(Please hit the Jump to Recipe button above to head straight for the Fruity Chia Seed Jam!)
I started drafting this post way back in March. But then things started happening in our world, and week after week it was pushed aside in favor of something more pressing. Until now, when it’s feeling like maybe the time has finally come. So let me try this again. But you might want to wish me luck, because who knows how close the next change of 2020 looms. Based on the pattern, my guess is close. Very close.
A Million Times Over
I haven’t yet had the time to cultivate the same kinds of connections here on the blog as I have on Instagram. Honestly, maybe I never will. I still consider it a small miracle that I manage to pull together a post each week(ish), what with the writing and the rewriting, the fact-checking, the laboring over the picture-taking, and the laboring over the picture-editing. Those many hours invested in each post leave me few left over to network and meet my fellow bloggers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just where I am right now. Besides, I figure the friendships will eventually be made. Perhaps at a much slower rate than on social media, but I’m not in any kind of rush.
And if I’m being honest, I’m not even sure how much I care about the connections. This blog is so very different than social media is for me, in all ways. In how I look at it, how I feel about it, and definitely how I work with it. My intention here has never been about socializing, but about sharing “worthy” content (deemed so by me, so take that with a grain of salt). The kind of worthy content I’m forever searching out for myself, and am endlessly thankful to so many other bloggers for sharing. I want Follow Us Home to be the page you land on when you’re looking for a vegan recipe or a homemade lotion or maybe just a hearty pep talk. That’s it. Land here. I’ll write, you read, and we’ll leave it at that. (But also, you know, thanks for visiting. A million times over.)
Just the thought of those connections (that I wasn’t making) always put me slightly on guard and wary. I know the danger inherent in them because I’ve frequently fallen into self-destructive and counterproductive traps on Instagram–the trap that defines the worthiness of a post by the number of likes and followers and comments it receives. By the number of visual connections it makes. Instead of just writing from my heart, as I prefer to do, I would pause. And second-guess. And find myself doubting so many of those meditation-inspired thoughts that just wanted to be shared.
Once I realized how dangerous playing the game of social media was for my self-esteem, I made sure to be extra careful here. I also made sure to stay vigilant so as to catch myself should I get sucked up into the game of blogging, because those Instagram connections were always something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I loved them because I loved my people. But on the other, if those connections were absent, it had me questioning the value of my words. Had I reached anyone? Even one anyone? Had it done any good, or was it simply a complete waste of my time (and yours)?
That’s Great, Too
While I never let myself delete a low-ranking post, sometimes the doubt crept in and I’d want to. And I hated that. That kernel of insecurity caught me completely by surprise, especially since I’ve lived beyond the comfort of many societal norms for years now. And not only that, but I’ve been perfectly content there in the fringes. How come all of a sudden I cared so much about the opinions of others? It seemed like very dangerous territory to me, and yet all too often, I found myself doing just that: caring, when I shouldn’t have.
But there was no denying that seed of insecurity in me, and I had to work incredibly hard to overcome it. (Victory came very, very slowly. In mincing baby steps.) In essence, it felt like the popularity contest that was high school had all of a sudden regathered strength through the outlet of social media. It made that time on Instagram extremely uncomfortable for me (as growth so often is), and I vowed it wasn’t going to happen again here. Here, my plan has simply been to write what wants to be written and leave the rest up to God–leave the traffic up to God. If She wants me to be popular? Great. If She doesn’t? That’s great, too. I’ll put in the effort and She can make of it what She will.
Thanks For Reading
And my plan was all working out just fine–perfectly fine–until…it happened. A kindred spirit. Some genuine and heartwarming comments. And I quickly remembered how much I love those friendly micro-conversations and the warm imprint they leave behind. They also did something that’s probably important to most all bloggers; they let me know that someone is actually reading. Not just skimming, but reading. And digesting. Because I know that my posts are ridiculously long; I know that. And in a world where we’ve grown accustomed to the short blips of social media–the blips that can be processed instantly–my blog is somewhat arrogant.
Arrogant in assuming that you have the time, or want to make the time, to read where this cursor leads me. I’m not asking for your attention for ten seconds, but for ten minutes (at least). I’m patiently waiting for the people to find me who are looking to settle into their favorite chair with a cup of tea and hang out with me for a bit while we talk about big things. Often things too big to be contained in a 2200 character IG caption. (Although if you follow me there, you know that I stubbornly try.)
