Vegan in Brussels: the very subjective story of my dinner plate

vegan 1 And my dinner plate is not your controversy either

First, let me get this straight: what you eat is an intimate story between yourself, your body and your conscience. Your stomach is not my controversy. I am not seeking to teach anyone a lesson. I just wish to share something, and I hope you enjoy!

OK. So here’s my coming out. When I was fourteen, I suddenly turned vegan. In fact, I started cooking macrobiotic for my family when one member had become very ill: inspired by the books about health I schlepped home from the library, I was hoping to make everyone fit again. At that young age, I already loved getting creative in la cuisine and sharing my fun with others. I believe a few people did benefit a bit from my health obsession at the time. And, oh, let me thank the bunch of Hare Krishna people (with the most delicious food in the world) that were the first ones to talk to me about vegetarianism in the ’70s (I was 12!) on the Dam in Amsterdam

A few months ago, I sighed loudly: “There is nothing vegan in Brussels! No inspiring places with exciting new food,  always the same old stuff!” when suddenly last month, TWO vegan shops opened, the fabulous ‘Vegasme’ store being only a few houses away from where we speak (and in Liege a great store that even sells vegan boots in organic microfiber…) There does seem to be a certain need for change, even in Belgium!

OK. I have watched a number of people jump ‘on the vegan wagon’ for all kinds of reasons, and jump off it as quickly. Most of vegan 2the time this happens when their ‘reasons’ (justifications) anxiously point in all directions (politics, environment, medicine, science… click here to find 101 good reasons) except to themselves. Yes, we all know about the horror of the meat industry, and how consumption of misery turned into flesh contributes to cardiovascular problems (and depression and aggressiveness), and how the feeding of cattle uses up crops that could feed a hundredfold the number of people fed by a steak. Obviously the human body is not made for devouring a cow: we don’t have the teeth nor do we produce the necessary acidity in our saliva and our stomach. Our intestines are too long, and meat ends up rotting inside of us. Our mouth is too small. And if at this point you start about proteins and muscle growth, have a look at an elephant, or a gorilla. And still, despite all those good reasons, most people maintain their attachment to an old habit, or an ancestral craving of the caloric comfort of salt and fat, culturally translated into bacon. How come?

Well… my point is that for an emotional thing like food, facts and figures are not enough. If you rely only on them, you are following a diet at best, and maybe creating a temporary eating disorder. If you ‘do’ vegan with your mind alone, there barely is any pleasure and you’ll feel like you’re starving all the time. Veg(etari)an cooking means fun, creativity and joy, and not simply replacing meat with a sad lump of tofu! :) 

Personally,  I don’t  feel the need to ‘explain’ my choice. (Hey, have I ever questioned a meat eater on their weird choice?) And why not? I guess because my choice of food comes from a deeper place than the regular bar counter (or Facebook) discussion. The more your motivation reaches beyond the mind, and touches a physical, emotional and even a spiritual conscience, the bigger the chances are you will never want to consume flesh again. Also, once you stop meat, it is like with quitting cigarettes: your senses come back to life as your system gets detoxed. After not having had meat for years, I can testify: it tastes sour and smells like rotting death (I once accidentally took a bite of a ham quiche). And the last time I had battery chicken in a Thai restaurant, I could sense its sadness all through the green curry. So it was a natural evolution for me to also stop eating chicken and fish. And recently I quit eggs (male chicks ground to bits while still alive because useless for reproduction, chicken beaks chopped or burnt off) and milk (artificially prolonged lactation, premature confinement of veal) products because they no longer felt right. Veg(etari)an, or whatever you call it: my mind alone will not decide upon the rules that will direct my choice; my heart and my body tell me loud and clear what food makes me happier and lighter. And to me, eating pieces of an animal that suffered an unnatural life and a violent death will not make anybody happy (and look at the state the world is in).

For anyone who struggles with these questions, I have one piece of advice: keep it simple. Listen to your body, try out different ways of feeding yourself (there are plenty of sites with recipes!), and see what really makes you feel good. You’ll find out soon enough that what is good for you, is inextricably good for animals and the environment. Reconnect with other life forms, take your responsibility and your body will thank you. I am deeply convinced that the more people will do so, the sooner the mad destruction of life on our dear planet will stop.

