September Level Up

I’ve got two big goals this month – feather my nest, and shake a tail feather!

By now, I’m sure you know that I’m an introvert. This doesn’t mean that I’m shy, as much as that being in social situations really zaps my energy. It takes me time to recover, and the best way to do so is to spend time in a quiet, comfortable place. I’ve been living in my apartment for five years now, and though I love it, and it definitely provides me a place to regain my energy, I can’t help but see room for improvement. This month I’ve resolved to redecorate, and make the place feel even more like home.

The flip side of making my home even more conducive to rest and relaxation is planning time outside of its confines, as well. I’ve been working on scheduling social activities for the month, to set myself up for opportunities to connect with friends and loved ones without wearing myself out. September starts the busy period at work, as well, so it’s going to be tricky, but I’m certain I can do it.

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Feeling Less Than Bold

I am afraid to write.

I feel cut off from expression, and it is strangling me. My soul is finding it increasingly difficult to navigate this. I am lost and sad and feel like I’m losing the battle, and I want to be honest, but know that truly discussing my life will bring negative attention from my family, and I don’t want any form of conflict with the people I have left. This, more than anything, is destroying me. I need support, but I have no one who can help me. I am alone, and now I am without a voice.

Yes, I have friends and acquaintances. Plenty of people to fill the air with chit chat on a down day. But my best friends, the ones who know and love me deeply, are scattered all over the world. There are four people to whom I can bare myself completely, and they are not available to me right now. Not in the way I need. I have no one in my city that I feel safe being my authentic self with. A suitable version of me, sure. But not the me with hair down, mask off, pants unbuttoned, dirty feet hugging the earth.

But this type of being alone is something I have felt for years now. It’s just that lately, it’s felt more important. I’m scared in the world. Our politicians are insane. No one is caring for the environment. The world is dying. The seas are rising and full of plastic. The bees will cease to exist, and then so will the food. We are in big, bad trouble, and no one in political office seems to give a shit about fixing it. They’re going to let the world die while they argue about green scraps of paper. My friends are having babies, like they’ll be able to keep them safe and fed and on dry land. I worry for all of us. But I have to be honest – primarily I worry for me. I am alone. I have no one to hold me when I feel like this. I have no one to promise to love me while we run out of clean water and fresh vegetables. I have no one to make a plan with. I am alone, and maybe alone will make me more nimble, or maybe it will just make me more likely to perish quickly when things get truly dire.

And in the midst of all of this, I really miss my dad. He’s been dead for five months today. His last meal was chili mac. He loved crystals and rocks the same as I do. He could smell small pieces of silver, buried in a pile of costume jewelry from 10 feet way at a yard sale. He had HUGE hands, but turned the pages of antique books with the same care and awe you might afford a butterfly’s wing. Sometimes I’d catch him just studying my face with such love, it made my heart hurt. I downloaded the newest Bernard Cornwell book a few days ago, and can’t wait to read it, but I also can’t bring myself to start. Who will I discuss it with? Who’s going to get it like he did?

I’ve been crying every night for four nights now. I don’t really know why. Is it because I feel sorry for myself? Is it because I am scared? Is it because I wish that things were different? Is it just because I’m tired and worn out and it would be really fucking nice to just have someone hold me and listen and be physically present for me to melt into for awhile? Maybe it’s hormones. I hope that I’m not crazy. This is grief. This is what grief looks like. I had a person, and now he is no longer here. The end.

No matter what, this shit has to stop sometime. I was taught to be strong, resilient, self-reliant, resourceful. Not to choke back feelings – he didn’t believe in that. He was in many ways much more emotional than either my mother or myself. But even with tears in my eyes, he wanted me to be bold and sure in my choices. And lately I feel less than bold. I really could use someone to talk to. It used to be that when I felt like this, I’d call my dad. But who do I call now? Who sees me?

It’s up to me. I don’t want it to be, but I’m who I have, so I’m who I’m going to have to be happy with. Get your shit together, Nova. And find a therapist, for fuck’s sake.

Cat Troubles & Physical Therapy

I started this month with the intention of focusing wholly on my physical health. Long story short, it hasn’t been going well. Or maybe I should say that it hasn’t been going as I expected.

