Just a few fields away.

The neighbour on his search for wild asparagus a day ago, he also found you.

Just a few fields away from our house, you were there all along.

It feels like a punch in the gut to see this dead cat body, cold, lying in full sunshine.

Sweet soul — yes, animals have souls too — we will get you home. 

To our garden, between the flowers and plants.

I feel tears in my stomach.

That’s where deep sadness always goes.

I forgot, it burns and leaves empty.

Animals are our friends.

Like us, they feel, they guard, they comfort.

Animals communicate,

Even make up names for the people they live with (chickens…yes, it’s true).

We can do so much better in acknowledging animals for who they are, and stop killing them for profit and food.

This blind spot is cutting deep.

We will pay the price.

We will pay the price.

Planet and people, both will pay with our health.

Let’s stop with our human stupidities, with our belief in everlasting growth.

We can do so much better.

This is health:

H umans

E cosystems

A nimals

L iving

T ogether

H armoniously.

I connect the death of our beloved pet to how we treat animals in the ‘inhumane’ industry.

I feel we have to make the connection of how we love our cats and dogs, and still give our support to factory farmed meat.

My heart cries for the lifeless animal body I found today, just a few fields away.

But it also cries for all the others.

My sweet cat soul, you are connected to all the others.

To me you are. 

Rest in peace, sweet animal. 

I continue to hope that more and more people will become aware of what an animal really is and what happens to animals in terms of injustice, violence, manipulation, pure denial and humiliation. And people can become aware of this when they open up their inner self, when they look with the eyes of their soul. 

That people start to see in a new way, that they become aware of the intrinsic value of an animal, will not be the result of rational arguments, of studies and reports, discussions and debates. However necessary and valuable these may be, they are not enough.

What changes people, not only in this respect, not only when it comes to animals, changes them internally, for the better — what makes people more humane, more social, it is always a moment, a totally unexpected moment of emotion, profound emotion. Just think about how something, someone touched you to the depths of your soul.

Moments of emotion, profound emotion, they can occur anywhere. You will lose yourself, lose and find yourself in the eyes, the wise eyes of a horse, a donkey. Or you look like that man in his car, in a traffic jam, next to a cattle truck full of animals, in the eyes of a pig. Or rather, it was only one eye. One eye with one major question: Why, why? He could not have been hit any deeper. Everything inside him opened up, an expansion of consciousness that radically changed his life.

I continue to hope that more and more people, who are still blind in their vision, will understand what animals really are and what happens to them. Every human being is eligible — for such a moment of emotion, enlightenment, awareness. Every human being is no less than a human being.” ~ Hans Bouma, Dutch poet, vicar and animal rights activist. 

Con Amor,

Eva 

Joan Didion, the stylish writer.

I’m reading her essays, the work of Joan Didion. The well-known American writer, novelist and journalist, who passed away last month. She was 87 years old and suffered from Parkinson. I heard from her before, but never read her essays or books. Why is it that people have to die first to get noticed — by me?

The reason why my interest in this seemingly mystic, gloomy writer has grown, is the documentary The Centre Will Not Hold (2017) which I saw last week on Netflix. I watched an old lady vividly talking with her hands, like a conductor of an orchestra. Joan looked petit and skinny, wearing lipstick and huge sunglasses. Nevertheless, behind that frailty I saw a fierceness, intelligence, but also humbleness. 

Didion narrates that she went to San Francisco in search of work, convinced that writing was not important work. She began writing at age five, when her mother gave her a journal to start writing down her thoughts. The documentary was directed by her nephew and actor, Griffin Dune, who I recognised from an old Madonna movie. He took me on a journey through her life, her marriage, motherhood (she and her husband adopted a daughter, Quintana Roo), about being a writer, the places where she lived (Sacramento, New York, Malibu beach, Los Angeles). She started at Vogue Magazine by winning a writing contest, and later she wrote a variety of societal, political and personal essays for several American magazines and newspapers. On pictures she had a firm, somewhat tormented look, often with a cigarette in her hand. There was a certain coolness around her, a glamorous touch. 

