January 10, 2012

Those Who Don't

I am not big on New Year’s resolutions. I deal with enough self-imposed guilt on a daily basis, so that I don’t need to burden myself with additional goals I will not achieve. I see my entire life as an evolutionary marathon. I know where I want to end up, who I want to become.  I have known who I want to be since I was about eight. I know I am on the right track. The twenty year old me would be shocked and amazed that we made it this far, but we are chugging along. I am content. I am pleased. I am proud. I do not need a list of targets to remind me of where I am deficient.

Having said that, you knew there would be a but, right? I have two things on my plate this year that have been waiting in the wings for some time, and it is time to give them some attention. The first is a left-over from last year- I swore last January that I would complete a first draft 50,000 personal memoir book project by the summer. I got to about 44,000 words and lost steam. I had started a new position at my school and never really caught my breath. One goal remains the same, I want to write  at least 50,000 words, although I may up the wordage a bit in the spring if I am on track, by summer.

My book, however,  is not what this post is about. After years of being a pretty devout and loyal vegetarian, I am finally ready to give veganism a try. I have been making excuses for years:
  • Too hard with a family
  • I love cheese and ice cream
  • Where will I get protein
  • Too expensive
  • Too time consuming
  • What will I eat.....
I am now ready to try it. At least for a month, though I think/hope that I can make it permanent. The impetus has been Brighde, a new teacher at my school, who has about thirty people on our staff excited and motivated to give veganism a go by participating in a 30 day plan-based-diet challenge. I am so inspired by her passion and knowledge that I couldn’t live with myself, if after so many years of wanting to try it, I passed up this opportunity. When else will I have a coach and mentor, in addition to  a supportive group of peers to help me find my plant-based-diet feet.

Brighde has asked that we share some reasons for why we have chosen to give her challenge a shot; this post is my testimony. I have written about my vegetarianism before, and I try not to be a guilt pusher when it comes to my not eating meat. People ask me all the time, why I choose not to eat meat, and honestly my reasons have changed over the years: a dedication to Zen practice, wanting to rid my life of violence, environmental concerns, love of animals and more... but honestly the reason is pretty simple.

I find the act of eating flesh grotesque. The act of killing another living being for my own sustenance seems wrong. There are people who kill and those who don’t. There are people who fight and those who don’t. There are people who hate and those who don’t. I simply want to be the kind of person who chooses love, life, peace. Being a vegetarian is a simple act of love for the planet and the beings that inhabitant it. Too hippy-dippy for you? Sorry, but it is the truth. Remember the evolutionary marathon? I am on my path and of course I still feel hatred and anger and violence, but not eating meat, at least for me, takes me closer to the person I want to be. It is a spiritual choice for me. There are so many choices I make that I am not proud of. There is so much consumption and consumerism I cannot free myself from, but not eating flesh is easy for me. I never feel I am missing anything.

The problem for me, over the last few years has been, justifying how I can participate in the dairy industry, feeling the way I feel and knowing what I know about where our dairy comes from. I simply cannot believe the things I do and say what I just said, and still eat dairy. But like all creatures of habit, I have found my comfort zone and stuck with a vegetarianism that works for me. This challenge is an opportunity for me to force myself into a state of disequilibrium to see where I stand morally.

I am not sure how “militant” I am going to get. Milk, no problem. I hate it and think the concept of drinking the milk from a cow is revolting. I rarely (never) drink it now, so no worries. Eggs...meh. Not a huge fan, rarely eat them on their own. No problem. Cheese and Ice Cream will be tough. but they are luxury items and I think I will be fine. I plan on learning to make vegan ice cream and cheese...well sometimes we just don't do what we like in an effort to  better ourselves. Hell, I gave up drinking six years ago and haven’t looked back.

I am not a big fan of substituting items to try and fill the hole of meat and dairy. I choose not to eat those things because I don’t like them. I don’t want fake meat. I prefer a salad. Brighde is an amazing cook and is spending a lot of time informing us on how to supplement our diets, and I will do my best to find my comfort zone, but I want to focus on simple vegetables and grains. Roasted veggies, rice, fruits, salads, nuts.The hard part for me will be things like pasta, baked goods, cake, desserts etc....My plan is to take it slow and see how I feel day by day. 

Another reason, I am doing this is because I am so disconnected from my food. My wife, bless her, does most of the shopping and cooking. We have fallen into a habit, and it is just easier. We have about ten meals we rotate  and life is easy. With kids, after a long day at work, dinner just needs to be on the table...but I am hoping that I can reconnect with my body,  my food, and my tastes. I don’t see myself stocking the cupboards with all of the things that Brighde is recommending; I just want to focus on simple food, with simple flavor. 

We start next week and I am very excited. I have wanted to try this for a long time and I think this is a great time in my life to do this. The only obstacle I foresee is that my having a different menu will make shopping and dinner time at our house too complicated.

Are you a vegan, vegetarian, carnivore...what are your thoughts on all this? Suggestions? Advice?

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