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My First Green Christmas

I’m not quite sure how to start my post tonight. It’s my first night home in my bed after over a week spent at my parents place. I’m really quite surprised I survived. Normally I’ll go over for a single night on a weekend or something and need to be out of there ASAP. But thanks to my meds I guess, I made it through the week.

New things are always difficult for people, change is challenging. I certainly got some firsthand experience with this from my family and close family friends this Christmas. The Saturday before Christmas my parents had their neighbours over, a family we’ve known since I was about 5. Conversation got a bit heated at one point in the kitchen while we were nibbling; I was being asked about the housing conditions of dairy cows and poultry RE my decision to stop all animal product consumption. It was going so-so, but the father of the family challenged most of what I said. He knows a lot more about farming than I do, having grown up with a Mennonite family on a farm. He had selective hearing when I was trying to point out the fact that whatever experiences he had on his small family farm approximately 40 years ago are drastically different from where their food is actually coming from now.

My father also tried to argue that there was some degree of ethics in slaughterhouses by stating that the deaths that take place in nature by natural predators can be a lot more drawn out and painful than being slaughtered. I tried not to appear too upset while potentially forcefully reminding him that depending on the animal being slaughtered, they might be hung upside down by their feet before hand. The sheer terror of that ought to be considered very unethical without even taking the physical pain of it into account. I also reminded him that machines don’t take terror and the will to live into account, and that more often than they’d think, the blade misses in the first stage and the poor things go onto whatever else is next before their suffering finally ends. I don’t think he was really listening.

The kicker for the night happened after I was already primed by these two events as well as listening to someone complain about how they had been eating dry chicken because they hadn’t noticed the plumb sauce on the table. We’d moved to the couch and comfy chairs and we’d had a glass of wine or two. I forget exactly how it came up, but the mother of the family was basically complaining at me looking for me to take her side about some story about an encounter with a “crazy vegetarian” she had had at a party of some sort. This woman had yelled at her for eating an egg salad sandwich at some function that had sandwich platters, saying she was eating the vegetarian food. Granted, yelling typically isn’t the best way to start a dialog, and usually doesn’t make you very likable, but most omnivores are not really willing to think about this sort of thing. But this isn’t the main event, the main event stems from a miscommunication that lead to a disagreement. I thought she had said that for this event they had been surveyed for their eating habits, not unlike a wedding RSVP or something of the sort. I made it clear that I believed that if you were asked ahead of time what you ate, that you had to stick within that guideline even if it’s not a sit-down meal where a plate is placed in front of you.  You wouldn’t go to a wedding having said you’d like to eat chili that night and decide there that you actually want the lasagna and expect for that to work. I don’t even know exactly what happened, but soon her, my dad and my brother were all very loudly disagreeing with me and I basically felt like they were saying they thought anyone was entitled to eat any food even if it meant that I ended up not having enough available to me because I made the choice to not eat those other things… I assume you can understand how upsetting this would be to me. So I left and went to my room and ended up sobbing. Apparently they heard me and had an awkward moment afterwards. My mom had been in another room not really paying attention to the conversation but came to my room with her doggy for comfort when she heard me crying.

The only really notable even from Christmas Eve at my boyfriend’s house was that his family was talking with me about things generally and the “plants feel pain too!” argument/joke came up…  thankfully the conversation didn’t get too heated. All in all… his family is a lot nicer to me than my own. His mom used my becel in stuff so I would be happy eating it, and left the cream out of my bowl of the delicious soup that she made. She even went as far as to get me a vegan baking cook book, some baking ingredients I might need, and chocolate bars from whole foods. That night was the single best night of the holidays.

Christmas day, while not as bad as the preceding Saturday, was certainly not as pleasant as Christmas Eve. My mom had made me chili to take to my grandmas to eat (my mom has been amazing about feeding me, I do understand how lucky I am to have that and I think my next post will look at that more) but I had been waiting to eat it because I had wanted to be polite and sit at the table with everyone while they ate their meal. I was really hungry by this point, actually had a headache for over half an hour leading up to this point. They were cutting up their bird carcass, which I was “lucky” enough to get to see quite a bit and all spread out………… when they noticed that it wasn’t cooked enough so they were putting slices of it in the microwave to cook them faster. They took the plate out and said they were done so I put my chili in to warm (using a paper towel to cover it rather than the plastic cover they had just removed from the full plate) when my grandma decided that the turkey on the plate wasn’t warm enough whereupon she decided to take my food out of the microwave instead of waiting the minute left on the timer. I don’t really know how to interpret that any way other than “you are less important than us” so obviously I was hurt by this. But it passed. When I was finally able to put it back in, my great aunt asked me why I was eating chili. I told her I wasn’t eating meat anymore. She said “a little meat won’t hurt you.” I said it’s not me I’m worried about hurting.” At which point my grandma chimed in “All right, that’s enough, don’t be bringing that up!” I confusedly said I didn’t bring it up, I was answering my aunts question (EXTREMELY mildly, might I add) but my grandma proceeded to yell at me anyways and I just couldn’t take it so I ran away to cry again. Merry Christmas indeed. My grandma came banging on the door a little while later saying she needed to go to the bathroom, but then grabbed my shoulders and trying to talk to me when I opened the door. I told her that wasn’t going to the bathroom and went into her bedroom to be alone instead. It was quite a while before I was able to come out, and I was incredibly worried my family thought I was crazy.

