I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying writing these episodes in which we’re using little one word mantras to discuss a topic that will inspire and motivate us. Every time I sit down to write a post and episode I get pulled in a million directions, noticing how a simple word can have such a powerful and strong meaning depending on what angle the spotlight hits it. One of these little words that has a powerful meaning for me is “change”. Change can be seen from so many perspectives. From the desire and strength we have when creating changes in our lives (whether that’s quitting smoking, quitting a toxic relationship, changing the way we eat, incorporating more movement throughout the day, etc.), to looking back with insightful eyes at the things we’ve changed and the people we’ve become.
We can look at change from the perspective of what it will take to create it in the world we live in. We can see it happening in children with growth spurts in just weeks. We can see it through the eyes of that “always 20 year old on the inside” staring into the mirror through wrinkled eyes that mark the passing of time. We can see it by looking at the wonderful advances in technology, in societal points of view on social justice issues, and also the long journey ahead to change things even more, for the better.
We can see change from so many view points, but one thing is for sure, being witness to the many changes our readers and listeners have gone through, the longer we’re here observing it, the more fun it gets to think and talk about.
Half empty or half full?
We’ve heard so much about the glass half empty version of change. The changes that haven’t been made by a loved one, the changes in legislation that still haven’t occurred and are deeply needed. The idea we have that everything needs to change in the world today and that we feel powerless to make it happen. Not to mention that very damaging old belief we’ve all heard uttered by someone in our lifetime: “people don’t change”.
Today we’re looking at the other side of this equation, at that backstage area that seems messy but where all the work is being done, even if it isn’t polished, perfect and tucked away just yet. I’m a huge advocate for change, not only because it’s needed in the world today, not only in politics, the law and society as a whole, but in the internal world of people as well, in order to feel happier and more empowered. I’m an advocate for change not just because of my inherent Pollyanna nature, but because I’ve seen such magical and incredible changes in the people I love, in our students, in the people who read this blog or listen to our podcast, in the city we live in, in the changes we’re trying to make for animals, in the battles we’ve won for minorities (even if many still need to be won), and of course, also in myself.
Change is such a wonderful thing to experience, and it’s made even sweeter by the passing of time, like that perfect cup of coffee served alongside that perfect piece of carrot cake. The older I get, the further I feel I can look back and see how far we’ve come. It’s cool to see which changes stuck and which started fading away. It’s great to find out why some continued and became rooted and why some didn’t.
Change has so much to do with the topics we talk about at the Brownble podcast and in this blog. Since we started this little adventure I’ve witnessed the incredible changes we’ve created in the life of animals with a simple shift in our plate. I’ve seen the shelf that carried the one and only brand of soy milk at my local supermarket dedicate an entire section of the store to shelves and shelves of plant milks, and other vegan goodies. I’ve seen vegan sausages move from the hippy dippy health food stores of the past, to hold a loud and proud space right next to the meat-based ones. I’ve seen impossible burgers run out in a store in the first 20 minutes before fourth of July weekend, and I’ve seen the one or two vegan restaurants we had in Madrid turn into over 37 at the time I’m writing this, not to mention the almost non-existent vegan options in menus in traditional restaurants growing to options almost anywhere.
My views and experience as a vegan has also changed through the years, helping me be kinder to myself, helping me disidentify with very rigid and dogmatic perspectives about the diet, realizing it ultimately has nothing to do with rigidity (more on that when we talk about labels in this series).
I’ve also seen, with much kinder eyes than in my younger years, how my body has changed with the passing of time, I’ve seen the (many!) first grey hairs appear and new lines streaking across my eyes remembering the laughter that put them there.
I’ve seen how struggles with food and body image can shift, a little every day, until you find yourself noticing who you really are and why this and social expectations of what bodies should look like can be separated. You can start to observe the two and notice that they don’t need to come together. Old beliefs can start to shift, until you find yourself proud of that body of yours, even when we still have aspects of ourselves we like less than others.
I’ve seen even more changes happen internally for myself, all of which came from looking inside with a flashlight in hand like a curious kid under the covers who reads past bedtime. I noticed that in order to make changes in myself, in my anxiety, in my relationship to stress and overworrying, in my messy relationship with food, I had to push the pause button and dig inwards, not outward for a new fix that would only act as a distraction (dieting and going on rigid exercise programs, over preparing and going over problems in my head constantly, spring to mind).
I’ve seen how change takes time. How anyone can do it, and how presence has made me appreciate even the slightest of changes in others and praise them for it.
