2021 End of Year Reflection

2021 was a hard year for many people. The pandemic has taken many things from us and has caused much stress in our lives. As we continue to move forward through it, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what 2021 meant to me, and what it brought me in terms of my journey.

The biggest challenge I have faced in 2021 is finding a balance between the herbal path that I have been trying to cultivate for myself and the pagan spirituality that I have also been attempting to cultivate. Luckily the two are by no means mutually exclusive, but I had been trying to separate the two in my practice with the thought process that I would be more accepted as an herbalist if the spiritual aspects of my practice were not as public. I have found that thought process to be unsustainable, and I am currently working on finding some balance between my pagan spirituality and my herbal practice. Of course, herbalism can be practiced without the spiritual aspects involved, but herbalism at its root is a very pagan endeavor, from building relationships and connections with the plants to working in relationship with the plants to heal aspects of the human. To separate these aspects is like cutting off the head of an organism; it just doesn’t have the same type of life (or any life at all) without that part of itself.

This blog was created so that I could write about aspects of my herbal practice, but will also now include aspects of my spiritual journey as well. That is one of the ways that I am striving to be kind to myself moving forward in 2022. And that is what this blog is all about, how we can be kind to ourselves.

Big Take-Aways from 2021

I had several instances of “lightbulb moments” in 2021 that helped to shape my views moving forward. The biggest one was:

In the end, when you strip everything else away, the only thing that matters is this soul, and the only thing left is nature.

Spirit to Me, 2021

This came to me a few months ago. At different intervals throughout my spiritual journey, I have had this vision of different systems laid down upon this thing we call life: the system of politics, the system of economics, the systems of religion, and many other systems that are out there. Underlying those systems is life. If any of those systems were to collapse, life would go on. Our souls would still live.

These systems have affected nature by beating it down, trying to bring it under submission to humans. But the reality is that if any of these systems collapse, nature will spring back stronger than ever. We saw evidence of this when the world went under lock down in 2020, when humans retreated into their homes and nature took advantage of the fact that humans were not scurrying around like ants to uphold those systems.

Recently I found myself sitting at a stoplight on my way home from work one evening. While this scenario does happen every day, on this particular day the fact that it was completely dark outside became the focus of my thoughts. I live pretty close to a shopping center, so of course the streets are lit pretty heavily with street lights and there is a lot of traffic in the area. I found myself imagining the area without any street lights, how dark it would be. If it were that dark, would all of the people would be out? I had to think that they probably would not be, that they would all be in their homes with their lights and their comforts. And it brought into sharp focus how much we humans have worked to shape the world into the image that we want it to be, and how much of a role that capitalism has played in that shaping. We attempt to stave off the dark as much as possible, to make our day last as long as possible so that people can buy and sell and productivity can last as long as possible each and every day. I was struck by how much we have moved away from the natural rhythms and cycles of the earth by putting artificial lighting in as many places as we can. Is it any wonder that people experience problems sleeping at night when you take into consideration how much we have tried to banish the darkness from our lives?

Everything In Balance

Our capitalistic economic system tries to get us to buy into many ideas so that we will spend our hard-earned money on perpetuating them. Ideas such as what constitutes beauty in the male and female form contributes directly to the diet, health and wellness cultures, as well as the cosmetics industry. The idea that you must be productive at any cost contributes to upholding our capitalist economy as a whole. I recently stepped onto my soap box at work and voiced dismay that the pandemic has not eased any company’s policies related to productivity and the employee’s attendance at their job. My day job is in child care right now, and there are so many parents out there that face the risk of losing their jobs because of exposures to COVID. I feel for those parents because no one should feel that helpless in the face of something that they have no control over. In the child care field, one exposure by a teacher or a child can close down an entire classroom and affect many families for days. Since their child can’t go to daycare, they lose money from not being able to work and also risk losing their job. Rather than companies working to change policies or rethinking how people work in this culture, we are looking at decreased quarantine times that could potentially run the risk of exposing more individuals. (I’m not an expert on COVID contagion times by any stretch but as someone who has worked on the front lines this entire time, a change of quarantine from 10 to 5 days feels kind of risky.)

Balance is something that I have been striving toward in my own life ever since I went through burnout. I have noticed so many areas of my own life where balance was needed. Being of our culture, I had that “productivity at any cost” mindset for much of my working life, and even worked to make myself as “marketable” as possible during the first part of my child care career. I have since become more in tune with myself and my body and have recognized the need for breaks and rest in order to help cultivate balance in my life. I have also shifted my focus so that work is not the top priority in my life as it once was. I am much more focused on home, family, and my herbalism studies now (and I also make sure that my herbalism studies are not commanding all of my attention like my early childhood studies once did).

I have found the concept of balance making its way into my herbal medicine making practice as well. I tend to be very liberal in my use of herbs in my tea and I have begun to see how that can be detrimental to the herbs being able to do their work in the body. Herbs can help bring balance to a body out of balance, but if too much of an herb with a specific energetic profile is used, it can pull the body out of balance and make illnesses or conditions worse. So that concept of balance is working its way through all aspects of my life, from my work to my spirituality to my herbalism practice.