Marlene

PS: Changing the world, one lunch box at a time: a few years ago, I shared my Indian (vegan) lentil dishes with all kinds of people through a foodies website. One non vegetarian customer kept coming back for more, saying: “This food makes me feel joyful. This is happy food.” His smile made it worthwhile. And that is exactly my point: veg(etari)an food is healthy for body, mind and soul. And almost karma free ;)

(c) photos: I got them from someone who took them from a vegan website :D

Ma vie, est-elle mauvaise pour mon CV?

Quand l’emploi ne vient pas, il faut créer un vrai travail. Ou la chance immense de la liberté de choix.

Article in English here

Je vis à Bruxelles, en Belgique. Ici, il n’y a pas de green smoothies et pas un seul restaurant vegan. Les nouveautés qui peuvent être vieilles ailleurs, mettent souvent des années à trouver une terre chez nous. Bruxelles est une ville fascinante, complexe, et un peu lente. Ce qui la rend drôle. Ah oui, et nous avons un taux de chômage de 20.4%.

La semaine dernière, j’ai lu l’article d’une jeune femme qui se plaignait de ne pas trouver de travail, faute de trop de qualifications. Ne me parlez pas de la réalité du marché: avec trop d’expérience (un euphémisme pour ‘trop vieux’) on n’est plus exploitable. Sans expérience, on est long à former. Avec des diplômes vous coûtez trop cher, et sans, vous êtes un peu rien du tout. Et ne parlons pas des jobs ‘freelance’, payés moins qu’un babysit à l’heure (au net). Et puis il y a ces boîtes qui pressent leurs ressources humaines (matériel humain) pendant un an ou deux, jusqu’au burnout.

Retournons au ‘Deux Masters et Toujours Pas de Boulot’. Quelle est la solution, ou plutôt: quel est le problème? Sur les forums en ligne, mes questions étaient culottées mais sincères: “Tu rêvais de quoi en faisant ces études? Pourquoi ne pas adapter ton CV au job que tu aimerais faire? Retire ce que tu n’aimes pas, souligne tes atouts et aspirations!” Ma logique : il s’agit bien de ta vie à toi, non? Que faire si dans le passé tu as fait des choses que tu n’aimes pas, ou qui ne sont plus d’actualité? Car dans ton curriculum, s’agit-il de ta vie, ou es-tu la propriété de tes diplômes/expériences? 

Les réactions ont revigoré la rebelle en moi. “Non, je ne peux pas changer mon CV, ça ne fait pas bien!” et “Ce serait mentir, et du coup je ne me ferai pas engager!”, “Pas question, car comment expliquer un trou d’un an ou plus à un employeur?” Et une dame m’a expliqué, avec un respect profond pour la force inhibante et reconfortante de certaines autorités, qu’une base de données transmettait à qui veut les données sur les diplômes d’absolument tout le monde. Obtiens un diplôme, et ta vie ne t’appartient plus. Et donc quelque part, ton CV non plus. Quoi donc?

J’ai eu besoin de respirer profondément. Tu pourrais dire que tu as fait une pause? Que tu as tout simplement vécu. Ou voyagé. Tu as décidé de t’occuper de ton enfant. Ou fait le point après un mauvais choix. Le temps d’écrire un livre, ou de faire du bénévolat dans un refuge pour animaux maltraités. Apprendre à se connaître soi, c’est mauvais pour ton CV, ça? Et puis, peut-on vraiment étudier pendant des années sans développer une vision, une passion pour ce que l’on a envie de faire? Alors, à quoi sert ce diplôme? Juste un bout de papier en échange d’un boulot mieux payé, peu importe lequel, tant qu’il offre une illusion de sécurité? Et puis, es-tu vraiment d’accord que pour l’apprentissage et le développement, il n’y ait que les écoles et le travail (payé)?