In one of her essays she writes about her nervous breakdown in the summer of 1968. She felt detached from her environment, fragmented. Amidst her struggle she was the writer and journalist, loved by many, having parties with stars as Warren Beatty, Roman Polanski, Janis Joplin and lots of other creatives and artists. Juicy detail about Harrison Ford, who worked as a carpenter for Didion and her husband.

Her essay on hippydom ‘Slouching towards Bethlehem’ of the late sixties in America reveals another picture. Not much flower power here, but cultural chaos, sexual abuse, disintegration, parents who were more involved with taking trips on LSD than taking care of their kids. In the reportage she even writes about a mother who gave her baby the popular drug. Joan showed us a world of social breakdown in America. At moments uncomfortable to read. The Summer of Love took place in 1967 in Haight-Ashbury, a neighbourhood in San Francisco. That place was the centre of young people who were opposing the establishment and war in Vietnam. I always had the idea the sixties were more happy and playful, but it was a facade masking forlornness, it was a time of resistance without building something new. That’s what you feel throughout her story.

It seemed Joan Didion’s life was legendary. Especially the images of her and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, who was also a writer and novelist, while they overlooked the ocean from their home. However, meanwhile they had problems in their marriage and living near the beach helped Joan to deal with them. They wrote screenplays together, such as the movie A Star is Born (1976).

But then in 2003 loss and grief entered her life when her husband suddenly died and 16 months later her daughter passed away as well. 

She wrote two autobiographical works on these tragical deaths, The Year of Magical Thinking about the loss of her husband and Blue Nights about the death of her only daughter.

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.”

At the moment I’m reading a collection of her essays translated in Dutch. Her view on the assault and rape of a young white female jogger in Central Park in 1991 and the prosecution of five black young men, reveals a disrupted city where social issues and race have a deadly impact. Within that frail woman, resided a fierceness that found its way out in her sharp observations. 

“Character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs. To free us from the expectations of others, to give back to ourselves — there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.”

7 Tips to be more Resilient, Self-Sustainable and Free People.

If the COVID-19 crisis hadn’t started one year ago, we wouldn’t have discovered how fragile our systems, such as economy, healthcare, food and livelihood, are.

Also, in my case, I wouldn’t have recognized how life on the countryside is the best what happened to me. In fact, I have become very grateful to live on the countryside. I see it as a step closer to becoming more resilient to crises.

When I read about families cramped between apartment walls in the city as we were forced by law to stay in our homes, I knew this would be a huge challenge for all these families and particularly not without danger. Not being able to go outside jeopardizes people’s (mental) health.

Many times we said to each other how lucky we were to live on el campo — the countryside — and to be able to be outside in the garden and to walk around. It always seems to be the case when a dramatic event happens, suddenly we come to realize a few things which weren’t so obvious before. We see what’s really important in life, the things that truly matter.

In that sense crises aren’t always bad. They offer new ways of thinking. New ways of being and doing.

The fact that the health of our planet is suffering, that we breathe polluted air that kills us, that wild life is dying, and that we see forests and its inhabitants devoured by ferocious flames, are no urgent reasons for our political leaders and for us to massively reconsider our choices. They haven’t been urgent reasons to make pressing regulations and to slow down for a change.

This pandemic is/was an immediate danger to humans (well, mostly to those who already have health problems, but there certainly have been exceptions too), whilst apparently climate change, the loss of biodiversity and forests aren’t. Because, we don’t see the effects in our daily lives. Not yet. But this could be — again — a new reality in the future to come.

Obviously, the corona-crisis is about human fragility. We are fragile, but so are our systems — health, food, economy, livelihood. I have come to realize that it makes sense to learn about growing our own food, to start community-gardens, or, if we can’t, to make connections with local farmers or shops which sell their products. The huge dependence on supermarkets isn’t a healthy system.

