Worry Woman or Warrior Woman?

October is the time trees let go their leaves to save strength and energy. Leaves are falling to protect its life; the tree lets go in order to live. It can hardly be a coincidence that this meaningful month in nature is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Thoughts on Preventing Breast Cancer.

October is the time trees let go their leaves to save strength and energy. Leaves are falling to protect its life; the tree lets go in order to live. It can hardly be a coincidence that this meaningful month in nature is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Topless

I remember that hot summer day when I went to the beach for a swim. In my search to find a fine spot to sit for a while I encountered a topless woman. She had one breast. One side, I can’t remember which one, had a big mastectomy scar. Her breast had been amputated. The first thing I thought was, wow, she’s a brave woman. I probably would have hidden this scar for the world.

I admit I was also a little shocked when I happened to look at her and my eye was caught by her naked scar where once there had been a breast as part of her womanhood. She was a survivor. She wanted to go topless at the beach like most Spanish women, so she did. She lived. And that’s what matters. Not what I think or how I react to a missing breast. In her I saw both strength and vulnerability. I saw no fear.

Shocking figures

Breast cancer is the most common cancer that strikes women worldwide. Men can be diagnosed with breast cancer too, but have a much smaller risk. There are over 2 million new cases in 2018 . About one in eight European women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. The same goes for American women. Currently, in the United States alone there are more than 3 million women living with breast cancer. Despite an increase of the survival rate, each year too many women lose their lives to breast cancer. This year alone about 40.000 American women are expected to die.

These are shocking figures. What can we do to prevent breast cancer?

Healthy lifestyle choices

We know it’s vital to our health that we exercise enough, especially those of us who sit at their office desks the whole day, often too tired to go to the gym or run or bike a few rounds outside once they come home from work. So it’s no surprise that being physically active is a factor that reduces the risk of developing breast cancer (or any other cancer). Every website that deals with cancer mentions this.

Healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and legumes and limiting meat, alcoholic drinks and cigarettes as much as possible, as well as a healthy weight contribute to decrease the chance of developing breast cancer (or any other cancer).

Still, healthy lifestyle choices are not crucial to reduce the risk. You can still make healthy choices and develop cancer in your body. I knew a girl who was a brilliant student and a real sports babe, physically active, running marathons, even the one in New York. She was confident, kind and relaxed. A happy young woman who was loved by many. When I and the other students were drinking beer endlessly, we always ordered a sparkling mineral water for her as she wanted to be fit the next morning. She didn’t mind drinking mineral water the whole evening. She didn’t need alcohol to party. I remember truly admiring her discipline and strength. Years later after I lost contact with her I heard through one of her friends she was severely ill. She had cancer and eventually died. She was only in her thirties. I was devastated when I heard she wasn’t alive anymore. The healthiest sports babe I knew! How was it possible? I guess, we’ll never know.

Innocence

A couple of months ago I read a Dutch news article about an oncologist who linked modest alcohol use to breast cancer: having one daily alcoholic drink already increases the risk of developing breast cancer. I was astonished, I didn’t know this. I always thought it’s rather innocent to drink a glass of wine with dinner. How does it work? Breast cancer is a hormone sensitive disease. A higher level of oestrogen in the body is a significant risk and alcohol is one of the factors that raises the level of oestrogen in the blood which causes an increase of cell division in the breasts. When cell division goes wrong and becomes uncontrollable it becomes a source of cancer. Therefore the risk of alcohol in developing breast cancer increases when women have regular alcoholic drinks. Not many women are aware of this.

Wellness of mind 

It’s important to have new information available about how to prevent breast cancer and to stay healthy. I certainly don’t want to trivialise the effects of alcohol (it already happens too much in our society where drinking alcohol is the norm), but still I think we are worse of when fear creeps in. I don’t say I ignore this worthwhile information based on valid research, but I feel we become too scared by these messages and too obsessed by healthy living and by controlling our lives. It creates fear which is our worst enemy. Fear of sickness, fear of death. No oncologist is talking about anxiety in our lives as one of the risks of developing (breast) cancer. No words about wellness of mind while our thoughts are essential for our mental and physical health as well. I hope more will be written about this aspect, and not only by alternative doctors, for it will give a more complete picture. Not only body, but mind as well. Of course evidence is hard, but we can’t ignore wellness of mind when it comes to our physical health. Yoga, for example, combines being physically active with a calm mind. Practising yoga and making this a habit is therefore a wise choice in taking care of yourself.

Bad luck

Once I had a conversation with my mother-in-law, who’s a naturopath, about my dad who I lost to leukemia almost 19 years ago. She asked me if my dad had experienced much stress in his life. I remember I answered that his life had known challenges yes, but that I had never seen him severely suffer from stress. He was a tough one, my dad. Of course it didn’t mean that he didn’t suffer from stressful experiences. Stress can cause illness yes, but I think people get cancer too, because they have bad luck. It may sound simple, in fact we all have a chance of developing cancer each day when one body cell decides to split in an uncontrollable manner.

