My Resolutions for 2017
Were I’ve Been, Were I’m going, and My Thoughts on the Future of Our Country
Last year I made a resolution to get closer to the earth to attempt decolonial living, which I defined in my last blog post. I want to talk a little about how that went, what changes I made and the impact it has had on me and my family. I also want to talk about what my resolution is for this year. And despite our current political climate full of uncertainty and fear, how much hope I have for the future.
I made clear and specific goals in my attempt to decolonize my living including composting, eating clean, cutting waste and removing toxins from my life. So how did that go? Well there was a lot of trial and error but ultimately lots of forward movement and progress.
Composting did not quite go well, we just could not find a rhythm and routine for how to stay on track with putting our household collection of compost materials into the outside compost, and then making sure we stir that and cultivate it correctly. I don’t consider this a failure, rather I feel it’s about finding a way to do it that best works for us, and we just haven’t found that yet, so when I can we will try again.
But how these goals really ended up working out was more on a basic level, it was more about reconnecting to my kitchen. There was a time when I had an aversion to the space of the kitchen because I saw it as a space of domestication. I felt to be in the kitchen meant I was buying into some stereotypical idea of what it meant to be a women, and especially the expectations on a wife. What I came to discover in myself, was that what was underlying this aversion was actually the lack of value I felt placed on the role women play in the home. Cooking, cleaning and taking care of children is seen as part of women’s innate nature therefore not accorded recognition and value. Especially because work outside the home has a monetary value and work in the home does not it becomes very easy for society to take house work for granted. What woman wants to be devalued?
Nonetheless, I found myself a part-time stay at home mom, while working outside the home the other part of the time. What I realized in all of this was the importance of the kitchen, that the kitchen is a space of nourishment and healing. And in fact, it is a very feminine space of which I needed to embrace and validate. Basically, I realized I need to feed my kids, so I better reconcile with my kitchen. I used to really just have the bare minimum in my kitchen, a fridge, a stove, some food we might need. I had no real consciousness in my kitchen, I often time did not even know what we had in the cupboards or in the fridge, we ate out a lot, and wasted food a lot. And so in my journey toward decolonial living I embraced the space of the kitchen and sought a more positive and loving relationship to it.
So that started with a kitchen detox, and by that I don’t just mean getting rid of things with chemicals, although that is one part of it, but rather I mean getting rid of things that did not serve me and my life style. I wanted my kitchen to fit me, the way I work in the kitchen, organize it in a way that would work with my lifestyle and what I wanted for my future. This did not happen overnight, it was a gradual process. Several periods of purging stuff I didn’t need or use, and then a lot trial and error to figure out how I worked efficiently in the kitchen. And of course because I ultimately had an eye on removing chemical and environmental toxins from my kitchen I looked to the ways I could do that on a practical level.
The first and biggest step I made was to get rid of my microwave. I will not go too much into depth here about why the microwave is toxic, but I will refer you to these articles for info on this. My overall philosophy was to remove toxins were I could to offset the toxins from things we cannot control. So I started with the microwave, which was not an easy move to make because my husband and I were so dependent on it. I especially had to do some convincing to get my husband on board with this, so I sent him articles, and gave him 30 days to prepare. One weekend when he was gone, I took out the microwave and replaced it with a fancy toaster oven. When he returned he was reluctant to accept it, but after almost a year without a microwave I can honestly say I don’t miss it. As for my husband it took some adjusting to the timing of reheating things, meaning it takes longer to warm things up on the stove on in the oven, but he really hasn’t complained.
The next big step I made was to replace my non-stick pots and pans with stainless steel ones. I knew this was going to be a big investment, so I did research and found a set that fit my budget and was good quality. This shift has been amazing! Both my husband and I love these pans, cook well, and no worries of toxins leaching into our food. For more info on toxins I pots and pans see these articles.
The other thing I purged was all the random food storage containers I had, some without tops, some without bottoms. I replaced these with a set of plastic food storage containers to start from scratch and keep track of all tops and bottoms and keep them more organized. In addition I did buy a set of Pyrex glass food containers, and use them mostly to store food in the refrigerator. I do still have the plastic ones to use for taking food on the go, although I am moving away from plastic where I can. To that end I do try to use stainless steel food containers as much as possible, I have two LunchBots bento boxes. Eventually I would like to get more of these, but they are expensive, and don’t come in as many versatile sizes as the plastic ones. But again, it’s all a work in progress and making these changes work with my lifestyle.
The latest thing I did was to get rid of most of the plastic kids plates, cups and utensils and replace them with stainless steel. This was really about getting rid of clutter and trying to only have a few things so dishes don’t pile up, and move away from plastic, (article about toxins in plastic). My logic here is the less plates you have the less you have to wash, the easier it is to keep up with. We’ll see how that works out because keeping up with my dishes is definitely something I have to work on.
Overall, these changes I have made have been baby steps toward life with less waste, less toxins, and more space. I feel very happy with the changes I have made and feel I made somewhat of a contribution to saving our earth, and our health, but of course there is always more work to do. So this is just the beginning.