It makes sense to become self-sustainable and to build communities/networks where we can look after each other. This doesn’t mean that viruses won’t kill us, but it makes us less fragile when we need to live through even bigger crises. Yes, it makes sense to become resilient beings, to become more self-sustainable and free.

So, how do we become more resilient, self-sustainable and free people?

Move to the countryside, go completely off-grid, install solar panels, harvest rainwater, grow your own food, poop on a wooden box, make compost, and build yourself a tiny house and live a debt-free life.

Man, that sounds far too drastically, doesn’t it?

I can imagine it does, but I know it is possible. It took my partner and I some years to arrive here. Over the years we completely transformed our lives and we are now those off-grid people, living on 12 square meters. I’m not saying it’s always easy and I never long to a warm, indulging bath.

Of course not everyone likes the idea of having such a lifestyle. But for those who are interested, know you can start by taking small steps.


1. Buy from local market gardeners

We need to eat everyday, so changing the way we provide ourselves with healthy food, is an important step. See if there’s a local farm where you can get your organically grown veggies from. Or a local market where the farmer sells his products. Maybe there’s a community garden nearby or start one with neighbors and friends.

Buying in bulk, such as oats, chickpeas, beans, flour , etc., is cheaper, eco-friendly and makes us less dependent on supermarkets.


2. Live with less and buy less stuff

Things don’t make us happy. Well, maybe they do for a short moment. In Spain the shops were closed for months, so shopping wasn’t an option. I realized I didn’t really miss them, and it even felt life is more simple that way, to realize what’s essential and not.

Ask yourself before buying new stuff, “Do I really need this?”


3. Start saving at a young age

To have a financial buffer is a peace of mind and reduces the stress in times of change.
Start young and the benefits come later. I wish I’d been more aware of this when I was younger.


4. Radically cut down expenses

* See if that telephone contract can be cheaper.

* Do you and your partner really need two cars? Public transport is much more economical (and better for the planet). Or, take the bicycle to work.

* Celebrate holidays closer to home.

* Be your own restaurant and cook a nice homemade meal, have dinner parties with friends at home instead of going to a restaurant. I used to go to restaurants a lot. Now it’s only for special occasions.

*If you’re living costs (rent, mortgage) are relatively high, see if changes can be made. If not, consider to move to a more inexpensive, and smaller, house or apartment.

*Invest in that what matters (to you), such as solar panels, a piece of land, trees for wood and fruit, knowledge, such as permaculture and regenerative agriculture or whatever rocks your world.

When we lower our expenses a crisis will hit us less hard, and therefore we’re resilient financially.


5. Work remotely or do “essential work”, but most of all do that what gives you purpose

The bullshit jobs are leaving first, as we could see with this health-crisis. The “essential workers” kept their jobs. The nurses, (mental) health professionals, doctors and all those caring for vulnerable and ill people. Of course, society needs them. The same goes for market gardeners, teachers, some lawyers, some politicians (really just a few, most we don’t need) and engineers. But also the healers, the inventors, the creators, the creatives. Without them the world will be a poor place.

Basically, it all boils down to meaning. With meaningful work, where our heart is, the financial means will follow sooner or later. Honestly, I’m not there yet. I’m investing time and money in the work I believe in and it can be hard sometimes to keep the faith that it will bear fruit any time soon.


6. Find support by having healthy relationships and family and friends who want the best for you

Being connected to people who care, increases resilience. We all need a support system we can rely on and they are those people, they are our community. We can’t do it all on our own. Care about each other, and share resources or exchange goods.


7. Cultivate personal resilience

We are much stronger than we think we are. When difficult times hit us hard, for example the death of a loved one, illness, a divorce, the loss of a child, we will discover how we live through those hardships without losing ourselves if we only see ourselves as victims of the hard circumstances.

