strikes me when I find myself reflecting on how undeserving I am. I sometimes wonder how fair it is to even call myself a Christian anymore, but that’s a conversation for another time and another post.

I tend to try to live in the renewed life and love that we are given as new creatures in Christ, but I sometimes forget that everything is a gift. It’s humbling, you know, when I consider that I could have been born into any circumstance and grown up into any circumstance. But I wasn’t and I didn’t. I was born into an awesome family and given awesome friends. I was encouraged to grow up into a unique little snowflake. 🙂 Every day I am challenged and supported. Every day I am given grace and inspired. Every day I am loved and I love, which is a blessing.

All my problems are trivial and finite, but grace is significant and eternal.

*

My brother and I are running a 5K trail race on Saturday, and I am quite excited for it. Running has been going really well, since I didn’t finish the marathon. My mile times have been up to two or three minutes faster than they were leading up to the marathon, and my feet and legs haven’t felt heavy or tired for a couple of weeks. Since it’s gotten colder here, I haven’t done any real barefoot running (minimalist instead), but I am going to start going to the BSU track in Ball Gym to get in some serious barefoot miles. I have moved my running from the morning to the afternoon and that seems to have helped both my ability to deal with the early sunset, and my ability to run well. Maybe being more alert helps the speed. I am so not a morning person!

*

I am wavering back to my commitment to being vegan. I’ve had lots of dairy in the past two or three weeks, and I am starting to think that my body likes the extra protein. However, I can’t stand the fact that my consumption of dairy leads to the dairy farms we pass while driving in Wisconsin and Minnesota. I can’t stand to see so many animals jammed into such a small, muddy, shitty space with no fresh green grass or pasture. More disturbing are the veal huts set up on the opposite side of these farms. Little baby cows chained to tiny little huts, standing in straw and manure, mooing for their mommies. Yeah, I am a bit cheesy about stuff like this, but I can’t stand it. It breaks my heart, and I absolutely hate driving past the dairies. Then, when my gut is full of cheese or milk, I want to throw up at the fact that I am implicit in this operation. It makes me sick. Almost literally.

I suppose I just need to figure out how to get more protein while still being vegan. Maybe I could add in more nuts or beans. I know I need to get more fresh vegetables, so I am going to try a two-month juice fast from January 1 through the end of February. I am hoping to use that time as a time of bodily cleansing and intellectual purification before going back to being vegan. Of course, the juice fast will be vegan, but it will also be an exercise in discipline. And, of course, I will need to have it finished by the time Elizabeth, Sarah, and I embark on AWP in Chicago!

*

Last, but not least, I have started taking niacin and vitamin C again. The two nutrients are a homeopathic remedy for mood disorders, and since my mood swings have gotten out of control, I decided to take matters into my own hands and take some proactive measures to get things under control. I figure some niacin and some vitamin C is a whole lot cheaper than the $100 an hour a psychologist would cost. (It’s probably cheaper than going to court because I punched someone in the face, too.) Supposedly our insurance provides psychiatric care, but I imagine that it would be equally excellent coverage to our medical care, which is almost like not having insurance at all. Our pharmaceutical coverage is excellent, though, according to the pharmacist. Doctor $$$ > Drug $$$ = The health care system in the US is fucked.