What I learned from 14 years of Vegetarian Times

By Suzanne Wentley

After I escaped from the hangover of the holiday season, I looked around the house I was living in for the last eight years. It had seen a few live-in lovers come and go and watched as I rented out what became known as “the transition room” due to short-term needs of friends. I had grown roots here. More precisely, I grew piles of paper.

It was like I was opening my eyes for the first time to my house. I had a big stack of travel magazines on my desk from all the places I’ve visited over the last few years, all containing bits of information I wanted to remember for the launch of The Lovelight Project. I had two overflowing boxes of magazine and newspapers that I’ve written for dating back to my college days. I had books from high school ­– seriously, want to read Shakespeare? I’m your library. Speaking of library, I realized that one of my bookcases was filled with magazines. It seems I started collecting one magazine in particular, Vegetarian Times, in 2001.

Just a portion of my Vegetarian Times stack
Just a portion of my Vegetarian Times stack

I was, to my surprise, a hoarder! I talked to my friends and family about this, and they all agreed that they never felt like my house was messy or overrun. I was very good at have neat-looking stacks of paper. I was a functioning hoarder. I evidently hoarded alone, in the dark, not letting anyone know. I was fooling myself. And when I realized that it was time for this habit to come to an end, I was overwhelmed.

See, as a Yoga instructor, I learned about the concept of Aparigraha, or non-possessiveness. It’s one of the yamas, or ways of living, outlined in the Yoga Sutras, to remind us that material possessions do not provide satisfaction in the end.

Letting go of attachment, it seems, is quite a project.

So for the last month, I’ve been undergoing a massive divestment campaign at home. My roommate was extremely patient (and not surprisingly spending extra time at her boyfriend’s house) with the papers that were now out in the open as I tried to make sense of it all.

Those magazine and newspaper articles? I clipped them out and scanned them into my computer, organizing them my date and topic and creating a back up on a flash drive. Books are continuously being given away. I cleaned out my closet. I got rid of the seven years (SEVEN YEARS) of birthday cards people gave me. Hey, thanks, by the way. I love you too!

But the biggest project was that darn pile of Vegetarian Times. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 15 and a vegan (most of the time) for the last two years or so. So I really appreciated new recipes, especially since I receive a box of organic produce from Palm Beach Organics at my door every other week. I need to understand what I’m exactly supposed to do with all the mangos from my backyard trees.

So I went through each issue, ripping out recipes that interested me. Then I cut them neatly. Then I organized them by genre, like appetizers or desserts. Then I bought a binder, colored paper and tape, and I created my own cookbook. And I recycled that huge pile of leftover paper.

It took a while. I really wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. Here’s what I learned:

  1. We force ourselves to do too much. At what point did I really think I would make everything in all these issues, look back on them, find new ones? With so much happening, I really needed to make the divestment campaign a priority in my life. Most people don’t do that. Most people would just chuck all those Vegetarian Times, I know. Maybe it’s my own expectations for myself and what I do that needed to be checked. Maybe my possessiveness isn’t just material, but a drive to be great. My self worth is just based in who I am, not the foods I cook.
  1. It’s important to find joy in every day life. At the end, I was so exhausted from clipping and organizing that I would throw pasta in a pot to feed myself. Ironic, right? I cook because it brings me joy, and at some point I lost it. So I plan to spend more time, eating more slowly, cooking my own food and enjoying it more. Today, I made a tempeh sandwich spread. I toasted my whole grain bread and made a little side salad of organic greens and tomatoes. It was delish!
  1. There’s always more to let go of. This was step one, although step one really consisted of many, many steps. It’s surprising how attached I was to piles of paper and how wonderful it feels to have my home now free of those piles. I still need to rid myself of even more, and I’ll get there. But first, I need to pack a lunch for tomorrow. What shall I make?
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