To boost resilience we can use these three, powerful strategies mentioned in this beautiful and helpful TED-talk by resilience expert Dr. Lucy Hone:

  • Acknowledge that shit happens. Human existence means also suffering. Life mostly isn’t shiny, happy pictures on Instagram.
  • Make an intentional, deliberate ongoing effort to tune in to what’s good in our world. Focus on the things we can change and accept what we can’t.
  • Always ask ourselves: “Is the way I am thinking and acting helping or harming me?”

Know it is possible to live and grieve at the same time.

I hope these tips will help you to be more resilient, self-sustainable, and free.

With many Easter Blessings,

Eva

Previously published on Elephant Journal (read more of my articles on EJ here.)

Lessons on grief after I lost my dad.

This December it will be twenty years ago since I lost my dad to leukemia. Snowflakes fell down from heaven the day we buried him. For a second the white world looked serene and pure; harmless even.

I still remember how unreal it felt and how overwhelmed and lost I was. I couldn’t speak when I tried to recite a poem on his funeral; there were only tears and raw grief. Two days later it would have been his birthday. For months I thought I saw my dad at places where he could not be. I saw him walking, but it wasn’t him. I saw life was vulnerable.

Finding my way through grief has made me a compassionate human being. I have experienced what it means to grieve, how it feels to wake up in the morning and it seems impossible to wash away the aftertaste of the nightmare I’m in. I have learned to understand grief, but it doesn’t mean that I always know how to react in the right way, if there were such a thing as a “right way”. I can be speechless when someone tells me about the loss of a beloved person. Sometimes mourning can only be answered by a silent embrace as it is too deep to fathom and too heavy to carry.

Yet, we will be able to carry a heavy loss, something we never could have imagined before. We will go through the sorrow by taking three steps forward and two steps back. We will see through the sadness the appearance of a sudden smile. We will walk through the messy battlefield of life and death, maybe not fearlessly, but more accepting than before.

Grief will lose its sharp edges until it becomes softer and a part of us, where it finds a home to stay. I feel the pain has found a home within me as it has turned into a place of comfort, warmth and gratefulness. It’s no longer a place of panic and chaos.

It has taken me twenty years to feel peaceful about my father’s death. His face appears at moments when the world around me looks shiny and without a single worry. When I cycle through the green fields, the sun shines on my back and I’m all by myself. When I’m mesmerizing while I try to write. When I’m with my mom, sister and brother, drinking glasses of wine and having conversations about who did what, where and when, and each of us has a different story to tell.

I see his smiling face.

Twenty years passed by and still so close, regardless the country’s borders I have crossed so far. I guess my dad travels with me wherever I go.

We are stronger than we think we are. We are resilient beings, capable of so many things. In uncertain times we need to remember this as it helps us to keep our sanity. We must not be afraid to ask for support when we feel there’s nobody to share our sorrow with. We must lift the taboo on grief and death. In this human existence where living a slow life is the exception, we should take our time to mourn and we shouldn’t be ashamed for taking that time. Don’t be afraid to ask your parent or friend how they’re feeling after a major loss, even after much time has passed. Yes, death is part of life, but it shouldn’t be the end of the conversation as it usually is when someone tells us these words.

In western cultures we are assumed to get over our grief quickly. The sooner we go back to normal life, the better. And nobody asks us about our loss anymore.

Death is death. The way we are dealing with something so important as death could do with more compassion and understanding, also with regard to ourselves. We can’t heal our wounds when we are rushed and without caring for ourselves. It needs time and patience and compassion. This we should wish each other and ourselves. It’s nothing to be ashamed for. Of course, the way how we’re dealing with death is personal and also depends on our traditions and cultures, but no one will be saved from death and therefore it’s deeply universal. Similar to death, does compassion go beyond borders, cultures and traditions.

