The Anti-Hustle

In Mind

The Wholesome Handbook - The Anti-Hustle

Let’s talk about the whole concept of the hustle.

Man, does that word ever rub me the wrong way. The kind of working culture that hustle has come to represent and encourage is an exhausting, counter-intuitive, soul-sucking way to live. I’m all for hard work, don’t get me wrong – but what I’m not here for is turning every single interaction, relationship, interest, and activity into some sort of promotion or business venture.

The whole idea of constantly hustling is especially poisonous for those of us who work in a creative capacity or cultivate a personal brand, whether for social validation, aesthetic expression, or out of professional necessity. Being a creator is already an emotionally vulnerable and challenging way to live. The things we create are little shards of our soul that we’re brave enough to send out into the world. We want them to do well.

It’s the most human thing ever for us to want to make a good impression on others. That’s just instinct. But you are not on this earth to live your life for social media. Your life should not be an externally beautiful but essentially empty thing, carefully crafted for the consumption of others.

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You are a Storyteller

In Mind

The Wholesome Handbook - Whitespace Writers

I was a storyteller before I knew I was a storyteller.

When I was a girl, I had a CD of cheesy Celtic traditionals that I’d play while trying to fall asleep. When I wasn’t on my belly on the carpet, reading by the beam of light from the space at the bottom of the door, I’d lay in the dark, dreaming up detailed stories in my head to go with the music – foxes in their burrows, epic sword battles between rival warrior princesses, the last harrowing days of Atlantis, packs of wolves on the hunt, a couple locked in the throes of passion.

I didn’t even think writing these stories down was an option. They were just fantasies, distractions. Besides, I was a competitive singer, and spent my days inhabiting other, better stories. In the space of one hour, I could be a woman hopelessly waiting for her seafaring husband to come home, an elderly cat mourning the loss of her youth and beauty, and Evita Peron begging Argentina not to cry for her.

The one time I did dip my toes into writing my honest thoughts and experiences down, my junior high language arts teacher took one read-through and immediately suggested to my parents that I seek counselling. That shut me up pretty quickly.

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The Poetry & Power of Rituals

In Mind
The Wholesome Handbook

Stalking the wildlife…

If there’s one big takeaway from my academic years, it’s that ritual is a powerful thing.

Of course, we see the word ‘ritual’ and we think of a clutch of grubby Iron Age Danes heaving some poor hanged man into the peat bog to sate the bloodlust of the gods. We think of Stonehenge, of Olmec knives in chalcedony, of the Greeks with Hestia’s eternal flame. But our modern lives are still steeped in ritual.

We have rituals marking our major life events. We declare our romantic partnerships with white dresses, a sacred first kiss, a feast. What are stagette parties but modern bacchanals? A baby is born, and we all flock to see it and ceremoniously bestow knitted blankets and stuffed pink rabbits, one by one. A loved one dies, and our mourning is marked with gatherings, speeches, recitations from holy books. We retire from our jobs and are sent off with offerings of gold and cake.

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What I Read // 2016

In Mind

What I Read in 2016 - The Wholesome Handbook

When I think back to my girlhood, I think of books. I think of words illuminated by the thin beam of yellow hallway light under the door, long after I was supposed to have been asleep. I think of laying under the shade of the giant poplar tree in my front yard, my arms pleasantly sore from hoisting the newest Harry Potter over my head for hours. I think of the looming, mysterious slopes of the glass-walled pyramid library near the shopping mall, and how my heart would flutter in my ribcage when I entered those doors. I think of the agonizing punishment I would receive for misbehaving – my books locked away until bedtime, and nothing to do but (o, horrors,) interact with the other neighborhood children.

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Writing in the White Space – A Conversation with Alexa Gilker

In Mind

Whitespace Writers with Alexa Gilker - The Wholesome Handbook
Alexa Gilker is the vivacious, down-to-earth wordsmith behind Whitespace Writers, a series of workshops that aim to get to the heart of why we write. She talks with her hands, has great taste in lipstick, and prefers good, solid Germanic words over those amorphous Latin ones. I’ve been taking her classes for several weeks, and I can’t even begin to tell you what a difference they’ve made in my confidence and artistic honesty. I sat down with Alexa recently to chat about feminism, diversity, truth, and of course, her secrets to good writing.

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On Solitude

In Mind

On Solitude - The Wholesome Handbook

Last year, out of vain curiosity, I visited the patchouli-scented office of a past life reader. He consulted my astrological charts, held my small, cold hand in his large, warm one for a moment, and hummed dramatically. His kind, brown eyes swept over me once, then twice, and he leaned back in his chair, pursing his lips in amusement.

“You’re quite old, you know”. I was intrigued. How could I not be?

He went on to tell me about my past lives in great detail, surprising me with how well he could pinpoint things about my current one. According to him, there’s a reason the desert fills me with anxiety, and a reason my belly leaps with bittersweet joy in the presence of horses. And a reason why, even though I’m surrounded by wonderful people, I love nothing better than to be alone.

You see, according to my visionary friend, I am, at heart, an ascetic. I’ve spent lifetimes wandering alone in the forest with calloused feet, or in silent prayer on mountaintops. I’ve been an ale-brewing monk, an exiled wisewoman accused of witchcraft, a political refugee on the run, an obsessed scholar on the brink of a breakthrough. All of these lives have made me independent and solitary, most comfortable in my own company.