Use Them Wisely
But those comments were more than just a lovely and appreciated act of kindness, because they came at a pivotal point. And if it was a pivotal point four months ago, then it’s even more pivotal today. In a world rife with negativity and divisiveness, those comments reminded me to focus. And to be extra aware and careful of the energies I’m releasing. To make sure I’m intentionally nurturing only what I want to see grow and thrive, and not accidentally feeding the seeds of the things that I so desperately want to change. I know the energetic power of words and I understand the responsibility that comes with sharing them. They’re my weapon. How wisely will I wield them?
You Will Not
When I joined Instagram I told myself, you will not talk about panic disorder. I was tired of it, had lived it for too many years, and wanted nothing more than to leave it behind in the dust. I wasn’t that person anymore and didn’t want anyone to see me that way. To judge me. To label me. But what did I do? I talked about panic disorder.
When I started this blog I told myself, you will not talk about depressing and negative things. The world has more than enough people willing to talk about what’s wrong (with everything), and I wasn’t interested in becoming one of them. I decided I wanted to talk about what’s good and beautiful and right. But then what did I do? Talked about the depressing and negative things.
But if I’m going to be real here–in this space–then how could I not? Because over time, I realized that without the panic and without the struggles I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am. I needed them. The darkness was necessary to force me into finding a better way. That was true when panic first took me by the hand sixteen years ago, and it’s just as true now as I watch what’s happening in our world. Basically, if I’m going to talk about life, real life, then it’s always going to include the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Laugh at Me, Please
But now, this is where my nagging worry comes in, because I have a secret fear. A fear that maybe you’ll think is ridiculous. That I hope you’ll think is ridiculous, because I’ve been so successful in doing just the opposite. Maybe you’ll even laugh at me? Because that would be great. But my fear is this: That my willingness to talk about the ugly will be misinterpreted as a general negative attitude towards life, people, and our world, or that it will somehow be even louder than my other, more positive messages. I’m afraid that you’ll walk away with the darkness resonating, and not the light. What if I sound like I’m complaining? Or, even worse, whining?
Any of those interpretations would mean a grave failure on my part and an obvious indication that I need lessons in how to wield this weapon of mine; it’s a persistent concern each time I tackle a subject that is less than cheery. And let’s face it, there have been a substantial amount of less-than-cheery topics out there lately. I sometimes worry that I’ll run out of things to talk about, but then five minutes later I share a good and hearty laugh with myself because I realize that will never happen. There will always be something to write about in this crazy upside-down world of ours. But the thing about writing is that it can be…tricky. And sometimes words, as much as I love them, can be a hard partner to work with.
An Emoji Addict
When I jumped back into this adventure of blogging, I knew the direction I was heading in and the atmosphere I wanted to create. I knew (some of) the stories I wanted to tell and the information I wanted to share. I anticipated no problem in achieving this imagined ambiance until I realized a truly surprising fact: Instagram had made me an emoji addict. My posts were rife with them, and I spent as much time selecting my emojis as I did my words. (And now I’d like very much to insert a crying/laughing face here. Or an eye roll. Probably both.)
Emojis became my story-telling partner, my best friends. Especially when I know all too well how often and how easily the written word is misinterpreted. Those quirky, round little faces clarify things beautifully for me. Sure, they’ve probably weakened my writing skills, and maybe even made me a little bit lazy; but laziness aside, I love them all the same. I feel like it would be hard to misinterpret my Insta posts, because even if you somehow initially do, my emoji of choice will instantly clear things up. And I like that. Too much, maybe.
Not as Classy
My emoji dependence is likely due, in large part, to the fact that my writing can all too often trend towards sarcasm, with a healthy dose of poking (a lot of) fun at myself. Emojis let my readers know exactly where I’m going with things. Don’t take me so seriously, says the smirky face. That was a joke, quips the winky one. When will I learn? bemoans the sweaty one. Don’t mess with me, growls the glaring one. Those emojis show the actual facial expressions you would have to endure were we having a face-to-face conversation. And trust me, the expressions would be numerous and often exaggerated, but at least they wouldn’t leave much room for misunderstanding.
But blogging doesn’t lend itself to emojis; it’s just not as…professional? Classy? Eloquent? And so I’m back to relying solely on the written word once again. Working and reworking things repeatedly until I can settle on something that most clearly conveys what I’m trying to say. Honestly, it’s challenging, but it’s also strangely satisfying. I think that honing my posts until I get them “just right” is probably one of my favorite hobbies. But no matter how accurately I think I’ve chosen my words, they’ll still be interpreted through your filter. Every time. And really, who knows what you’ll see. Only the dark and lonely corners? Or the shiny trinket I found nestled in a pile of dust bunnies?