We can do our best to minimise the risk of (breast) cancer by making healthy choices, especially with the knowledge we have today and it’s important we do so. However, it’s impossible to control everything in life. We can control much of it, but certainly not all of it is in our hands and that’s exactly what life is all about. When we frantically hold on to preventing all kinds of risks in our lives, we are driven by constant fear. And it could very well be possible that experiencing constant fear and stress in our lives is way worse a risk than having that glass of wine. So don’t worry, be healthy.

Heroines

The topless woman on the beach with one breast survived her illness. This amazon warrior woman has been close to death, perhaps even looked death in the eye. Her ordeal has made her fearless of judgements. And I praise her for that. Life is too short anyway. I honour the women who have to let go in order to live, the women who survived and the women who lost their lives to breast cancer.

I honour them, the heroines of this world.

 

Con Amor,

Eva

 

 

pablo-heimplatz-257570-unsplash
Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

 

No Butts about it: How to Stop Trashing the Beaches?

The Power of the Committed Few.

I only have to watch the underwater world through my snorkeling-mask to witness there’s so much life just a few steps away from the beach we hardly know of. I see a school of tens of little fish swim by and being moved by the waves they find refuge in the small openings of the under water rocks. Other fish dare to be curious and come close to nibble at my feet. A brownish fish that looks like a lizard swims closely to the sandy sea bottom where he’s almost invisible to the human eye. Animal life just within a distance of only a few meters from my beach towel. I can’t imagine a smoker aware of this life so close by would put his cigarette out right here and leave it behind in the sand.

Yes, another nasty and major polluter of today’s beaches is cigarette waste and it’s spoiling the beaches just as badly as plastic. Most cigarette filters are actually made of a form of plastic, called cellulose acetate which takes 18 months to 10 years to degrade.

I often try to understand why people do what they do, but this particular behavior of leaving behind their cigarette ends on beaches I cannot grasp, unless people are indifferent to their environment. Or is it unawareness? Unhappiness? Or maybe even contempt?

It isn’t a secret anymore that smoking is bad for us, yet the deadly tobacco industry is still powerful when we look at these shocking figures: worldwide, approximately 10 million cigarettes are purchased a minute, 15 billion are sold each day, and upwards of five trillion are produced and used on an annual basis. If we look at today’s beaches, we see a shockingly large part of its waste dumped in the sand.

Besides consisting of plastic, cigarette butts contain an alarming amount of toxic substances, such as nicotine, arsenic and lead that is poisonous to the inhabitants and living organisms of the sea,

As deadly as smoking is to us, its waste is at least as deadly to marine life. The beach shouldn’t be a huge ashtray which is emptied by the waves.

In today’s world this other major plastic polluter, the straw, is treated like a “persona non grata”. The thing has been damned, not welcomed, in some countries it will be banned, as we notice the warning attention it gets from the media and our earth-caring friends. So watch out! Drinking our frozen margarita’s through plastic straws will get us some unpopular looks this summer and all the summers here after. It’s un-cool. And so is using beaches as ashtrays.

As I have witnessed myself that plastic is polluting beautiful beaches I have begun to see the importance of changing my behavior when it comes to plastic consumption. Many initiatives and foundations strive to raise awareness about our plastic consumption and to start making the urgent change. In these pessimistic times it gives me hope. Especially having just read “The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Here he shows us the decisive power of the committed few.

So what can we do to turn the plastic tide?

Beach-cleanups.

If you see trash on the beach, clean it up. Everybody can do this. Would you prefer to clean beaches together, please search for beach-cleans in your community (Google knows) or organize them yourself. There are thousands of organized beach-cleanups around the globe these days.

On 15 September 2018 we will be cleaning beaches all together as it is World Clean Up Day 2018. Check this out if you want to be part of “the biggest civic action in human history”.

Commit to avoid -single-use- plastics as much as possible.

I love the many plastic-free initiatives I see all over the internet these days. The Plastic Free July movement encourages all global citizens to critically look at our plastic use.

I only just discovered this challenge, to avoid -single use- plastics during the month July, by coincidence. Despite this great initiative that I wasn’t aware of I have started to challenge myself a little while ago by looking critically and consciously to the plastic waste I produce which can be avoided by making other choices. I have experienced toilet paper and beauty products without plastic packaging are the hardest to find until now.

It isn’t always easy to change habits, is it? If we’re willing to do this – and we really should – check out The Zero Waste Collective that helps us to stick to our commitment. Daily ask ourselves if we really need this plastic item in our life and check alternatives.

If you want to know how plastic harms the oceans and animal life you should watch the moving documentary “Albatross” by Chris Jordan. It broke my heart to see how we totally lost our connection with nature. It hurts to see these magical animals suffer because of our plastic needs.