Which brings me to this year. Aside from these changes in my kitchen and in my lifestyle I have also been on a journey of personal growth. I have been doing a lot of self-reflection, working with wellness coaches to work on my mental, physical, and emotional health. I will share more about this and my health struggles in another blog. For now I will say this work has put me in a better place personally than I have ever been before. This work has inspired and motivated me to have a renewed spirit as I move forward in my life. I embrace positivity in a way I did not and could not before.
That being said, my theme for this year is renewal and rebirth. This is funny because I thought about this and then realized that my name, Renee, actually means rebirth, so I guess it’s fitting that I am feeling this sense of renewed momentum. Santos my younger son will be 2 years old in a few months, and I feel like a haze has lifted after almost 5 years straight of being pregnant or breastfeeding. He is weaning and once that is done, I will move him into his brother Cruz’ room, and Tommy and I can finally have our bedroom to ourselves again, maybe. We are all moving into a new phase in our lives as a family, and I’m sure that will bring it’s own challenges. Though I feel like never before I can handle whatever comes our way.
I have renewed energy to complete and work toward some goals I have set for myself. For the last few years I feel I made decisions by what’s best for my kids, which is good, but often times that came at the expense of my own personal progress. I know that’s just what it had to be for the time when they were very young, but now as they are getting a little older, I feel I can focus a little more on myself again. I feel like I can be myself again, albeit a new version which means balancing motherhood, with marriage, career, and self-care and self-love. My first step in this process is to finish this dissertation, so that I can move forward in my career, and start on new projects I have in mind. I’ve also been working on purging stuff from our whole house, getting rid of what doesn’t fit in our house, and what just doesn’t serve our life style. I am reorganizing, rearranging, redecorating and overall trying to bring a renewed energy into our home. I have realized that as I become happier with myself I want that to extend that out into my home to reach my loved ones. I’m clearing my head, and clearing my space. I am very excited about what is to come.
And yet all of this positivity I’ve been feeling, this renewed sense of self, comes at a time when there is such uncertainty in the rest of the world. We are definitely in a turning point in history, in what direction that goes we don’t know, and yet I remain hopeful. Or at least I go back and forth on how I feel about what’s been going on.
I read article after article about what this man is doing, what decisions he is making that are directly effecting people, and that will affect us all in the long run. It brings me a lot of anxiety and fear that sometimes it is overwhelming. So what do I do, what do I think?
First of all I rest knowing that really, none of this is new. Racism, sexism and other structural forms of oppression have always existed. The trump like views about the world are in fact institutionalized in the very foundation of our country. And his followers have been rumbling just beneath the surface for years, just waiting for an opportunity to feel permitted to overtly spread their hate. And so they got it. But again, this is not new. People of color have dealt with this kind of hate for centuries, and somehow we have survived, and we will again.
Then there are moments when I feel helpless, like there is nothing I can do to change what’s happening. And then I remember that social justice is in fact my career. I am a college professor teaching classes grounded in social justice. I promote critical consciousness, always advocating activism in my classes. I discuss institutional oppression, and strategize about ways to create change. So really I have been fighting this fight all along. I may not be out there in the marches, but I support them 100%, I may not participate in protests, but I encourage my students to get involved. And yet, I consider my teaching a form of activism, and spend my days working on syllabi, researching articles to have my students read that will empower them with knowledge to create change in their own lives. When I start to feel overwhelmed I remind myself, right now I am doing enough! I am doing what I need to do. I have been working for social justice, and am currently doing that and I will continue to do that through my teaching.
Otherwise, I am conserving my energy for physical action in the future. This is not a sprint, this is a marathon. This is a fight we will be fighting for a long time, and those who are out there in the streets now will need to rest at some point, they will need others who have been sitting on the side lines to take up the fight so that we can create sustainable resistance. And when it is my turn, when I am in a place when I am mentally and emotionally ready to do so I will take up that call. In the meantime I focus on self-care, because as Audre Lorde says “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I will prepare myself, be in the best place so as to be ready when I am called upon. Because I do believe that from chaos, change will come. The revolution has begun.
And yet at the same time, we need to find ways to enjoy life, the revolution can be fun! So that is the place I am in right now, and that is my focus for the future. Continue doing the work I have been doing, promoting social justice in my teaching, changing the world one student at a time. And work on myself, work on my personal, emotional, mental and physical health and well being so that I can be in a better place to better serve my community and my people. I also want to find the joy, the hope, the love, the positivity in the world, because I think if I come from that place I can achieve more rather than feeling immobilized by fear.
At the end of the day I love what I do, I love working with students, talking about social justice issues, and facilitating the process of critical consciousness. I am hopeful for our future, for hope is what will sustain the revolution. I want to be open to what the world has to offer me, listen to what is the world calling me to do. There may be some that agree and disagree with my thoughts, but I will no longer stay silent for fear of the response. I stand in my conviction because I know I come from a place of love, and hope for a better world for my kids.