My Life and Social Media

In 2019 I started to intentionally spend less time on social media. I immediately noticed that my anxiety and overall stress level went down. I stopped scrolling incessantly on Facebook in 2020. But I was still incessantly scrolling through Instagram.

I noticed that when I was on Instagram, I was focusing so much on what other people were accomplishing that I was not able to concentrate on what I wanted to accomplish. I love Instagram and looking at what other people are accomplishing, but not at the expense of what I want to accomplish. So I took an extended break from Instagram as well. Since ridding myself of social media distractions, I have been able to focus on the things that I want to accomplish.

Moving Forward

I have so many plans and goals for 2022. I want to finish the herbal course that I started this year. I want to learn about several new herbs that I can add to my herbal toolbox. And I want to grow in my spirituality, marrying it with my herbal practice any way I can.

In the tarot, 2022 is a Lover’s year (2+0+2+2=6; The Lovers is the 6th card of the Major Arcana). Typically when people think of the Lover’s card, they think about relationships with other people. This is not a realistic way of looking at this card, though, because someone may not have a romantic relationship with someone else to base this card on. The Lovers is about showing yourself love and compassion, giving yourself care when needed. It is about paying attention to what we are projecting onto other people, because that can give us clues about where we need to make changes in order to live a more fulfilling life. That will be the theme of this year, and will serve as a starting point for forward movement and reflection this coming year.

Happy New Year to everyone. I hope that 2022 is a year of growth and fulfillment for everyone.

Fried Tilapia – Skip The W(h)ine If You Want To!

I am in pain. A lot of pain. I have been going to the gym now two or three times a week since my last post, doing my running app and lifting weights. Coming home and doing my squats so that I can have a nice looking backside for the first time in my life. Thursday night it snowed, so I ramped up my running workout and cut the weights out so that I could get home before the roads got too bad. Yesterday I decided to pull out the stops on my workout to make up for it. I also switched from running on the treadmill to running on the elliptical because my ankles were complaining about Thursday’s workout. That elliptical is no joke. I’ve used one before because I prefer not having the high impact on my poor weak ankles, but I’d forgotten just how serious of a workout it was. I was sweating through the very same Couch to 5K workout that I had done on Thursday on the treadmill without breaking a sweat. And it was nice. I may have to continue to use those ellipticals.

So back to the pain. I’m just sore – I haven’t overdone it or pulled anything yet. Although when my ankle started complaining on Friday I got concerned. I haven’t felt my poor ankles complain like that since junior high! But I will tell you – getting back in shape takes commitment because I have been nothing but sore and tired for two weeks now. I’m not complaining, because I have been enjoying the workouts. When I get off work, I swear that I am not going to go to the gym because I am so tired, but by the time I get there I am psyched to start my workout. And I feel like a million bucks when I am done. It has been great to go to the gym and work out all of the stress that I have accumulated. Hopefully I am a much more pleasant person to be around because of it. You’d have to ask everyone else, because I am around myself all the time, and I wouldn’t know.

Another thing that this has allowed me to do is take a look at my priorities. Actually I am not sure that is how I would word it. It may be more like growing a backbone. Any way you word it, I have been trying to identify pieces of my life that I am not happy with and trying to figure out how to change it or make it better. Simplifying. Talking to the people involved and figuring out how to change things. I am not a big talker. I tend to wait until I am about to lose my mind before I say anything. When you are tired and sore, you tend to lose your mind quicker, so talking becomes a priority. People tend to react negatively when you lose your mind.

You must be looking at the title of this post and thinking,”Okay, she has really lost it. Fried stuff? Yeah, that’s what I thought at first, too. I have been fixing tilapia the same way for a long time, and it has gotten really, really old. To the point that I would refuse to fix it. So my wonderful fianc√© recommended getting some almond meal and using it on the fish to fry it or bake it. Well, if I am going to use almond meal, I want to fry it. Fried fish is just awesome. Fried anything is awesome! (Can you tell that the workouts are making me extremely hungry as well?) I have been a huge fan of the Whole 30 program, and they recommend not Paleo-fying unhealthy recipes because it could cause bad habits. I am definitely not going to start posting Paleo brownies or cookies because I really do think that would be unfair to my brain, but the fried fish was a much needed, very awesome change. And the clean-up was amazing, too! Almond meal doesn’t get all gummy and nasty in the pan like flour does when you fry it, so the clean-up was not a nightmare like I expected it to be.

I haven’t hit on a spice mixture that I like yet, in amounts that I like. I tend to like my food on the spicy side – I like to taste the flavors – so I am still working on that. In my first batch of fish I used garlic powder, salt, pepper, onion powder, paprika, and red pepper flakes. In fact, this is the recipe that I used for my first batch. I will work on tweaking the amounts or using different spices to suit my tastes, but this recipe was a much welcome change from the way that I have normally been cooking tilapia. I also used coconut oil instead of olive oil because I heard that it works better at higher temperatures, and I hate the smell of olive oil when it gets hot.

Hope you enjoy it! And thanks to Cavemom Chronicles for the inspiration. And to my fiancé, of course!