Admiration

Today I thought it would be fun to write a bit about the people in my life that I most admire and why I admire them. Working with at risk populations and disadvantaged children has made me realize just how lucky I have been to have the people I’ve had in my life. Often when we’ve been raised in a healthy environment, surrounded by privilege, it can be hard to realize how different the lives of others may actually be. For most of my life, I took the incredible adults in my life for granted. Even worse, I didn’t acknowledge how great they actually were. Instead of being grateful for all that my parents have done for me, as a teen I was quick to judge and dismiss all the good things about them in favor of focusing on the imperfections of their parenting.

Now when I look back, I have to laugh at how naïve I was. I was expecting my parents, and frankly all the adults in my life, to be perfect, and was angry with them when (of course) they weren’t. It was only after becoming an adult myself that I realized the impossible standard I had been holding people too. Today I wanted to explain exactly why the adults I’ve had in my life growing up were not just adequate, but phenomenal, especially compared to the parents I meet everyday at work.

Mom

In the last decade, I have done a complete 180 when it comes to my opinion of my mom. As a teen I blamed her for all of my issues, rather than giving her credit for the advantages she has given me. I considered her a “bad mom” because she was always too busy. How exactly I felt that was her fault, I don’t know. She was raising two children and working full time with little to no help from my father. Of course she was busy. There were a few times I recall her actually having a mental breakdown in front of my sister and I when we were little. I was shocked and appalled even at the time. “This is not appropriate behavior to display in front of children,” I thought. Looking back, I genuinely can’t believe she only had those few incidents. I would be breaking down every single day if I was in her shoes now.

My mother is one of the most incredible people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She is so patient and gentle and intelligent and humble. She’s a saint in my eyes. She has always made sure that my sister and I had everything we could have ever needed or wanted. She has always shown me respect even when I was a small child. She has always been there to listen to me, no matter how busy she may have been. She had so much on her plate for so many years and still hardly ever complained. She never gave up on me, even when I tried to shut her out. Her love has truly been unconditional. I couldn’t imagine having a more ideal mother. I am so lucky to have her in my life, to have been raised by her, to have been able to learn from her example. I am forever grateful.

Grandma

My grandmother on my mother’s side, has also been an essential influence in my life. I am so lucky to have always been surrounded by such strong, intelligent, loving women. I owe everything that I am today to the women who raised me and taught me by example all the values I now hold so dear. My grandma raised me just as much as my mother did. She was always there to greet me when I got off the school bus and was my only baby sitter.

This woman is truly selfless, much like my mother. She has been an example of strength, independence, contentment, equanimity, and love. Nothing ever seems to bother or overwhelm this woman. She has been through so much in her 91 years on this earth. She has instilled in me her love of reading and her connection to nature. I will always cherish the memories I have of her reciting fairytales to me before bed and exploring the woods together with her and my sister. I’ve never heard her raise her voice. Neither she or my mother ever raised a hand to me either. The steady, sturdy presence of these unbelievable woman has allowed me to be the person I am today.

Scott

It may seem strange that the Scott I’m referring to here is actually my coworker and not my father, who is also named Scott. However, my father, while always being a part of my life, has never really made much of an impact on me. He always remained in the background. It is sad to say, but I’m MUCH closer to the Scott I’ve only known for two years now, than I am my own father.

That being said, Scott is an incredible man. I feel overwhelming gratitude that I am able to spend so much time with him. I genuinely think of him as a father. He represents to me so many qualities that I aspire to cultivate within myself. He is intelligent, charismatic, interesting, funny, dedicated, humble, easy-going, and much much more. He emanates passion in everything that he does. He does his job well, with diligence and skill. He is selfless almost to a fault. He would do anything for his family, friends, and the children that we serve every day.

I even love his imperfections. I admire the fact that he came from a complicated background. He grew up with an alcoholic, largely absent father. His mother hit him on many occasions. He saw some messed up things as a young man. He stole. He did drugs. He certainly hasn’t always been the outstanding citizen he is today, and that makes him all the more endearing to me. Despite all that he’s seen in his personal life as well as through his line of work, he still always manages to see the best in people. He has an unwavering faith in humanity that I envy. I can only hope that I can be more like him some day.


These are the three people that I admire and look up to the most. There are so many other amazing people I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life, but even if it were only these three, it would be more than the majority of the kids I meet everyday have. Even if you only have one decent person to admire in your life, be grateful. You would be surprised how many people have absolutely no one worthy of being a role model. And if you are one of those people, my heart goes out to you. I hope that someday we can all become someone worthy of admiration for someone who needs it.