At the beginning of August, I went to see a nutritionist and began a series of physical therapy appointments. The nutritionist visit was an attempt to get my proverbial shit together when it comes to creating and sticking to a nutrition plan. The physical therapy is for my calves, bound, knotted, and neglected (in what it turns out was considerable pain and lack of mobility) for at least the last four years, if not longer.

My meeting with the nutritionist was pretty cool. It was more like a therapy session where I got to talk about food and only food – what I eat, how I eat, how I grew up eating, what I like and dislike, my attitude towards food, my social and emotional ties to eating, etc. I love food and food culture, so it was a really fun hour. That being said, when we got through talking, the nutritionist essentially told me that I didn’t need her help, I already had a really great diet, I knew what I needed to do and how to do it, and I’d be wasting money if we continued to see each other. It was refreshing and reassuring, but not exactly what I thought I’d be getting.

The nutritionist also set me up with a month-long trial run of a menu planning service that tells me what to eat for every meal, helps plan grocery runs, etc. Turns out that I hate it. It’s not that it’s too difficult, and I don’t mind the recipes. It offers a lot of choice, and I can easily swap out anything that’s too difficult or not suited to my mood or tastes. However, I’ve realized that while I always knew I was a creature of routine, and had absolutely no interest in meal planning or cooking for myself, I also kind of thought that I could change with enough effort. After being set up with all of the opportunities and training, I’m finally realizing that when it comes to cooking, I just don’t want to change. I want to eat simple, no (or little) cook meals of fresh vegetables and simple proteins, and call it a day. My life is so hectic and I have so little free time, and I am never going to be interested in spending 30 minutes prepping a meal I’ll eat in 5 minutes, alone. It’s just not fun or exciting. It’s not practical, and honestly, the simpler the meal, the more I enjoy it. So it’s back to square one with that.

Regarding physical therapy, that’s going very well. It’s a lot more painful than I’d thought it would be, but it’s making me reconsider how my body works, and what constitutes “working.” After an initial assessment, my primary PT determined that I don’t have Achilles tendonitis or tendonosis, which was a huge relief. My problem is simpler, but because I’ve lived with it for years now, it’s going to take a lot of effort to fix it. I’ve been seeing the PT twice a week for the last two weeks, and have another six weeks to go. I do exercises and foam rolling at home every day, then twice a week I go in to work with the PT. On one of those days, my primary PT works on the muscles of my calves, which it turns out were so muscle bound as to just be a series of huge, painful-to-the-touch knots. She either uses a scraper or suction cup to manipulate the muscles and stimulate blood flow, which should eventually contribute to getting the knots (also known as “trigger points“) to release.

On the other visit each week, I visit another PT who dry needles my calves, which is highly unpleasant, but effective. Dry needling uses the same type of needles as acupuncture, but they’re driven in deeper, and applied directly to wherever the knots/trigger points are, and attached to electric current to help stimulate the muscle into contracting, then releasing. I don’t like it, but them’s the breaks. It really works, so I’ll suck it up.

As it turns out, both of my ankles are dangerously weak, as well, so the exercises I do at home and at the PT take into account both ankles and calves. I definitely enjoy the last part of my visits the most – for the last 10 minutes at the office, they strap heating pads to my calves and I do very gentle leg presses. I can already tell a great difference in my legs. There’s a lot less pain when I go on long walks, and I can feel the different muscles in my left calf, which I could not before (it used to just feel like one rock-hard solid thing, which I thought was just being fit, but it turns out that’s not the case, lol).

With my legs being in much worse shape than I’d thought, the entirety of my exercise plan this month has consisted of stretching my calves and strengthening my ankles. I’ve also been working at toning my arms a little, but not nearly enough. One of the primary points of resistance for me thus far has been a lack of sleep, due nearly entirely to my youngest cat, Charlie.

Charlie’s always been a scaredy-cat, living mostly under the bed or couch, and coming out only to make biscuits on my arms or to play fetch. I didn’t connect this behavior to anxiety until earlier in the month, when he started keeping me awake every night with hours of yowling at the top of his lungs. He’d be quiet and well-behaved all night, until it was time to go to bed, when he’d start crying and wouldn’t let up until five or six in the morning. It got to the point where I was only sleeping a couple of hours a night. Ear plugs weren’t resilient enough to drown him out, and no amount of throwing things or yelling at him was helping.