I’m finding it’s not so much what people say that’s getting to me… it’s how they say it. I feel ganged up on, bullied, ignored, talked at, less than. I feel challenged from every angle almost all the time. I have really great debate skills, I am excellent at making a point and challenging people to think. But I feel like I’m being denied the opportunity to actually dialogue with people. It’s incredibly disrespectful and something I have a lot of trouble with.

I feel the need to end on a good note though. Yesterday was the Christmas gather for my dads side of the family. I have issues with my dad, but I find his family a lot smarter and … better … than my mom’s half of the family. I tend to have more in common with them. A cousin of mine on his side is vegan too, so seeing her yesterday was really helpful for me. Her mom had made sure that we had lots of things available to us to eat and I really felt included. I need to find myself a bit of a community that gives me that feeling.

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Opinions – Out of the Woodwork.

I was especially worried about telling one specific friend about my looming veganism. Eventually I worked up the courage and started talking to her about the fact that I was vegetarian now, and going to be vegan in the New Year. I was shocked by her response. I prefaced telling her by saying I had an announcement, but that I was not pregnant or engaged. I then made the reveal. She said “You shouldn’t be veggie/vegan if pregnant, but you’re not, so congrats! That’s a big step, and an amazing one! It’s great for the environment and your overall health.” She floored me with this response. I was expecting the “veganism is crazy and extreme and stupid” lecture I could’ve sworn I’d heard parts of from her in the past when I’d mentioned thinking about going veg long before I did. But here she was, being supportive and happy for me. Even starting talking about how she wanted to go back to her semi-veg lifestyle she had in high school but dropped in college because of “limited food options on campus.”

So this was going well, right? It was nothing like I had expected it to be, minus her little remark about pregnancy, I couldn’t be happier with how that had gone. I had been all worried about telling my grandma as well and that went completely fine. So I told her how relaxed I was having finally told her, since I was worried that she’d make a big deal out of it because she thought the idea was stupid.

Her response? That veganism was stupid for most people, but that I’d be okay because I can handle myself. My thoughts are that this remark meant that she thought I was going veg for health reasons, as an attempt to lose weight (she’s in the performing arts industry and unfortunately has issues with body image and is very focused on thinness to the point where I wonder if she exercises past the healthy amount) or for environmental reasons (which are obviously a factor now that I know about them as well). I didn’t quite know what to make of it at the time, so my reply was “oh. I definitely thought that you didn’t think that things were harmful to animals.”

That’s when it all fell apart.

The reaction I was expecting from the beginning started now. When I made it clear to her that I wasn’t doing this to be thin (which probably will never happen given that my roommate has made me amazing vegan banana bread [which I call vegana bread] and countless junkfoods are still an option for me…. Gosh I love food) her actual opinion came out.

Every typical, horrible response other than “mmm bacon” started to flow out of her like bile. I could barely keep up with her. “Cows need to be milked, they feel better afterwards” “Chickens lay eggs anyway so why not use them?” “It’s the natural order of things for humans to eat animals, it’s how we evolved” … I’m sure you know the drill. I did my best to rebuttal each statement she made, but she has a habit of sending up to ten messages in a row so things eventually started to get confusing and muddled and pointless. It was clear that no progress was going to be made, so I eventually politely asked if she would view me asking to stop the conversation at this point was an indicator that I was out of things to say in response to her, assured her I had much to say and disagreed with much (or, all) of what she was saying but felt we should stop for the time being. She agreed of course and we turned to other things. But when my friend posted on my facebook a link to the article that made her go vegan (one that says to be feminist is to be vegan and talks about the dairy industry) and I tagged this friend in a comment so she could read it.

Holy. Fucking. Shit. Things exploded. I wanted nothing to do with the conversation as it was taking place online without me realizing right as I asked for our text conversation to be discontinued. My friend that posted it and some of her friends were engaging in a back-and-forth with her and I was just cringing watching it unfold.  She’s been a friend of mine for coming up on 10 years now, but I was so embarrassed by things she was saying and how she wasn’t being logical at all. Eventually she stopped responding, I’m assuming because she ran out of ways to counter the other things being said. But I don’t feel any sort of resolution. I don’t expect I ever will.

It leads me to wonder if this is how I’m going to spend the majority of my life from now on. Feeling disconnected from my longest friends, feeling ashamed and embarrassed by things they say instead of having their backs when they get into messes they can’t handle. This is who I am now, and I do not regret making my way here, I’m so happy that I’m finally making these changes, but I wonder what other effects I will experience. It’s so much more than food.