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A Letter to My Sister

Dear Sarah,

I’m not sure if I’ll actually decide to give you this letter, but I knew I had to write it either way. I just have to put these thoughts down into words. Even though our family has never been very outwardly affectionate, I have always had a deep well of admiration and love for you for as long as I can remember. We may be pretty close in age, but I’ve looked up to you my entire life. All I ever wanted was for us to be friends, and it means the world to me that we are now.

It’s hard for me to come up with the right way to phrase everything I want to tell you. I guess primarily I just want you to know that most of the aspects of my life that I am now so proud of were introduced to me by you. You are the reason that I draw. If it wasn’t for you, I may have never found an interest in that hobby. I can still remember how good you were with colors and blending even when we were still using crayons. You should see the way I show off the paintings I have of yours to everyone that comes to my house. I know you don’t even use it anymore, but I’ve shown so many people your website. I am just so proud to have such an incredibly talented sister.

Even though mom and grandma raised us, you have always been my primary role model. One of the most influential times in my life was living with you again at mom’s when you came back from Florida. I doubt you’re aware, but a lot of the “self improvement” things you brought back with you during that time shaped the course of my life in the years since then. Remember when I first started writing pages with you every morning? Even though I no longer do that exact practice, that may have been the first daily self care habit I ever had. I can trace back a lot of my beneficial daily routines to that time.

You were even the reason I started doing yoga! Doing those poses in the rec room with you all those years ago was probably the first yoga I ever did. I was so impressed when you showed me that you could plant your palms flat on the ground in a forward fold. It was the first time I realized that maybe yoga really was something regular people could become good at, not just famous internet influencers or people that had practiced it their entire lives. I would have never become a yoga teacher if it wasn’t for you opening that door for me.

Another major part of who I am today that I want to thank you for is veganism. I’m not sure I even knew what a vegan was before you. I know it took me a while to get it, but once I did you were the anchor that kept me sane in the beginning. You showed me so many delicious new options. You were pretty much the one that taught me how to cook, albeit indirectly. Your culinary skills are another thing I can’t help but brag about to everyone I know. I cannot wait to have Nick try the Gross Sandwich. I’m sure I would have struggled so much more with a vegan diet if it wasn’t for you feeding me for the first couple years.

You have so many amazing talents. I am so grateful that I have had you in my life to constantly inspire me and challenge me. I would not be half the person I am today if it weren’t for you. I just want you to know how much I love, admire, and appreciate you. And how much I always have, even when on the surface it seemed as though we didn’t like one another very much. You are an incredible, funny, intelligent, creative, and unique person.

Finally, I want you to know that even if Val and I pressure you to make more art again, the things you create aren’t what give you value. You could never touch a pen or a brush again and I would still love and respect you just as much. I’d still be just as proud to be your sister. I only want you to be happy, because you deserve to be happy. You have no idea how much it fills my heart with joy to know that you’ve found a wonderful man who loves you and can be by your side. Not only that, but the fact that he has an incredible young daughter for you to help raise. Alice is so lucky to have someone like you in her life to learn from and look up to. I guarantee you have already permanently altered the course of her life for the better. She may write you a letter like this herself one day.

With love and gratitude,

Your Sister

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Bonding & Social Anxiety

Maybe no one really seems to be the person that they mean to be.

Conor Oberst

Probably my favorite man in the world (besides my boyfriend) is the man I work with at my small little three-person office. I’m not quite sure I’ve ever held someone in such high regard. I genuinely view him as a member of my family and I look forward to talking to him every day. If we were closer in age, I’d definitely have a crush on him. Since he’s my parents’ age, I think of him like a father instead. Strangely enough, he and my real father go by the same name.

Earlier when I walked into his office, he was telling another coworker/friend of ours that he had been talking about me with his wife last night. He was telling her about how close we’ve gotten over the last few years and how much he’s grown to love me. I nearly teared up as he listed off my best qualities proudly. I was so close to telling him that I view him as a father, but decided to bite my tongue. Maybe I’ll tell him one day, but not today.

Never having been close to my biological father, seeing him in this way means a lot to me. I honestly have never had a closer, non-sexual relationship with a man before in my life. He has taught me so much. I am filled with admiration and love for him. He’s one of those people that I just mesh with extremely well. He has such an open, accepting, light-hearted aura.