Personnellement, je pense que cette croyance ne correspond non seulement pas à la réalité – elle ne la sert même pas! La société est en pleine transformation, et elle a besoin aujourd’hui plus que jamais d’ initiative, d’indépendance, d’émancipation et de créativité. Et tout cela ne vient pas sans connaissance de soi. Retournons à la source: qu’est-ce que tu aimais le plus, lorsque tu étais petit.e? Fais revivre ce rêve, laisse-le t’inspirer. Crée une vision, au lieu d’attendre la cage dorée. Travaille cette vision, un peu tous les jours. Trouve-toi un coach. Fais des expériences, participe à des projets. Passionne-toi. Et si ton diplôme ne sert pas ton rêve, fais autre chose. Car ne serait-il pas absurde de laisser 4 ou 5 années de ta vie définir ton présent et tout ton avenir, si c’est contre ton gré?

Il y a quelques années, je donnais cours à des groupes de ‘chômeurs’, et des ateliers de job coaching. Un homme de 30 ans au joli diplôme Master trimballait un CV vide, car on lui refusait à chaque fois le super poste administratif auquel il avait droit. (Dans mes cours, il était pourtant incapable de rester assis pour plus de 7 minutes. Non, 4.) Lorsque je lui ai proposé de me décrire le déroulement d’une journée dans de ce job de rêve, notre jeune loup n’avait pas trop d’idées. Ce genre de choses. Pas étonnant que son état général n’était pas super. Et que notre société soit un peu à plat. Si vous voulez connaître la suite, laissez un message. Je vous promets, c’est une histoire sympa.

Le fait que tant de gens soient d’accord d’organiser leur vie autour d’un curriculum acceptable (même si un peu vide de sens) ne me donne pas beaucoup d’espoir. Ce pays a un taux de suicide des plus élevés d’Europe, et notre capitale a un taux de chômage énorme pour une ville aussi riche! Je pense que nous ne pouvons vraiment plus nous permettre d’encourager les jeunes à construire leur vie autour d’une idée de CV conforme. Un curriculum doit soutenir la personne, et non pas la priver de sa liberté de choix. Notre société n’arrivera jamais à fleurir dans la prospérité si nous sommes d’accord de tuer nos rêves et notre créativité en faveur de quelques bouts de papier. Ce dont nous avons vraiment besoin, c’est de l’inspiration. De grâce, tâchons de vivre une vie vraiment autonomisante. Le CV suivra.

Is my life bad for my Curriculum Vitae ?

Or does my CV make my butt look fat?

Article en français ici

I live in Brussels, Belgium. A city that does not sell green smoothies and has zero vegan restaurants. New stuff that is old somewhere else, somehow doesn’t find ground here. Brussels is fascinating, complex, and a bit slow. Which makes it a little funny. And oh, we have a 20.4% unemployment rate.

Last week, I read an article about a young woman who could not find work because she had too many qualifications. Tell me about the reality of our market. With too much experience (often an euphemism for ‘too old’), one is no longer exploitable. Without it, one is too slow to train. With degrees one is too expensive, and without any, one is a bit like nothing. And don’t get me started on qualified freelance jobs being paid less than a babysitter (netto). Or small companies utilizing human resources (material) for a year or two until burnout.

Back to ‘Two Master Degrees and Still No Job’. What is the solution, or rather: what is the problem? On online forums my questions were daring: “Why don’t you adapt your CV (resume) to the job you wish to find? Leave stuff out, highlight your aspirations!” My logic: it is about you, right? What if you have done stuff in the past that you really hate, or that is not relevant now? Leave it out! Take your life in your hands and build your dream! Is it your life, or are you owned by your degrees/experience?

The responses I got, revitalized my healthy sense of rebellion. “No, I can not leave things out, it would make my CV look bad!” or: “I would lie, and not be hired!”, “No way! How do I explain a gap of 2 years to an employer!?” And one lady told me about an official data bank that transmits records of obtained degrees about absolutely everybody. Get a degree, and your life no longer belongs to —. Right. The only person who can live your life. YOU.

Now let me think. You could tell them you took a break? Or that you simply lived. Or traveled. You decided to take care of your child. Or wanted to think after a bad choice, or be creative, write a book, volunteer in an animal shelter. Get to know yourself. Is that bad? Can a person really study for years without forming a vision of what they’d like to do? Is a degree an expensive paper in exchange for a job, no matter what, as long as it offers security? And do you agree schools and (payed) jobs are the only places to learn and progress?