After reading up in excessive meowing at night, and realizing that it was most likely an anxiety issue, rather than a health issue, or an issue of bad behavior, I made some changes in the household. After all, having been diagnosed with anxiety a few years ago, I totally get it. He’s not aiming to be a nuisance, he’s just stuck in a reactionary state, and that’s something we can work on together.

To begin with, based on basic guidelines for how to address excessive meowing, I ended free-feeding, and began setting food out at my bedtime, and picking it up first thing in the morning. Any meows from Charlie were completely ignored, and I’d either turn my head or walk away. No yelling or reacting allowed, ever. I also increased playtime, and bought a variety of new toys, to see if I could find new ways to keep him occupied and active. Most of my purchases have been duds, but my coworker has cats, so I’m just passing anything on that my kids don’t have interest in. So far, most motorized things were either boring (any kind of free-moving ball or things with feathers) or terrifying (Hexbug Scarab and another crawling bug toy, both of which sent Charlie under the bed to hide). The successes have been a basic feather wand, a treat ball, and the puzzle box that all of the cats like for different reasons. I also stuck a regular Hexbug Nano in the puzzle box last night, and that finally got Charlie interested in playing on his own, which I take as a major win.

I’m still waiting on some things to arrive in the mail – mostly a Thundershirt (figured it can’t hurt to try!) and a Feliway diffuser, even though the last time I tried Feliway, it made my middle cat, Munky, more aggressive, so I’m a little apprehensive of that approach. Maybe now that there are three cats in the house, the dynamic will be different, and Munky won’t be an ass. One can hope, anyway.

With all that said, a few days ago I had a great development. One of the things I thought I’d try is a pet anxiety supplement with valerian root, knowing that I have successfully taken valerian for my own anxiety on occasion, and hoping that it might be a good temporary solution for particularly tough nights. It turned out to be a solid option – not only did it help on the very first dose, but the second night, he voluntarily took the supplement without hesitation (by mouth, administered via syringe). I took this as a good sign that it didn’t taste terrible, and made him feel better. On the second night, I woke up in the middle of the night to see him on the bed next to me, cuddling with his brother and giving him kisses. Last night was Night 3, and he was quiet all night, without needing the supplement. This was awesome for me – I slept 10 hours, and felt pretty damn good when I woke up.

August Level Up

Image Via Etsy Artist Cloudy Thurston. Go and check out her beautiful prints!

My goal this month is very simple, though I suppose there will be many moving parts involved. I’m going to focus on my physical health, and add exercise, stretching, and intentional self care into my daily routine.

About five years ago, I was a member of a weightlifting gym, where I took a daily HIIT and weightlifting class. I loved it. It started out as an attempt to lose weight, as that seemed to be all I ever thought about those days, but it grew into a passion. I really enjoyed lifting weights, and challenging myself to lift greater amounts while remaining in good form. It was very satisfying to feel my body growing stronger and more capable, and to realize just how powerful I had been all along. Unfortunately, at some point during that training, I started to get a lot of tightness in my calf muscles, and pain in my Achilles tendons.

In 2015, I walked the Camino de Santiago with tight Achilles tendons, and for a little while there, I thought I’d probably end up snapping one. But I made it through just fine (albeit with terrible shin splints in both legs) and came home in one piece. After that, my calves kept getting tighter, to the point where I began to hobble every morning when I first got out of bed. I’ve been stiff and in pain ever since then, never seeking medical help for that particular issue – until today.

Last week I was out with two girlfriends, and one mentioned that she’d just finished up a round of physical therapy following an injury sustained in a car wreck, and was feeling so much better. For the first time, a light bulb went off, and I asked her for the PT’s information. I called the next day to make an appointment. It took no time at all. I felt kind of dumb for having never thought about it before. Today I went in, met with a doctor, and found out that the problem isn’t serious – no tears or injuries that might require surgery. That’s great! Unfortunately, though, my calves are pretty much solid, with knots throughout, and one of my ankles is dangerously weak. Because I waited so long to talk to someone, my legs have gone from “needing a massage” to needing three visits a week with a PT for the next two months. I talked her down to two visits per week, and am going to do everything I can to get my act together and see if we can cut the time to a month. It sounds like the plan is to have one dry needling session a week, massage, stretching, and exercises both at the doctor’s office and at home.