However, despite all of this, I struggle with the warm emotions I feel for him. It is a constant balancing act whenever I start to feel attached to someone. There are only a small handful of people I’ve ever felt strongly enough about to be vulnerable with. Even so, that vulnerability terrifies me. My anxiety tells me I’m not safe, that I’ll only end up getting hurt and rejected if I show the world who I really am. No matter how safe the person may make me feel, that pinching fear in my chest never fully leaves. Even when I so desperately want to be closer, I can’t help but keep myself at arm’s length.

I think when you don’t have personal experience with social anxiety, you imagine it’s only being afraid of negative social interactions such as being humiliated or not knowing what to do or say in a given situation. But actually, positive social situations can be just a stressful. Even after a great moment of intimacy with someone I genuinely care for, I find myself feeling anxious afterwards. Thoughts start to pop up: Did I share too much? Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Do they like me as much as I like them? I feel awkward and embarrassed by getting closer to someone, even when it’s what I want. It’s quite frustrating and isolating as you can imagine.

I think most people in my life notice a striking difference between who I initially present myself to be: cold, distant, quiet, serious, soft-spoken, reserved and who I reveal myself to be later on: warm, loving, sensitive, affectionate, funny, loud, outspoken, passionate. Although most people seem to change once you get to know them better, I don’t think it’s usually as drastic of a difference. I doubt most of the people I am close to even realize how deeply loving and affectionate I can be. I’m just too afraid to be that vulnerable with practically anyone.

It really makes me wonder how different those around me might be from the way they present themselves to the world. I tend to take situations and individuals at face value. I can be pretty gullible and have to make a great effort to integrate the various layers of a person into a cohesive image. That’s one of the many great things about my friend at work. He is not without his flaws, but somehow his flaws make him all the more endearing. Loving someone despite their flaws is such a beautiful and profound thing to experience. Not only that, I am able to see the way he loves others who are deeply flawed themselves. He is open and accepting of just about everyone no matter how different they are from him. Witnessing this in another has helped me so much to come to terms with my own issues.

So for those of you out there also struggling with creating close, meaningful relationships despite your earnest desire to do so, know that you aren’t alone. And for everyone else reading this that may not have much knowledge of social anxiety or mental illness in general, I hope this has given you a new perspective and a better understanding of some of the issues others are going through.

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Sharing Yourself with Others

Yesterday was my favorite holiday, Independence Day. I love being able to spend a day with my friends and family in the sunshine, by the water, enjoying fresh fruit and BBQ food. I also always like the opportunity to drink around them as strange as that might sound. Being a generally reserved person, having a little alcohol at family gatherings gives me the courage to be more affectionate with everyone. The only problem with that is sometimes I’ll make promises that sober me isn’t brave enough to keep.

One of the things I always think about is spending more time with my family. My grandmother is over 90 years old, and although she’s SHOCKINGLY healthy and spry, I know I have limited time with her. I think a lot about all the time I spent with her growing up. There was a point I even considered her more of a mom than my actual mom. She would babysit my sister and I while my mom was at work and for a few hours after school every day. Even as a teenager I would often stop by her house before going home from school once I started driving. She was always there for me. I told her everything. She taught me so much and I cherish every memory I have with her.

I honestly don’t know when I started to drift away. Maybe it was once I started college and I wasn’t as close by anymore. For awhile I really didn’t have the time either, although I certainly still could have called. It just seemed like the crippling anxiety I carried with me all through my youth never applied to her. Then at some point, all of a sudden, it did. I became afraid to go see her, afraid I wouldn’t have anything to talk about, afraid I’d be bothering her. The longer I’ve let this anxious energy remain, the bigger it has become.

Now that I’m older I feel similarly about my Aunt. She is an amazing woman whom I love and admire so much. Before I never thought she really cared to be close with my sister and I, but over the last few years that’s changed. These past two presidential elections have really pushed her and her husband apart. It’s also really hurt her relationship with all of her boat club friends. I get the sense that she feels alone now. I want to reach out more and spend more time with her, but I get so anxious at the idea that I usually avoid the thought all together.

As I was sitting with my feet in the damp grass this morning, setting intentions for my day, a new thought struck me. Whenever I’m considering spending more time with friends or family, my main focus is on convincing myself that even though the thought makes me anxious, I will feel better overall. Embarrassingly, this morning was the first time I really considered the other person involved, other than feeling guilty for not following expected social conventions and possibly letting them down. The idea rang through my head that this time that I want to carve out for my friends and family is a gift to them. It is an act of love and compassion. Giving of myself to bring them happiness.

