Ethan: Thank you so much for talking with me,Cara.
Cara: Thanks for the opportunity! In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say that when I first saw a post asking for interviewees, I was overwhelmed with anxiety. I’m talking butterflies in my stomach and that tightening feeling in my throat just thinking about putting myself out there. Never one to over prepare *ahem*, I started researching what an interview might entail before I made the decision and that’s when I came across your interview with Joanna -She and I were in band together in high school and I’m so glad to see that she’s doing so well now. In reading her story, I couldn’t help but notice how fearlessly she opened up and shared herself, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do as well. There are pieces from my past that I have carried the weight of throughout my life, and I think there’s a shame that comes with that kind of secrecy that eats away at your core and prevents you from authentically connecting with other people. I’m really looking forward to casting it off and moving forward without the burden.
Ethan: So tell me about yourself…
Cara: I’m actually at the best point I’ve ever been in my life, and I’m looking forward to the future and what it holds. I have the loving support of my husband, and I have my son who inspires me to be my best self because I’m always thinking about what I want to model for him. Now that time is starting to free up again, I’ve been adding back in the things I’ve always enjoyed, such as reading, cooking, swimming, hiking, and meditation. I’ve also started taking a yoga class and regularly attending play dates with members of Northeast Alabama Moms throughout the week. It’s there that I’ve really starting rebuilding both a support network and social outlet for myself, and it it is my wish that —in time— the group will come to serve as such for many other mothers in the community as well.photo origin: Cara, from her trip to New Orleans in 2015
Ethan: What are you passionate about?
Cara: Above all else, the wellbeing of all living creatures on this planet and that of Earth itself. From altruism to veganism, that one aspect ties into so much of who I am as well as what motivates and interests me. If I were to wake up tomorrow with the means and with no obligations or responsibilities, I would want to spend my life traveling while seeking new life experiences and fostering the humanity in myself and others along the way.
Ethan: You mentioned your past and breaking through some personal things. Tell me more about that, if it’s ok.
Cara:, I’ve endured abusive relationships and depression both in childhood and adulthood, and there was a time that I really let it shape my life and the person I became. I was medicated throughout my teen years to the point that I don’t even remember that much of middle or high school. When I graduated, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted for myself. Honestly, apart from being a stay-at-home mom for a season, I still don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life, but I do know who I am. It took me twenty five years to shed all the baggage and find that person, but reaching that goal was one of the happiest moments I’ve ever experienced and my life is all the richer now because of it.
I think the most difficult step in overcoming the past was in realizing that—while the damage was done—I alone am now responsible for how I let it affect me and I don’t have to live out the rest of my life as a victim. It’s something I have to be mindful of even in motherhood now. It would be all too easy to slip back into the mindset of martyrdom and to stop taking responsibility for meeting my own needs. It’s especially tempting on days when I’m stressed or exhausted and really don’t want to have to set aside that extra time for myself. However, it’s more than worth it because I know I’m both a better person and a better parent when I’m caring for myself as well as my family.
Another pitfall I have to be wary of due to my own lingering insecurities is seeking acceptance and validation from others. It’s one of the reasons why I left Facebook for several years and even now solely use it to admin a local mom group. I couldn’t continue feeding that part of myself while still managing to keep it in check. Couple that with being a highly sensitive person, and it becomes extremely challenging to also not take what is directed towards me personally, whether that’s opinions or actions. It’s hard for me to say this, but I always thought that by age thirty, I would be secure enough in myself that these things wouldn’t even phase me; yet, here I am—still working through the nagging doubts and reservations that crop up from time to time and the effects they can have if left unchecked. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a work-in-progress, but I intend to keep it that way. I never want to grow stagnant as a person or to take for granted what time I have.
Ethan: How do you keep from falling back into depression, what works for you?
Cara: I know depression can be different from person to person, so I’m lucky in that I’ve been able to stave it off without therapy or medication. It took many years and a number of pieces coming together and working in tandem. I had to learn to not look to others for my happiness or self-worth, to stop basking in misery and dwelling on the negative, to not stress over the things that are out of my control, to realize that I am not my thoughts or my feelings, and to start managing them and my responses to potential triggers.
Ethan: Do you set goals?
Cara: I wouldn’t say I set goals for myself so much as I’m always seeking growth and improvement in all areas. That, and if I want to pursue something new, I do it. Come to think of it, I probably should set targeted goals. I can get overwhelmed by the multitude of directions I could aim for, and it becomes difficult to prioritize and especially to finish one task before feeling the pull to start another.