In times of mourning it’s more important than ever to be open about grief and to care for each other with compassion. It makes us, as human beings, more complete and more beautiful. In a world where countries are burning and we don’t seem to understand how to save them from destruction, we shouldn’t forget this.

Earlier published on Elephant Journal:

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2019/10/lessons-on-grief-after-i-lost-my-dad-eva-de-vor/

Show my article some support by giving it a heart, comment and/or share on the Elephant Journal article page – if you feel inspired to – Thank you! ❤️

Con Amor,

Eva

Image by Laura Makabresku

It’s So Unfair.

Why is it that some of us have so much on their plates? Not in the sense of work or activities. No, I mean too much as in loss, pain and grief.

fairness doesn’t seem to belong here
a heart doesn’t beat unchanged
lungs don’t breathe air parallelly
a body doesn’t survive equally
body cells don’t divide unvaryingly
a baby crib’s country doesn’t count evenly
no, fairness doesn’t seem to belong here
sometimes the spirits have other plans
and care for us differently in ways
we cannot comprehend.

Too much

Why is it that some of us have so much on their plates? Not in the sense of work or activities. No, I mean too much as in loss, pain and grief.

Every now and then this question grabs me and words as “it’s so unfair” always end up rolling off my tongue. Last Thursday morning I said these words again. I opened my mailbox and I scrolled down the bullshit information (most of it). Since three months or so I receive a daily newsletter of a Dutch newspaper which is kind of strange as I’ve never subscribed to it. Anyway, I don’t always take a further look, but that morning I did. My eyes stopped when I read the headline and I decided to open the article. I was able to read it as it wasn’t hidden behind a paid wall. Yes, it was about her. His sister he was so proud and fond of.

Paulien

I read that she died at the age of 37, Paulien van Deutekom, the former Dutch world champion all round speed skating. She left behind a 1-year-old little daughter and husband, her family and friends after she suffered from cancer.

For quite some years I lived together with her brother in a student home in Rotterdam. I remember he said how disciplined she was, always moving, training, cycling. Living a healthy life. Working hard. On top of that she had such a sweet heart. I met her a couple of times in our student home years ago. Her brother was so proud of her. Unfortunately over the years I lost contact with him, but I was able to send him a message which he replied the other day. What can you say to someone who experiences such a painful loss? I mentioned it’s so unfair to lose her at such a young age, just like I felt it. This unfairness lingers in my head.

We woke up

I talked with my partner about it and he always seems to look at death differently than I do. More from a distance. I’m sucked into it and almost can feel the pain of those who experience a heavy loss. I feel sadness when I hear news like that. I imagine the broken hearts. But I also feel it hits me like somebody pinches me and I tell myself “thank God I’m alive”. Dorus and I, we woke up this morning. My mother woke up this morning. My sister. My brother. Dorus’s dad in New Zealand. His brothers and sisters. Their partners woke up. Our friends. We all woke up this morning. Nobody is ill.

Intense life

People like Paulien, they lived their life as all which they experienced had to be squeezed in a short time. Therefore it was an intense life. Maybe to another person it would held a complete lifetime. They truly lived. In their short, but lives well lived my partner sees a certain consolation. Yes, it’s a beautiful thought, yet for a parent or brother we can’t imagine how it must be to live with this cruel reality.

50th birthday

My sister turned 50 last Friday. I wasn’t there, but in thought I was and automatically I went back to March 2015 when a doctor said she possibly had metastatic cancer. I took the first plane to be with her and my family. In that time we were torn between hope and fear. I will never forget how thankful I was my sister wasn’t severely ill, but would be able to become healthy again. In the end she recovered from her illness. My old roommate’s sister didn’t.

Cherish what you have

It’s a fact, we can’t control everything in life. However, as the words which a friend wrote to me say: what we do control is how we cherish what we have and to make the right decisions for ourselves, with love and without regrets. It’s true. It’s powerful.

Con Amor,

Eva

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