I believe that thinking this way not only doesn’t suit reality, it doesn’t even support it! The job market has changed drastically, and requires initiative, lots of self employment, emancipation and creativity. And this is impossible without a little self knowledge. Time to get back to basics: what did you dream of when you were little? Find that old dream and let it inspire you. Create a vision, instead of waiting for a safe  golden cage. Work on it every day. Get a coach. Do stuff. Get passionate about something. Talk to people. And if your degree does not serve your vision, do something else. Isn’t it absurd to be defined by an activity one may have had for a couple of years?

A few years ago, I was teaching groups of unemployed people, and gave job workshops to those who wanted. One young man with a Master Degree had an empty CV because the world was unwilling to give him the glamorous office job he was entitled to receive. However, in class I could tell he was not able to sit on a chair for more than 7 minutes, and when asked about the content of his so called dream job, our young wolf had no clue. He really didn’t want the job he told everyone he was looking for. No wonder his overall state was pretty bad. (If you wish to know what happened next, leave me a message. I promise, it’s a nice story.)

Seeing so many people live in function of an acceptable curriculum devoid of any sense or vision, does not give me much hope. This country has the highest suicide rate in Europe, and our capital city, one of the highest unemployment rates. I think we can no longer afford to encourage people to build their lives on the construction of a CV. A curriculum needs to empower the person and not drain them. Our society will never bloom and prosper with people who are willing to kill their dreams and creativity in favor of bits of paper. What we need is inspiration. Let us strive to live an empowering life. A good resume will follow.

1621867_10204532416203976_794875592609918226_n

Marlene


writing and editing in NL/FR/EN
qualified social interpreter

with a passion for job coaching

On Paris and our own personal Stockholm syndromes

The Stockholm Syndrome.

Today the ‘hostage’ theme is on our collective mind. I remember, moments before the news dripped in about the Paris violence(*), I laughed with a joke: ‘You can’t force anyone to love you, but you can lock them up in the basement and hope they develop the Stockholm syndrome’. :D Good one, huh! That syndrome happens when you are taken hostage and, slightly alienated, end up loving the one who has control over your life. Ever since, I can’t stop thinking about how, maybe, we are all the hostage of something, or somebody. Don’t we all suffer from Stockholm as soon as we give up our minds, our freedom, our lives, our love, to an ideology, a religion, a nation or even a family – or any form of control, blackmail, pressure…? And could this spiritual un-freedom be at the root of all violence, xenophobia, gossip and lies, manipulation, exclusion, racism and hatred between people – individuals, groups and nations?

I think 2015 is the perfect time to free ourselves from our own personal Stockholm Syndromes.

vous
Marlene

(*) on 7 January 2015, an attack took place at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a Paris based satirical magazine, killing 12 people.

Brussels is Love : 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

What this world really is starving for (*)

imagesAUTHENTICITY
is the word I chose for 2015.
This society, and every person in it,
is spiritually starving for Authenticity.
On every level !


(*) a constantly evolving post – come back for more!

Yes…

Real words
Real smiles
Real generosity
Real faces
Real material
Real dreams
Real deals
Real hair
Real yes
Real nails
Real foods
Really revolutionary minds
Real nurturing
Real no
Real warmth
Real goodness
Realationships
Real useful work
Real income
Real homes
Real medicine
Real grilled cheese sandwiches
Real healing
Real projects
Real movement
Real spirituality
Real support
Real involvement
Real creativity
Real freedom
Real FUN
Real connection
Real people
Real air
Real water
Real me
Real you

These are my wishes for a great 2015

Marlene

smaller

– And you, dear Reader, what will YOUR word be ? –

I love words, almost as much as true smiles. How I see the idea of having a ‘word of the year’: I picked a word for something I deeply crave now. Something I have not seen enough of in 2014, not in my personal life and not in the world. A word that would inspire me in my thoughts and deeds, and hold up a mirror at times: “do I want this, how does this make  me feel? Is my smile a true smile? Do I wish to do this/be here?”