In fact, just last night, my husband asked me why I have an incessant need to improve things. I informed him that it’s for two reasons: the first being that I don’t just see things as they are but also as they could be, and the second being that I always want to be striving for more — not because I can’t let myself be happy with my very best in the present but because I know there’s always room to grow in the future. Then he asked, “Why can’t you ever simply be satisfied?” I had to pause for a moment to really mull it over before telling him, “I guess because I equate satisfaction with complacency.”
I do hold myself to ridiculously high standards, though, and I shouldn’t. It’s always been so much easier for me to practice compassion with others than it is for me to grant it to myself, but I’m getting there.
Ethan: You mentioned veganism, are you vegan,what has that been like for you?
Cara: Yes, I have been vegan for over three years now and I’ll go ahead and say right off the bat that, aside from this interview, I always try to avoid speaking about it with others because veganism seems to be a hot-button topic for most. It goes against the status quo, and no matter how you approach it, it’s hard for others not to feel attacked or judged when your views are in direct opposition to theirs. And when people feel threatened, they tend to either go on the offensive trying to cut down those views, or they go on the defensive and start trying to justify theirs. Either way, no one wins, so I’ve adopted the philosophies of “agree to disagree” and “live and let live”.
What I can do is take responsibility for my own choices, and to remain open and approachable about veganism without being proselytizing or judgemental towards others. As to how it’s benefited me, it’s directly in line with my values, so no more cognitive dissonance there. That, and honestly, I’ve had to work very hard over the years to heal the damage that I inflicted on myself through years of emotional binge eating, and following a plant-based diet has helped me to reach a point where I’m healthier than I’ve ever been.
I’ve noticed there has been a radical shift in how I look at food. I don’t use it to comfort myself or to get that specific release of neurotransmitters that I used to crave. Instead, I put things on my plate that I know will nourish my body and I practice mindful eating. Oh, and my palate has drastically changed, too. I used to eat the most bland, basic foods, and now some of my very favorite cuisines are of the exotic fare, with Indian, Thai, and Mediterranean probably being my top three.
Everyone always asks if it’s difficult going vegan, and the honest answer is: Of course! There’s a big adjustment period where you’re basically relearning what new foods to eat while your body is still craving the old ones, how to shop for and prepare these foods, and how to order when you go out to eat.
I think going vegan seems an impossibility to most people because when they start looking at their diet and what would be left if they cut out all animal-derived ingredients, they see that there wouldn’t be much of a remainder so they immediately jump to the conclusion that there’s no way they could sustain themselves and be satisfied on a vegan diet. What they don’t realize is for every food that’s taken away, at least one thing gets added in its place and that transition can be little by little or all at once. But, in the end, you have a varied array of foods that are going to leave you feeling better, and also that you can feel good about eating for multiple reasons. Or, at least, that’s been my experience.
Ethan: You went to New Orleans. I’ve always wanted to go to Savannah.
Cara: I’ve never been to Savannah (I’ve heard great things, though), but I would absolutely recommend the Big Easy! I’m pretty sure it gets in your blood. Course that could be the booze talking.
We went in April of 2015. It was our last hoorah before we started trying to conceive, and we lived it up. I’m so glad we got to share that experience before going through pregnancy and parenthood, and after having been there, I’ll always be drawn to NOLA.
Ethan: How has life changed for you since parenthood?
Cara: Naturally, there is a heaping addition of responsibility and a loss of personal freedom that comes with parenthood. But then there’s also the dissolution of self-interest, and from that emerges a radical shift in perspective and priorities, not to mention the purest, most selfless love that completely transforms who you are as a person. I firmly believe that it’s not just your child that comes into being; it’s your own self as a parent. A monumental game-changer, but it has to happen or else our species could never survive the near delirium-inducing sleepless nights of the newborn phase.
Ethan: Is there anything you wish you had known before you were a mom?
Cara: Hmm, well, I wish I had know how isolating motherhood can be at times, and that there would have been a way for me to connect with other mothers before my son was born because it truly does take a village. I also wasn’t prepared for how difficult it is not to lose your sense of self in caring for a child, and it’s taken me a while to realize how important it is to first ensure your needs are met so that you can consistently meet the needs of your child. It’s not selfish – it’s imperative.
Ethan: Thanks again, Cara.
Cara: I genuinely hope that this segment will gain momentum and continue to inspire others. I’m glad to have been introduced to it, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on your writings from here on out. One last thing I have to express is how grateful I am to you, Ethan, for serving as a sounding board and allowing me to give voice to what has always gone unspoken save to a very treasured few. You have my sincerest thanks and I wish you all the best in the future!
Photo Origin: Cara