So here we are. It’s August 2019, and I’m seriously annoyed with myself for ignoring my body for four years. You need this body, Nova! It’s your home. You should be treating it with respect and kindness, and using it to do the kickass, miraculous, adventurous movements it was meant to perform. Instead, you’re sitting around too much, you seldom try movement that’s outside of your very basic comfort zone, and your miraculous ability to avoid doctor visits for years means you’ve now got 16 of them in the next two months. Bravo.

Since I’m going to have to shell out some cash for physical therapy, I’m going to spend the month focusing entirely on getting this temple pieced back together.

Exercise: To begin with, I have a list of simple mobility exercises to complete each day to strengthen my ankles and calves. I’m also going to implement a simple daily yoga routine, a daily routine on my DB Method machine, and a simple daily arms routine. This group of exercises will be restorative for my legs, a little more challenging for my arms and core, and should take me about 50 minutes a day.

Diet: I have an appointment to see a nutritionist next week. I’ve had it for a month now, and am very excited to finally get to work with someone to help me choose the right foods for my body. They say that your diet is 80% of weight loss, and thought weight is a topic I’ve tried to downplay on this blog, I am actively working towards reaching a healthy weight for my body. Currently I’m 8 lbs. above what is considered a “healthy” BMI, and am still technically considered overweight. Honestly, I’m 5’7″ and wear a size 10 in jeans and a medium in most things, so I’m confident that I’m doing pretty well, as far as body shape goes towards predicting health (which is not very far at all, as studies have shown, lol). That being said, my dad died from complications of Diabetes 2, and I’m invested in getting down to a healthy weight, and knowing that I’ve put only the best possible ingredients into my body. I want to know what it looks like when I’m running on the ideal fuel. I’ve never done that before. I think it could be pretty cool. So I’m happy there’s someone who will help me do that – I’ll let you know more after the appointment.

Self Care / Pampering: I don’t know what I’m going to do in regards to this category, but I know that it’s integral to my well being. This month I’d like to build in more opportunities to just relax and soothe my body and mind. I’m constantly overworked and tend towards being overwrought, even if I do a good job of self-containment. I deserve to schedule in “me time.” Also, I have a bunch of random things in my beauty cupboard that need to be used up and cleared out – bath bombs, sheet masks, and various other pampering products. More on this soon.

Help!

July was hard work, and I’m glad it’s officially over. In keeping with my monthly tradition of choosing a Beatles song to share when I share my Bold Goals recap, here’s the song that reflects my mood over the past 31 days:

The month sped by, and I did my best to just hang on and not mess anything up too much. But now I’m worn down and in need of rest and a chance to get recentered. Really looking forward to quiet time this weekend, but we’ll see how that goes. So how did I do in regards to meeting my goals this month?