There’s no doubt about it, we can’t tolerate that beaches turn into ashtrays and oceans being trashed. We’re on a destructive journey and it’s about time to change tack.

Stop trashing by the force of law.

Health warnings in combination with pictures of rotting teeth or a dying throat on the cigarette packaging are useless to prevent people from smoking. Big chance messages and graphics of the polluting effects on our environment won’t be helpful either. I believe law enforcement would be a better solution.

Put your cigarette out on the beach and leave it here? That’s 500 dollars please! I’m sorry to see we only change our behavior when it is punished by law, but it definitely works when we feel it in our wallets. We need a beach patrol or police to maintain these kind of regulations though. The same goes for other single-use plastics. Do you leave your plastic bottle behind on the beach instead of throwing it in the recycle bin? Your wallet will notice the difference. Zero tolerance.

We need new regulations to implement a “zero tolerance” policy like this. Every civilian or organization is able to file a petition which demand the authorities to make a new law which regulates this.

Banning single-use plastics and using biodegradable materials.

Traditional single-use plastic should be banned and replaced by biodegradable plastic which is less harmful to our environment. The tobacco industry should “innovate” their product and make non-toxic biodegradable filters.

The European Union has proposed to ban single-use plastics to reduce marine litter of which France is considered to be the leading front-runner. Also the UK has announced measurements to curb plastic waste.

However, let’s not wait for our governments to fight this issue. Each of us has a responsibilty, the ability to respond.

I believe these actions help us to change our habits as long as we form a critical minority and commit to our intolerance.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead’s words resonate stronger than ever in combination with Taleb’s reasoning that:

It suffices for an intransigent minority to reach a minutely small level, say three or four percent of the total population, for the entire population to have to submit to their preferences”.

So what are we waiting for?

 

Con Amor,

Eva

 

 

A Minimalist Life – part II –

It wasn’t planned yet, but it’s time now to say goodbye to our “Silver Shadow”, our grey van.

After some expensive repairs last year, she needs one again and therefore failed the ITV (the test vehicles need to undergo in Spain every year or 6 months). Three years ago we travelled with this van fully packed with our belongings – and our adopted cat! – from Amsterdam to Ibiza. She was already old by then and we were only supposed to drive 100 km/h across the French and Spanish motorways and certainly not push the limits. That would be too much for her. In the French mountains she almost didn’t make it.

FINAL DESTINATION 

As a contracter’s vehicle this van has carried a lot of weight for quite some years already and during all sorts of weather conditions: from heavy rain to snow storms. On Ibiza she wasn’t spared either. Since two years we have decided to drive this van merely consciously. That means as less as possible as we believe the oil industry is harmful for people and planet and to save money as well. Only for work or if biking is too much we decided to take her. Further we wanted to spare the “Silver Shadow.” Four months ago was her latest expensive repair of almost 900 euros. Now once again it will cost probably around 600 euros or more to repair her. This means we decided the moment has arrived we need to say goodbye to our beloved van “Silver Shadow”.  She has served us wonderfully as second-hand van for eight years. “Silver Shadow” brought us to Paris and the South of France before. Her final destination will be Granada. A friend will use her as storage/sleeping place in Granada where he just founded an ecological centre (a new “Casita Verde”).

la foto

CARLESS

What will it mean for us to be without car? I hardly drove in it as I found the van too big to park anyway. It made me nervous when I had to park and there wasn’t much space and people in cars were waiting for me, I’m not good at this 😉 . It would mean we couldn’t go to (dinner) parties with friends who live in the North of the island that easy, at least not without staying the night after a long bike ride and late nocturnal hours. What else? Perhaps it could have consequences for my man’s projects? He’s already quite selective what to accept so probably that will work out fine. We might become more isolated as we constantly need to travel by bike?  Uhhmmm yes.. And if family or friends visit us, they need to take a cab from the airport. Groceries we already do by bike. Besides my office is at home, so nothing to worry about. Yes it would become a bit of a challenge to live without a car, but certainly not unthinkable. Further it perfectly fits in our minimalist lifestyle. We just try and see how it goes, why not? For sure, we have faith we can do this on Ibiza and even without a lot of hassle. It’s all about priorities.. Yes, we are ready for the challenge to be carless!

KEY

A few days later in the evening my man came home from his project (making a sustainable tiny house on wheels or eco-wagon as he calls it) with a key in his hand.

It’s the key of…

… a litte car!

It’s old, but it drives. Our friend insisted we should take it; he lent it to us. Such a surprise. Last week we drove to a friend’s dinner party in the North we probably could not have gone to by bike. It’s tempting to take the car, it’s easy yes, but we keep our goal in mind. It won’t change much.

We just keep on biking and use this car very consciously!