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Discovering Your Ghosts

In Mind

Discovering Your Ghosts - The Wholesome Handbook

Before Hallowe’en was Hallowe’en, it was All Hallow’s Eve. The day of the dead.

On this night, the veil between worlds is so gauzy and tattered that you can almost see through it. This is the night that spirits slip between the cosmic warp and weft and return to the world of the living. This is the night for ancestors and ancients. This is the night for ghosts.

They spill into the streets, laughing. They’re giddy with the stink of life, the flush of remembrance, the heavy warmth of being. They remember their hands, how they gripped the hipbones of lovers and soothed the foreheads of fevered children. Their pale tongues cold against their teeth, they remember butter and peaches and mama’s famous borscht. With featherlight feet, they dance ceili and bhangra over the treetops. They shiver with pleasure to once again gaze up at the moon.

What a fabulous night.

For years, my ghosts have followed me. Every October, I am inexplicably drawn back into the thrill of discovering them. There is no greater yearning of my heart than to unveil the lives of the people that came before me, and to attempt to retell their stories. To find bits of myself in these people, and to find bits of them still living in me.
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Equinox Black Salt Bath & Lessons of the Crone

In Body, Mind

Equinox Black Salt Bath - The Wholesome Handbook

Our tilting earth swings on its ecliptic tether, the night claws back dominion from the day, and the crone ascends, as she has for millennia. It’s the autumnal equinox, that liminal, time-worn passage between light and dark, life and death, things that are known and mysteries yet to be uncovered. The crone’s hour.

That mythical crone.The crone is every midwife, wise woman, and witch in history. Feared and misunderstood, she is the veil between worlds. She has the kind of wisdom and magic that can only come from a long and soulful existence, her story written in wrinkles, her root-like hands gnarled with her lifetime’s work. She emerged in spring as the fragrant, sweet maiden, and was ripe with the erotic fecundity of summer and motherhood. Now, in her old age, she’s the enlightened one. Her knowledge is untaught and unsanctioned, sprung wholly from the depths of her experience, and this, of course, makes her dangerous. She instinctively knows the truth of all things. She threatens the status quo. She makes people uncomfortable.
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Homemade Lilac & Blueberry Ink

In Mind

The Wholesome Handbook - Lilac and Blueberry Ink

The richness of spring always surprises me. Every year, I manage to forget the incredible, lush world that sleeps under the snow. The gorgeous colours, the intoxicating scent of soil and rain and grass, the warm breeze. How freeing it is to walk bare-legged into the morning chill. How magical it is to catch a glimpse of white-spotted fawn through the budding trees, or come across a field pebbled with young rabbits, wide-eyed and wild. And the lilacs… oh, the lilacs.

Although their lives are fleeting, the presence of lilacs fills the world with giddy delight. For the two or three weeks of lilac season, we fill our homes (and Instagram feeds) with cuttings, brew cordials and tonics, and press blooms in between the pages of books. In folk wisdom, lilacs are messengers of perseverance, tenacity, and new life, and I like to think that we mortals take this to heart, perhaps subconsciously, when they appear. There’s just something about those impossibly fragrant, delicate flowers that captures the imagination and fortifies the soul.

This spring has been one of deep renewal for me. I have never felt more sure of myself and my purpose. I’ve never been more brave, or more heroically irresponsible. I’ve also never worked so hard. Dreams demand blood, sweat, and tears before they can become flesh, and I gladly make these offerings at the altar of my muse. I have a feeling that this is a time in my life that I’ll want to remember. I want to preserve this exquisite exhaustion, this trembling feeling of anticipation, so very like the last weeks of spring before the world erupts into summer. And because I write, a single jar of ink, soon put down onto paper, seemed the natural choice.

This ink is my way of paying tribute. To spring, to lilacs, and to possibility.

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Equinox Bath Tea & The Forgotten Element of Self-Care

In Body, Mind


Equinox Bath Tea- The Wholesome Handbook

Persephone is padding barefoot up the cold hill from Hades, flowers and herbs woven into her wheat-coloured hair. The earth quickens under her feet, seeds crack open, greenery thrusts tenacious fingers through the topsoil. It is the vernal equinox, and Persephone has emerged, blushing and breathless, from her dark kingdom below.

The Queen of the Underworld might, at first, seem like an unlikely candidate to breathe new life into the earth. But her deep-seated darkness is precisely why she’s the perfect woman for the job. Most life cannot grow with only sunlight to feed it. Life also needs dark, damp, rich soil to thrive.

We are no different from nature. We need both darkness and light to grow. Persephone is the personification of this fertile balance, and with her reappearance from Hades we can honour that which is unsavory, uncomfortable, and challenging, but ultimately healthy and fruitful.

Women, for too long, have been denied darkness. We’ve been told to file down our teeth, that our anger, frustration, despair, and grief are unsightly and displeasing. Unfeminine. Inappropriate. Indulgent. Our spiritual lives are bombarded with messages of pure love and cleansing light, and our darkness is treated as a disease to cure or a dragon to vanquish.

But by stifling the wild creature of our darkness, we also extinguish the magic of our light. Do not fear your night sky. It has lessons for you, hard truths, good medicine.

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