  1. Giving up time wasters (social media, television, drinking, emotional eating, and other time sucks): I did NONE of these things. I wasted more time in July than any other month previous this year, and it definitely affected my emotional and physical well-being.
  2. Practicing healthy detachment: Failure on this front – I allowed myself to be manipulated and emotionally compromised at work at the beginning of the month, and it took me weeks to get past it.
  3. Anxiety: See #1 and #2. On the bad side, relatively speaking, the level of anxiety I suffered this month matched up with what my old baseline was, back before I cut out alcohol and caffeine. On the good side, even though I reacted using old methods to self-soothe, I’m still making major strides in the way that I recognize a feeling, identify a cause, and seek to follow healthy methods to regain calm.
  4. No more manchild bullshit: There are no men in my life. While I’m feeling good about being single and doing my own thing, I’m starting to feel like it will be time to attempt to date again soon. Maybe in the new year; I don’t know if I’d want to try any sooner than that.
  5. Start a creative endeavor: I am not making money through creative means just yet.
  6. Take care of my home: I want a fairy godmother to visit and give me the money to overhaul my apartment. It really wouldn’t take a lot of money, it’s just that I don’t have that money. This month I have done very little in the way of taking care of my home, other than the very basic cleaning steps. I find this place cramped and depressing, and I really wish I could move out, but I don’t think that will be happening anytime in the near future.
  7. Read one book each week: My reading slowed down significantly, and now I’m exactly on schedule with 31 books read, which is not ideal. I have several books that I’ve been reading very slowly, so this weekend I need to finish them and get ahead a little bit.
  8. Focus on leveling up. Accept my worth and help other people see it, too: I started an online course to help build personal connections, and have learned some interesting things about myself, and my underlying beliefs in regard to my self-worth. I’m moving through the course very, very slowly, but am hoping to get something out of it. It’s funny, I think I used to feel a greater sense of self-worth than I currently do. Part of this faltering is due to the terrible client interactions at the beginning of the month. Part is due to my finances. Part is because I feel very unloved and barely noticed, where my family is concerned. Part is because I have been working for so very long, and am only now getting back to the same base wages that I was making as a new hire in 2006; this is emotionally draining. I’ve gotten nowhere in 13 years, except for single, in a smaller apartment, and a less impressive job title. On the one hand, I know that I am a good person, and I have many positive traits. Ironically, my most negative trait is my lack of ability to celebrate myself, which stems from a very low sense of self-worth. I am trying very hard not to see any positive boasting as self aggrandizing bullshit. It irks me when people speak highly of very basic personality traits, because I struggle with understanding that there’s a reason to be proud for being a decent human being. I know that in order to get a new job, I will have to toot my own horn, but celebrating the mundane seems tawdry. I’m disgusted by it. I need to get past that, because other people don’t understand, and are confused by my refusal to participate in the circle.
  9. Publish my memoir. Oh god, not this again. Haven’t written a word in a long, long time.
  10. Take care of my health – body, skin, mental and physical well-being: I did finally make some gains in regard to my skin. When I made the choice to cut plastic out of my household as much as possible, this meant that I needed to find new facial products as soon as I’d used my old ones up. It took me awhile to find something that works, has great reviews, is affordable, and uses less plastic. I still ended up choosing products that use plastic in their containers, but the bases are glass and the tops are plastic. In the end, I made the choice because my skin was visibly aging over the last month, and one morning I woke up and my skin around my eyes was so rough and dry that I could feel every time I blinked. I bought new products that evening.
  11. Travel: No travel in July, unfortunately.
  12. Take one honest-to-goodness class per month: I studied pottery this month! So far, I’ve learned how to throw clay on a wheel (not well, but one day I’ll get there), and how to make pinch pots. It’s fun, and I’ll take one more month of classes, but I don’t know if I’ll stick with it longterm. I’m not as excited about it as I thought I’d be, but that’s OK – that’s the purpose of taking classes in various subjects, so I can figure out what it is that really resonates with me, then start expanding on the theme.

A Bunch of Little Thoughts

Got a lot of random thoughts, but very little energy to compile them attractively. In an attempt to just empty this brain a little bit, I’m going to drop the information here, and return at some later point. Here we go:

  • My inability to create, and stick to, a schedule is really a hindrance. I really need to focus on finding a way to use my time more effectively.
  • Pottery class is going well. Two weeks ago, I learned how to throw on a wheel. Last week, I learned how to trim pottery before firing it. This week, I learned how to make pinch pot bowls (they’re super cute, too).
  • Next week is my last week of Spanish 100 class, and I’m struggling with whether to go on to Spanish 101. I really enjoy the class, my teacher, and my classmates, and I’m finding it much easier to understand Spanish now. However, it’s a little over $350 per class, which is a huge expenditure for me. On one hand, learning Spanish is great for my brain, good for my resume, and will definitely come in handy for the rest of my life. On the other hand, that’s money that might be better spent paying off debts. Also, I’m not even sure that I’ll be here for the entire 9 weeks of the new class; after all, I’ve been actively posting to jobs in other cities. But so far, my applications have led to zero job offers, so is moving really on the table? No clue. Also, maybe learning Spanish might lead me to new opportunities to make more money, and thus pay off debts faster, who knows? Idk. I’ll figure it out soon.
  • The beginning part of July sucked at work, causing my anxiety to go into overdrive, and leading me into a fragile mental state. I had a lot of trouble recovering from my circular thoughts and sense of worthlessness, due to a couple of highly manipulative clients who really made me doubt who I was and what I was doing. It was tough, but I’m feeling stronger now that I’ve come through that.
  • There’s a giant hole in my kitchen wall, and there’s black mold and cockroaches on the other side of it. It happened basically overnight after this huge rainstorm we had two weeks ago. The landlord has had roofers come over, and a handyman came over today to assess the damage. I’ve duct taped a large swath of my wall to ensure that absolutely no more cockroaches get in. I’m generally not squeamish about bugs, but the combination of breathing hazard and creepy crawlies has me really disgusted and anxious. It should all get fixed in the next week, hopefully.
  • I’ve decided I’m going to look the best I’ve ever looked when I turn 38 this November. My skin will be glowing, my hair will be shiny and healthy, and my body will be lithe and toned. I will be wearing a size 8 in jeans, and will finally buy myself that pair of cowboy boots I’ve been wanting for the last 20 years.
  • My switch to a plastic-free household is coming along nicely. I’m using up all of the things in plastic bottles first, before buying all new stuff, so it’s slow and steady that wins the race. Today I finished the last of the large bottle of laundry detergent. I have another week until I’ve squeezed the very last bits of toothpaste out of the tube. I finally finished the last drop of one type of retinol serum in a plastic dispenser, and moved on to the other bottle. I still haven’t bought replacement facial care products, and am in search of really high quality zero waste skincare items. It’s been interesting finishing products and cutting open the containers to wash them out thoroughly before recycling. Before, I seldom recycled containers, and when I did, I didn’t know that they needed to be cleaned out first. There’s still so much that I don’t know about taking care of the planet.
  • I downloaded a really nice little app called Nomo, for free in the App Store. It’s a sobriety clock that is highly customizable and easy to use, plus has very clean, attractive graphics. This morning at 3am will mark 12 days since my last drink.
  • I’ve hired a nutritionist to work with in August. I’m hoping that she can help me set up a game plan for having healthy food in the right amounts on hand at all times, to avoid binge eating and help cut back on dining out.
  • I’m working on a plan to study to become a Certified Meeting Planner. My tentative five-year plan would be to work my way up to Senior Event Manager with my company, get my CMP certification while still with my company, move into a position within the company with a hotel that has its own conference center, get good exposure to managing large conferences, then either work in the private sector or go to work as an independent meeting planner (maybe within an agency) and plan conferences, from my in-home office. By the time I’m 45, I want to be able to take a month and a half off of work without any kind of hassle. This will allow me to walk the Camino again, and just get more travel in, on the whole.
  • In August I need to stay off of social media and television. They’re really disrupting my life again. I need a mental break from all that noise, so I can study language, write more in my blog, and get my reading list back on track. I’ve slowed down considerably, and I won’t make it to 52 books read if I don’t pick up the pace!

Choose to Refuse: Why I’m Going Plastic Free

Crab trapped in a plastic cup. Via Greenpeace.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but until a few months ago, I’d never thought too deeply about my lasting impact on the planet. That’s not to say that I haven’t been preached to on a litany of environmental subjects since I was a child via various media outlets. After all, I didn’t grow up in a bubble…or at least I thought I didn’t.

At 37, I’m a semi-well-traveled world citizen who keeps up with the news and cares about her fellow lifeforms. I would never dream of releasing a balloon into the wild, or of drinking a beer without carefully cutting apart the plastic 6-pack rings. I’d certainly never throw my trash on the street. I buy most of my clothes used, try to eat organic when I can afford it, and wouldn’t consider using a product that isn’t labeled cruelty free. By appearances, I’m taking responsible steps to be kind to our planet.

But appearances aren’t reality. It turns out that “all” of the things I’ve been doing to “save the planet” are not much. Like many Americans, I’ve been brainwashed into thinking that I’m making some sort of grand, impactful gesture when I cut up a 6-pack ring, or choose to carry my groceries home in my purse instead of using a free plastic shopping bag.

Sure, these are things that we should all be doing. But in reality, they’re just the tip of the (quickly melting) iceberg; these aren’t grand gestures – they’re barely note-worthy basic motions that any thoughtful human should undertake. Deciding not to use a plastic bag should be second nature. It is rote self-preservation mixed with courtesy, like choosing to look both ways before entering traffic, or covering your mouth when you cough.