Of course my self-defeating inner voice immediately tried to tear down that idea. “No one cares whether or not they hear from you or spend time with you. You are insignificant,” it tells me. I am constantly afraid of bothering people with my presence. But once again I am merely focusing on myself and my own ego. The fear of feeling unwanted, facing rejection, or feeling like a burden has kept me from forming deeper bonds with all the people in my life. Deep down I know that isn’t true though. My grandmother would never feel burdened by being with me more often.

Not only that, but it helps to remind myself that even if I were an annoyance, so what? I truly believe that the closer we are able to live to the way our distant ancestors lived, the happier we will be. In the tribal communities that once made up humanity, and even in more recent times in small rural towns, every member of the group had value. I don’t have to be perfect to deserve love and quality time with the ones I love. No one expects me to be perfect, except me. There are plenty of people in the world that are more aggravating and problematic than me that are still loved and embraced by those around them. We are all flawed, imperfect beings, but that doesn’t disqualify us from having meaningful, important connections with one another.

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Valentine’s Day

I have had a strange history with Valentine’s Day. For most of my life I was indifferent to it. I did enjoy creating those boxes in class and receiving cards and cookies. Thankfully when I was young, everyone was required to make a card for everyone else. I’m still horrified at the idea that there was a time when unpopular little kids were left empty handed with only the feeling of utter rejection and isolation on this “day of love.”

As I got older, I grew to detest it. I still don’t know if it was just the corniness and commercialism or if it was an attempt to distance myself from the fact that I never had anyone to share my love with. Whatever the reason that began this feeling though, it continued even into the years when I did have a boyfriend. I remember the first year we were together and he bought me a giant bouquet of flowers and had it sent to my classroom. I was humiliated. Red from ear to ear. I had to carry that embarrassing thing around with me the rest of the day. Of course, as far as he ever knew, I loved it.

By our next Valentine’s Day he knew me much better. Instead of a showy display, he got me a box of gourmet vegan chocolates, paid his mother to leave so we’d have the house to ourselves for the night, and presented me with five hits of acid and some ketamine. (I had recently gotten my wisdom teeth removed and raved about how much I enjoyed the laughing gas. He said ketamine was the closest street drug he could find as far as effects go.) To this day, I count that Valentine’s Day among one of the best days of my life.

It is hard to believe that was six or seven years ago now. So much has changed and yet, nothing has. In the years since then, I’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day as my cat’s birthday. (The acid that night inspired me to adopt her. I even named her Lucy.) And I guess that’s just one of the tricky parts about life. The good and the bad are so many thread inextricably woven into the same cloth. To trace along one, you inevitably stumble across the other as well. These precious memories of mine are, for the most part, too painful to recall. What a cruel joke of memory that the past can be soured by the present.

Maybe it is just an art I need to practice more, accepting and honoring those twinges of pain that impinge upon my happy nostalgia. There is beauty and growth that blooms from pain. When you look at a flower garden, you don’t often focus on the filth and rot and decay that has fertilized the soil. The longer I live, the more I come to understand that life is all about focus. It is a blessing to realize this and the fact that attention is a muscle that I can train with practice.

As for today, I will wrap myself in gratitude. Things are not perfect. They have not gone exactly as I would have liked. But so much unexpected beauty and love has come to me regardless. Lucy has truly brought me all the love and joy that a first child should. We know one another, love one another, and have grown with one another. She has been by my side through some of the darkest times in my life. She has been my strength and my purpose when I had nothing else to get me out of bed in the morning.

Today I choose to focus on that marvelous, miraculous bond we share. Today is a day of love. I have all of the love I could ever want or need from Lucy and her sister Sybil. We are a family that transcends species and language through unconditional love. And that is truly something to celebrate.

The Heart That Gives, Gathers

I still remember giddily awaiting Christmas morning. Hardly being able to fall asleep. My eyes popping open at 4 in the morning, because that is technically Christmas. My sister and I would go wake my parents up at that ungodly hour. And to their credit, they were always good sports about it. They never got mad at us. Usually they’d actually drag themselves out of bed and let us start opening our presents even though the sun had yet to come up. I can’t say I would have reacted the same.