H

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Change in Focus

Lately I’ve been noticing things more and more. Or, only noticing meat. I was walking to school one morning, and I walked past someone eating a burger from McDonalds… and literally all I saw when I walked past her was the meat. All my eyes saw were the burger. It was like a special camera effect in a movie, my eyes literally were only seeing the meat, the person holding it was blurry and not visible to me. I shuddered. I’m not really sure what else I have to say about this, as it was a really weird experience for me, but I just wanted to put it out there.

Notably of late, I’ve been getting more vocal with stuff with my friends on facebook. I have a classmate who is very sweet and does excellent things rehoming dogs and loves horses and talks about her love of animals in general, but can’t be vegetarian because she’s super anemic. But then she does things like post a picture of bacon, eggs and asparagus saying “gotta start the day off right!” This is not long after me posting my pictures from the pig save vigil where she said “this is so sad, it’s a good thing I had a fully veggie day today!”  and posts a video of How it’s Made about egg production (which was actually exceptionally mild yet she “couldn’t express how upsetting” it was to her…). My unacknowledged response was “I’ll have the asparagus.” What really annoyed me was the proximity to her other posts and remarks. But it gets worse…

Shortly after that, she posts something about “the three reasons why bacon is better than true love.” I had a witty response, “You forgot the word ‘tempeh’!” to which she responded that tempeh could count to, and I expressed that I really had meant more as an alternative to bacon, not alongside bacon. One of the reasons she posted why bacon was better than true love was that love is fleeting, but bacon stays in your heart (arteries) forever. I posted a picture of pigs on a truck saying that “Bacon is sticking in my heart even more-so now that I am not eating meat.” No one else said anything after that.

I’ve started posting more things about how cute piggies are and how I could never eat them again. And today I shared something a friend posted how cows basically dancing on their way out to pasture after being stuck in the barn all winter. I’m starting to post more. And later today, when she gets off work, I’m planning on telling my friend who I’ve been worried about telling. She’s an “ex-semi-vegetarian” and she things veganism is “excessive”, that “cows like being milked because it relieves them” and that “chickens are going to lay eggs no matter what so eating them doesn’t harm them” … I had mentioned to her before I’d made any changes that I was considering things and starting to think more about what I was eating. So I’m obviously worked up about telling her, and she tends to have big reactions to things. But once she’s said her little rant about why she thinks my decision is silly, I’ll be able to tell her the actual reasons behind my decisions and hopefully she won’t have any objections… not that that would change me obviously, would just make my life a little nicer.

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Growing

I’m getting more confident in my changes. I’m not shying away from the words thinking “that’s not really me, is it?” Today is my four week anniversary of no meat. Originally this is when I was going to start eating meat again, sort of. I had told myself that I was only giving up meat for a month just to try it, so it wouldn’t seem as daunting, so I’d be more likely to succeed. I’m the kinda person who can easily be freaked out by absolutes. I need time to adjust to them. And thankfully this month has been that time for me. I allowed myself to think about all of these horrible things while I wasn’t eating them, and less than a week into my “month” of no meat… I knew I was done with it forever. It had originally started as “I’m not going to eat meat this November and I’m trying to drink soy milk” to “… never again.” And I know that deep down inside, this is what I wanted the second I had the thought “I feel like a vegetarian.” I’d been thinking about giving up meat for ages and ages, I had a failed attempt in high school and the concept never really left my mind entirely. It would pop up from time to time, I’d think about it for a bit, and then push the ideas back down in my head. Because they weren’t convenient. I couldn’t do it then. But then I started on an SSRI for anxiety. Three days after the drug was functioning in my system… I decided I didn’t want meat. They’re obviously connected. This is who I am, I just needed some help to get here. I’m finally starting to feel like the person I want to be.

I’m getting my voice back. In high school I was part of the debate and leadership clubs, I cared about things, I wanted to change things that needed changing. And then university happened, I lost those supports and the free time to actually do this, and I became so bogged down with work and courses and trying to get by. But after I reconnected with the teacher who sparked so much in me, I wanted to be that person again and almost felt trapped because I wasn’t.  I’m rebuilding my identity, and I’m going to be amazing. I cant wait till my student debt is gone and I can support things with time and money and actually help benefit others in need.

My confidence is starting to take off again, originally I started this blog because I didn’t know if I’d feel comfortable talking about my vegetarian/veganism on my facebook account. But when I went to the slaughterhouse… I posted those photos on facebook. I couldn’t not. I struggle between wanting to share information and challenge people to think (which I have always loved doing) and being that obnoxious friend that posts a thousand things a day that no one ends up paying attention to. So I’ve resolved to try to only post about things when I’ve been at an event of some sort, stick to posting things about what I’m actually doing instead of a million things I’m reading. If I overdo it, I’ll lose my audience. But if I’m careful, people will still actually listen to me. And maybe I can make a difference that way. By being the trusted vegan.

H