I’m puzzled by how it’s taken me so long to get to a point where I truly began to understand the extent of my role in the death of the planet, but I know the exact moment that it started. I watched a video of a dolphin at the moment it gets caught in a plastic shopping bag. Experiencing its horror at the situation, watching its frantic barrel rolls to get the bag off of its head, even just thinking about it now makes me nauseous. The bottom line is this: it’s my fault, just as much as if I’d placed the bag in the ocean myself. Because this isn’t about littering. It’s about choosing to use products that we have known to be unsafe for decades. Every day for 37 years, I’ve been given many choices to make the right call, and every day I’ve failed, with little to no remorse.

Laysan Albatross remains show the devastating effects of plastic pollution on wildlife. Photo by Chris Jordan, Via Smithsonian.

And now we’ve reached a point of probable no return. A cursory Google search of “whales bellies plastic” will give you 15 solid search pages of articles discussing recently beached dead whales that, upon autopsy, were found to be full of plastic – literally starved to death from the inability to process the trash they’d mistakenly ingested. Studies on sea turtle hatchlings in the U.S. and Australia in 2018 found alarming rates of nano-plastic ingestion in the babies, resulting in malnutrition and death.

We are bombarded with photos of turtles, fish, and birds being slowly choked to death by garbage in the sea, and there are now five known floating garbage patches in the ocean, with the largest of them, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, measuring roughly three times the size of Texas, or nearly a million square miles.

I theorize that maybe I didn’t pay as much attention to our trash problem because it was “in the ocean” and thus outside of my everyday sphere. It didn’t quite seem real, because I live on dry land. That’s a stupid excuse, but it’s the only way I can begin to explain my monumental stupidity and callousness.

“The Known Unknowns of Plastic Pollution” Via The Economist.

If you, too, are reading this and find yourself thinking “Hey, it’s just the ocean – we’ll figure it out soon, it’s not that big of a deal,” why don’t we talk about what’s happening right here on dry land? According to a recent study in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, humans ingest up to 52,000 plastic particles a year. This estimate goes up to about 70,000 if we account for plastic dust particles we breathe. Another fun fact is that it rains and snows plastic, even in the most remote areas. A 2018 joint study by the University of Strathclyd and Ecolab found 249 plastic particles per square meter in an area of the French Pyrenees formerly thought of as pristine.

This is just a fragment – forgive the unfortunate pun – of the information that’s out there about the devastation our planet is undergoing. For the sake of brevity, I’m not discussing fossil fuel’s role in climate change, or the effect of our castoff plastic waste on the countries where our trash gets sent for recycling and/or storage. And to be clear, I know that there are other pressing pollution issues (for example, textiles, electronics, and chemical byproducts, just to name a few). Tackling one doesn’t mean forgetting about the others – it just means putting some issues on the back burner for a moment while you figure out the best way to approach the issue at hand.

In the past, I’ve read about pollution with a shrug. A “well, that sucks, but what can I do?” There’s always been a boogey man – the fossil fuels industry. They were the ones responsible for this. They should be responsible for getting us out. Give them sanctions. Make them change their evil ways! Save the innocent consumer!

But I see now that I was wrong. I am the boogey man. I am the one with the choice – and the responsibility – to change. And so are you. We are none of us released from the moral obligation to care for other living things – which means caring, first and foremost, for our planet. Pretty sure that we’ve already run out of time to reverse this mess, but that doesn’t mean that we’re out of time to choose to be better humans, and to live in kindness, fighting our hardest to right the massive wrong we have done to our earth, our children, and all other living beings on this planet who depend on us right now to wake up and pay attention to our duty as stewards.

So what will we do? Learn. Change. Fight back. Help other people learn, change, and start fighting, too. A great place to start right now would be to join #PlasticFreeJuly, and take a pledge right now to give up single use plastics for the month of July. I personally have resolved to drastically cut back on purchasing any items that contain plastic, permanently. At the moment, it’s not financially feasible to achieve a 100% plastic-free life (I mean, I’m typing this on a plastic computer keyboard, after all), but we can start making strong steps in the right direction. We don’t need to be perfect right now – we just need to get started.