If You’re Me
Because I’m not going to lie, I think the world can be a pretty dismal place. There are enormous amounts of suffering, large and small, in every corner of our globe. I remember my guru telling me that Earth is one of the darkest planets to incarnate on, and at the time, I thought that was maybe something of an exaggeration. I mean, the worst? Sure, we’ve had times in our history where we’ve behaved in pretty deplorable ways, but we’re mostly past that, aren’t we? We’ve freed the slaves, stopped warring with the Native Americans, and closed down the concentration camps. See? We’re just fine; things really aren’t so bad here anymore. And you know what? They’re not…if you’re me.
But if you’re a young woman being bought and sold as a sex slave? Well, things are pretty wretched.
Or if you’re a Navajo family deprived of clean, running water in your home? That makes life pretty tough.
Or if you’re a Black man taking an early morning jog in the wrong white neighborhood? Things aren’t so cheery then.
Or if you’re a starving child in war-torn Yemen when a pandemic blows through? Life has never looked less fine.
Or if you’re a pig, born into the animal agriculture industry, only to be murdered and eaten after living a life of cruelty? Things might seem kind of hopeless.
Or if you’re the Amazon rainforest, being recklessly burned and decimated by the hands of greed? Maybe the Earth doesn’t seem like such a lovely place to be a tree. Or a bird. Or a human.
The Tap of a Finger
Over the last several years, my eyes have been forced open. It was with great reluctance, and some days all I want to do is un-see what it is I’ve seen. But although I have my walls–built to keep the overwhelming pain at a reasonable distance–they don’t keep everything out. In fact, there’s no wall I could ever build that would be high enough or strong enough to keep out information that my guru wants in. He wants me to see this darkness; darkness that’s been all around me for my entire life, but I’ve somehow been protected from. He wants me to know what this world really is, beyond my safe, little bubble. So…he popped it.
Maybe this sounds like an act of cruelty, but I feel it only as an act of love. There’s a story of a time when Yoganandaji brought some of his devotees out for some recreation, and he chose an old western film. During one particularly violent scene, one of the women closed her eyes against it. A tap on her shoulder and a finger pointing at the screen meant she was to keep her eyes open. I think of that story all the time because I feel that’s exactly what he’s doing to me. Every time I close my eyes up tightly, as if doing so can erase what I know is happening, I feel that tap. And I sense that finger. And I know there’s more he wants me to see.
But while he wants me to know it, he never wants me to wallow in it. Never to get lost in it. Because if I were to lose myself in the suffering of this world, then what good would that do? To me or to the ones in pain? How could I change this broken world if I was too busy breaking with it?
What he really wants me to do, and what he’s relentlessly guiding me to find, is the light (God) in everything. In every ugly circumstance and in every grave injustice. So I forcibly pry my eyes open (sometimes after countless taps) and I search. And I search and I search and I search. Sometimes the search feels hopeless, but if I’m here, typing up emoji-less words for you to read, then it’s because I’ve done it. I’ve found my silver lining. I’ve found the piece of God, shining up at me from somewhere in the mess of broken parts.
At one point, I was struggling with this post (sorry, it does tend to ramble on so) and trying to figure out exactly where I was taking it, when Riley Mae walked into the room. Watching me type and delete, type and delete, she asked me what I was writing about. I told her I was digging into my worry that people will find me negative or pessimistic and how I don’t want to be more bad energy in the world. She only laughed and said, “Mom, you’re super positive. That’s why you drive so many people so completely crazy.”
So maybe my worry is a stupid one; I truly hope that it is. But I just ask that you remember this: When I write about the darkness (and I will write about the darkness), it’s in the hope that maybe it’ll inspire you to find your own silver lining. That maybe you’ll take the time to dig through all of the dirty, dusty, endless mess until you find that one shiny piece winking up from the rubble. Because it’s in there; it’s always in there. But on the days when you’re tired or overwhelmed or simply fed up with the enormity of the mess? On the days when you’re exhausted with all of digging and you can’t find anything hopeful, no matter how hard you look? Well, I’ll be here, typing away (sans emojis) and digging for you. And when I’ve found it? I’ll happily offer you mine.
Peace & many blessings ~ Melinda
- 1½ cups strawberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1½ cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 5 Medjool dates (pitted and soaked)
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
1. Add the berries to a saucepan and simmer over medium/low heat until soft.
2. Pit and soak the dates in warm water while the berries simmmer.
3. Add the soft berries and the soaked dates to the food processor; process until smooth.
4. Add the berries/dates back to the saucepan along with the chia seeds. Mix well and simmer until the jam is nicely thickened, about 10 minutes or so. Keep jam refrigerated.
For more tasty vegan treats, please visit my Recipes page!