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Don’t be afraid to make your life simple(r).

Con Amor,

Eva

 

A Minimalist Life – part I –

My life is simple, I’m not afraid to confess that.

In this life where things are complex -the world is far from simple- how can we lead a “simple life”?

ALL YOU NEED IS LESS 

It all began three years ago when my love and I moved to the Spanish island, Ibiza. We wanted to live our lives more slowly and free under the Mediterranean sun. The long Dutch winter months we started to detest and going abroad, where the sun wasn’t hiding under layers of thick, grey clouds for many months of the year, had been on our minds for several years already. We loved to live our lives in Amsterdam and it certainly was a beautiful and abundant life, but we felt it was time for some change. A sabbatical year ended and now after three years we still feel very much committed to stay on Ibiza. Our lives have become simpler here on the white island as we experience we need less than before. We have a roof over our heads, a little beach-studio which we rent from an Ibizian family. It has the tiniest kitchen – in a closet! – and no bedrooms, but enough space for us. Actually, the terrace with a dream-view at sea is the reason why we fell in love with this place.

We work and earn way less, but meanwhile we experience more freedom, for example to do things we love: to be outside, bike in nature, to write poetry and start that novel, to become an eco-builder and start building a tiny house. We don’t need to work and earn money for buying the stuff we think we need. Besides, we are together without kids. I guess that makes the difference, although I have seen couples with kids leading a minimalist life on Ibiza too.

LESS STUFF, MORE TIME AND CONSCIOUS CHOICES 

I’m honest when I say that I feel happy without having many things. I don’t need them to be happy. I’ve never been a material girl anyway, that has made it probably easier too. I still have my old iPhone, never replaced it, and yes, I enjoy having a new laptop (granted by my employer :). It gives me possibilities, like doing one of the things I love most (to read & write). I think I have become more selective in what I buy and keep. You have to declutter and make choices what to bring or not when you move house or in our case emigrate to another country. I found that both hard and relieving. Especially the boxes with books I had to give away was hard and something not to dwell on for too long. Anyhow, I find very much comfort in the thought that somebody else is enjoying them now!

That I call my life simple is not only about having less things, it’s also about having more time by having more control over my time. Before we needed to earn money to be able to pay the mortgage of our house and bills and to save some part as well. Therefore we had to work more hours without enough time for other important things in life. Furthermore a simple life for me means lifestyle choices and making them more consciously, like buying local food, use the bike instead of the car (our van) and by doing this supporting the miserable oil-industry as less as possible, say goodbye to television and learn more about philosophy and spirituality and other subjects that enrich my soul, add happiness and meaning in my life.

MATERIAL WORLD

Last weekend we watched the documentary “MINIMALISM” http://minimalismfilm.com on our laptop at home. Yes, we can call ourselves minimalists.. I recognized much of it (never made the 6-figure salary before having started my minimalist life though 😉 ). Yet the documentary was a bit of disappointing, didn’t hear anything new and the price (15 US dollars) to watch it was quite overrated too, but I do believe this documentary has an essential message of truth. It says we don’t need all the things we consume in order to lead happy lives. We don’t need so much stuff in our lives and to believe owning so many things makes us happy is a misconception. We live in a material world where we over-consume and on top of that the media are feeding that material desire in us big time. Don’t we need that new dress, trendy bag or beautiful sofa in our lives to feel (more) happy? Didn’t we work so damn hard for this and don’t you think we earn it? Of course we do! And we got to have it, the sooner the better. The famous scene where you see hundreds of people waiting in line to be able to buy the newest iPhone and running across the store like maniacs to get one is quite sad and embarrasing, but shows the greed in us which, I believe, characterizes modern life.

THE POWER OF CHOICE  

However, we have a choice. Always. We can choose ourselves to do it differently and if you want to, step by step. We can choose to become more aware of the consequences of buying certain things, like, for example, clothes which are made under unworthy circumstances. The fashion-industry is huge, especially fast fashion, and we all need something to wear, don’t we? So supporting fair trade and ethical clothing is already an important step. I have bought just a few new clothes the past three years. It absolutely doesn’t mean that I don’t care about clothes anymore, but what I have bought most I bought second-hand at a market here on the island so these clothes get a second life. In summer you hardly need any clothes anyway as the sun don’t let you wear that much; having less clothes works absolutely fine here. On top of that, I work from home and nobody sees what I’m wearing so most of the time this results in wearing a few favourite pieces over and over again. I suppose being “nonchalantly” dressed in a modern office in Amsterdam like I am here on Ibiza would be less simple and possibly not appreciated.

Yes, I believe we can choose to experience more freedom and happiness in our lives by making our lives simple(r). It works for me and I’m still learning.

Don’t be afraid to make your life simple(r)!

Stay tuned for “A Minimalist Life – Part II -”!!

Con Amor,

Eva

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