I am not one for titles. I don’t like being locked into what a title means, or being defined by the symbolism of certain words. That is why I’m in a partnership with my man instead of married; I am a student of Buddhism instead of Buddhist, and well you get the gist. While I’ve never been much of a meat eater, I have never taken on the title and presumed responsibility of being a vegetarian.
My food choices have often been a conversation piece when I was out and passed on meat dishes or ordered three different sides and called it a meal. At times, I liked the attention, because you can’t help but feel a little superior knowing that you are, in fact, on the moral high ground here. And at times it was annoying, such as when people would ask if it wasn’t hard for me not to eat that steak. I would say something like “no because if I ever want steak, I can eat it,” which is difficult to say without sounding like you think the person is an idiot. Or I would reply “Do you miss eating things you don’t like?” which again, can kind of sound condescending, but really, come on!
I wasn’t planning to assume this new title. It just happened on its own. The way I love my pets, and have seen how full of personality and feeling they are, which certainly opened my eyes to animals. My work in New York to ban carriage horses made me feel good, yet hypocritical. I have sat and listened to Buddha’s teaching on all living beings and had a feeling that maybe I was cherry-picking my spiritual practices a little too much.
About a year and a half ago I stopped eating red meat. Bacon was a favorite and then one night I had a dream about baby pigs, woke up, and said I won’t eat that again. The only thing I still ate was chicken, but even that became obsolete. I still didn’t see myself as vegetarian. To me vegetarians are like my old roommate who would say things like “what kind of flesh are you cooking” or “are you finished with the carcass?” if I left the chicken out. I thought it was awful when she said those things, and felt she meant to offend me. Maybe she did or maybe she didn’t. All I know is it shaped my view of vegetarians.
Whenever I had thought about completely giving up meat, I wondered what I would do on the holidays. I mean turkey and stuffing are my favorite part. What would I eat? What would everyone else eat? Would I feel weird? Would they feel uncomfortable?
When last Thanksgiving came, I ate turkey and stuffing as usual.
The next morning I awoke feeling something was wrong, but I wasn’t awake long enough to remember what it was yet. And there it was. I had broken my long spell on nonvegetarian-vegetarianism. I felt guilty, to my surprise. And then I realized it. I was done with turkey. What would I do if I could not eat stuffing though? It was my favorite thing to eat. I would make it without the sausage. That’s what. It’s funny to suddenly see that the sausage, which was always a part of the stuffing, I had tried to pick out as much as possible.
When my man came home, I said it. “I’m a vegetarian,” I declared. “Yeah, I know,” was his unaffected reply as he hung up his coat. Apparently I always had been in his eyes. I just hadn’t arrived there myself.
The following morning it hit me: Shrimp! I still eat shrimp! I hadn’t even thought about it. I immediately felt regret at locking myself in as a vegetarian. A quick Google search proved that yes; I could be a “pescatarian”—a vegetarian who eats fish—but that’s a little too contradictory. Especially since shrimp is the only seafood I ever eat. Was I going to let that one thing keep me from stepping into a place that will make me feel whole and consistent? I reasoned that there must be some small feeling of sacrifice; otherwise, this decision would have come to me long ago. And now it’s been a year, and while occasionally I miss shrimp, I am happy with my decision to commit to a title of who I am today and what matters to me now. And I have a turkey to thank for that.
Jessica Sarter is a New York ICF Certified life coach and a Reiki Master/Teacher who believes in combining a holistic practice with a realistic lifestyle. She is a “Bodhisattva in High Heels” interested in helping people build their own path. She is the founder of the website www.GetBalancedandCentered.com
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