Why a burnout is a blessing (adrenal fatigue and stuff)

(illustration: Hyperbole and a Half)

Illustration: Hyperbole and a Half

So let me tell you about MY burnout. I just had my second one. Yes, I have been there before : I was 25 and suddenly found myself on my own, with a child of barely 2 years old, working full-time and virtually no family support. There was no time to grief over my broken couple, as my survivor’s instinct dictated me to fight for my baby. No wonder I broke down! What I remember of the day I crashed, was the adrenaline gushing through my guts and the coffee I’d gulped. A major panic attack landed me in a hospital. They told me I was having a depression. I got antidepressants, sleeping pills and other chemicals. I had no idea. (I did not feel depressed, really.) The 3 (!!) years that followed are a blur, erased from my memory by the pharma industry.

Today, I am about twice that age. And I crashed again. I know this happened because with the death of my father three years ago, I have been going yet again through an impossible grief, aggravated by the fact that while losing my father, I lost whatever was left of my childhood family. It felt like the ground was taken away from under my feet forever. OK, it had always been kind of bumpy, but at least it was my ground. And ground offers possibility. My reaction to this impossible grief was to shut it out, think of something else, and go on. Continue, do what you love, use your power and your brain to do impossible stuff! Ha! Sure, I can do that. I took up studies, and on top of the usual daily stuff, I supported refugees (no ground under their feet, I know!), advocated for oppressed minorities. I gave, and gave, especially to causes that don’t give much in return (my second nature, ARGH). And whenever there was nothing left, I gave some more. Adrenaline, that cheap and rewarding drug. And hey, I was doing what I love, right?

So I had been feeling weird and old for a couple of months before I crashed. I saw doctors and told them about my nervous fatigue, pointing at the dark circles under my eyes, but no ringing of bells. Until a week before my breakdown, a dentist (!) told me there might be something wrong with my thyroid and adrenals, and I started to do some research.

Thank goodness for the Internet! I found plenty scientific resources, as well as precious stories from people who have been through an adrenal burnout. All kinds of symptoms pop up: low blood pressure, head aches, dizziness, bad digestion, nervous exhaustion, bad sleep, hormonal imbalance, short term memory problems, bad thyroid function, dehydration, inability to focus… and of course an overall impossibility to cope with stress. When every little thing becomes a chore. Or a reason to burst into tears. I was having them all. So what did I do? First of all, I started taking food supplements and vitamins. And I adapted my diet and sleeping pattern, as well as my free time (clever and witty books! relaxing pretty films!)…

Design by Rosa Pearson @ FlutterFlutter.

Design by Rosa Pearson @ FlutterFlutter.


Adrenals are the little glands above the kidneys that produce stress and other hormones. When they are put under too much strain for too long (months, or years), they get ‘burned’. This burning up (I actually had a sensation of inner burning for months) from too much cortisol and adrenaline causes their burnout: the hormonal stress control is out of order. So this is not the same dynamic as a depression, even though at a certain stage one may feel down, or like me during the pre-crash months:  angry and cynical (I always hated cynicism!) And nervous. And anxious, with the feeling there is something physically wrong with me.

The big crash came, and my body said: “Stop! Take time to cry!” and so I did. No more guilt, no more energy to deal with stress, anger or resentment, not mine, nor anybody else’s. Time to recover from the years of havoc wreaked upon my system, and then later on, to reconsider my dealing with grief and my addiction to… stress. It is that simple. Grief can not be covered up by fun and interesting activities, even if they make us look strong. It needs to be dealt with. And hey, adrenal burnout may take a couple of months to heal. Time for me to think about… ME. Huh?! Yes. Me. Are you shocked yet?

In the meanwhile, if you have any tips for feelgood movies and clever chick books, I am all ears.

Thank you!

PS: having a burnout also means I am a fighter, a survivor, a giver. I give, even when I have nothing left. A friend said that perfectionists and fighters-for-a-better-world are very much prone to having burnouts. See, it’s not a sign of weakness or incompetence. Forget about shame (making matters worse) and don’t take antidepressants, as a time like this can be so rich with self discovery. Go explore your feelings, write a journal, find out what caused you to run away so hard into work (or fun, or in being a do-gooder – ARGH!), and find out what you really love. Get to love your life as it is. At last! (That’s me talking to me!) :)

PPS:  My story is mine, and each story is different. And hey, I’m grateful for knowing so much more about it this time. Did I mention how much I look forward to some real ME-time?