I’ve seen change in more spaces opening up for women, for people telling their stories of trauma, for people in larger bodies, people of color, people of all sexual orientations, of all genders or those who don’t want to be attached to any gender, people with disabilities, people who unlike me are not in a position of privilege. I’ve seen change in so many people’s mindset about not having control over the world around us and instead getting inspired and empowered to do what they can, realizing that we indeed can do so much on the individual level.
I’ve seen how one little change can create another, then another.
The beauty and misconceptions about change
As you know we discuss so many things here at Brownble, from delicious food and recipes, to personal stories, to support on your journey to eat lots of plants or to being vegan. To letting go of external food rules, to improving your thoughts and words when you look at yourself in the mirror. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for change. Through the years I’ve loved getting all your amazing letters and emails, in which you tell me about your struggles, your missteps, and what you perceived as giving up, which can’t possibly be giving up when you’re emailing me about giving it another chance. All of it, the stumbles, the standing back up again, the falls after the victories before another little victory comes along, all of it, is part of making changes.
One of the things that students of our course The Roadmap were probably doing some serious eye rolling to, were the constant mentions of how normal it is to stumble. How it’s only the end of the road when you decide not to get back up again. How taking a break when you need it is sometimes part of the process. How creating your own version of the changes that work for you is acting in accordance to the respect we should all have for ourselves. I even told you of all those times I’ve eaten something that wasn’t vegan, and here I’ve told you of all the times I’ve had a bad body image day, or the temptation to go back to the old dieting and restricting ways that were a part of my life for so long, or the temptation to put weight loss back on that front burner since it was such an easy distraction for me in the past. It’s all part of the process. It’s a huge misconception that once you’re on that journey towards change, that you don’t also miss what was in its place before. That you don’t often have doubts about whether it would be easier to leave things as they were before. That you don’t have a desire to have some of that again. We’re not robots that push a reset button and now all we want to change is here, and all that came before was forgotten. We can miss old ways, we can have doubts, we can feel unmotivated some days and totally inspired the next. The beauty of change is we can sometimes only see it when enough time has passed, and since I’m always inspiring you to create changes, today I wanted to share these little insights and invite you to change the word change, to redefine it and use it as our little mantra for today.
What if change wasn’t this word that immediately made us think of being on or off the wagon, successful or unsuccessful. What if we saw ourselves as part of the much bigger change that is needed in this world, how with even small shifts we can contribute to the pot, like that lovely image of the cartoon rat “Ratatouille” adding herbs and pieces of garlic and leek to an already bubbling pot. What if we took things one step at a time, and congratulated ourselves along the way, noticing how every little bit helps and how change can add up like interest. We can change what we can work with today and when that feels comfortable we can add another little change, knowing there are so many others like us adding flavor to the pot and helping out. This is how I see veganism now, it’s how I also see the changes I’ve gone through, the changes that come with getting older, the changes in mindset I’ve had. They’ve all been added on slowly, a little brick over the previous one, and after a few days or weeks or months have gone by you take a step back and have a cozy little brick home. This is why I chose change as the topic for today’s little word series, so you could reframe it and not see it as a daunting before and after (as in “tomorrow” I’m committing to change “X”), but instead see it as the constant journey of a person, a little bit at a time, so that “forward” doesn’t seem so scary and it can start right now, and “backward” doesn’t feel like the end but just a normal part of the process.
I would have never thought in a million years I’d be where I am today. I’d never have believed someone if they’d told me the massive changes that would take place in my life, and yet, here I am, one little change fitting seamlessly into another, making the rear view sweet and also bittersweet, and the front one hopeful. So here’s to change and using its new definition as our little mantra for this week.
I want to give you a little homework. I want you to take a look at something you’re on a journey to changing, shine that bookish flashlight on it and separate it into moments. Look at the missteps and ask yourself “what can I learn from this, or what did I learn from it when it happened”, then look at the positive shifts, the tinier the better, start writing those down in the form of a list. See those little bits of interest add up, take an honest look and I’m sure, you’ll be surprised at just how far you’ve come. Change is not only possible but it’s happening all day, every day, all around us and within us, and that’s something worth celebrating. I truly think being kinder to ourselves doesn’t bring about laziness or passivity, it usually brings about actual change that isn’t overwhelming. Change that stands the test of time and that actually becomes a part of your life moving forward. After you’re finished with your list, ask yourself, what could be another little step for me to try to experiment with today, find one little step towards that change for yourself, and one that could also be both kind to yourself and to the world we live in, which is in deep need of some TLC, then take that first little step with both patience and excitement.