The strangest part is thinking that all that excitement was to receive gifts. Now that I’m older, I still have a sense of excitement for Christmas day, but the thought of what I’ll return home with is the last thing on my mind. I had heard as a child that it was a greater joy to give gifts to your loved ones than to be gifted things in return. But I had always thought that was just a thing adults said so we didn’t feel bad. I had no idea how true I would one day find that sentiment. Now being excited only to be given gifts is the side of the equation that seems absurd.

As I am about to give the gifts that I spent months gathering, making, and wrapping gingerly, I can’t help but be full of gratitude and love. Christmas is a wonderful reminder that even though it may seem counterintuitive, generosity leads to abundance. We spend so much of our lives saving and hoarding, being fearful that we will not have enough. Paradoxically, this draws that sense of “lacking” into our lives rather than keeping it at bay.

When we give and share what we have with others, the universe brings that same energy of abundance back to us. Christmas is a perfect example of that principle. We spend a lot of time and money before the holidays making sure we have just the right gifts for those we love. But are we not repaid for our money and effort tenfold by the joy we receive upon watching their happy faces light up? By their hugs and kisses? By the chance to share delicious hot food as we gather together in the cold?

The winter months seem like a time to hunker down, spend frugally, stay in, save up to survive. But what a beautiful holiday we have implanted right in the middle! A holiday that encourages us to go out, to spend time with our loved ones, to gorge ourselves on fancy foods, to give elaborate gifts. A reminder that we are all one. A reminder that because of this, our generosity will always find it’s way back around to us in some form or another. So we don’t need to be afraid. Give freely. Help others. Even when you may feel like you don’t have anything to spare. It’s always worth it.

Merry Christmas

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A Covid Christmas Miracle

This morning I woke up to the most wonderful gift I will receive this Christmas, the news that my coworker got her Covid test results back. She was negative. I am so relieved. I couldn’t be more grateful to know that I will be able to have Christmas with my family again this year. I was expecting to spend the holiday alone for the first time. I’m glad I held out hope and still wrapped all my gifts and prepared just in case. Sometimes we all need a reminder not to take these small moments together for granted. I know I am going to have an extra special Christmas this year now. Each second I spend with my family will be saturated with gratitude. I am so ready so soak it all in.

My grandmother was the main reason I was going to stay away if I had been exposed. I would never put her at risk. Yet, at the same time, I was also extra upset about having to stay away this year because of her. She is about to be 90 years old. Although she is shockingly healthy, I don’t know how many more holidays we will have together. I really didn’t want to miss a single one, even if it was to protect her. I am so glad that now I don’t have to. However, it still breaks me heart that I won’t be able to hug her and hold her tight when I see her this Friday.

My grandma understands that we are keeping our distance more than usual because we don’t want her to get sick, but I think it still hurts her. I’m sure it is hard for all elderly people these days. Loved ones want to keep away so they can live longer, but then we also run the risk of missing their final days, months, years on this earth anyway. I don’t know what I would do if my grandmother died even a natural death in these dark times. I might not be able to bear the knowledge that I wasn’t able to hug her, kiss her, hold her hand in her last days. God forbid she be hospitalized. Forced to spend her final moments making the decision of which single family member she would like to have by her bedside.

I don’t like to think about my grandmother passing away. But that grim reality gets closer every year, and eventually I will have to face it. This year has made that harsh realization clearer than ever. But sometimes fear, impermanence, uncertainty, make moments spent in happiness together all the more poignant. I am not going to take this Friday for granted. In the place of hugs, I am going to pour my heart out in warm words. I am going to write my love into each card I give. I am going to vibrate with an energy so strong, so grateful, so loving that it will touch everyone around me even if I can’t touch them myself.

So have yourself a merry little Christmas. I know I will.

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Even though I am a summer person and generally prefer warm weather and sunshine, there has always been a special place in my heart for the Christmas season. I haven’t been religious since I was in middle school, but I’ve never lost my love for Christmas. It seems like it has lost most of its religious significance in modern times anyway. It is a heck of a lot more focused on consumerism and commercialism. However, for me, it’s always been about coziness, togetherness, and family. There is just something so inexplicably satisfying about being warm and safe and close to the ones you love when it’s so cold and grey and inhospitable outside.

Whereas spring and summer are full of activity and exuberance, the fall and winter months are more suited to the quiet stillness of going within. They are a time to rest and be mindful. A time to pause and reflect on all that we are grateful for. It is a time to hold your loved ones close and give thanks that we have all made it through another long year together.

My family isn’t really very affectionate. We don’t give tons of hugs and kisses. We don’t have many heartfelt conversations. I’ve always been envious of other families in that regard. I am an affectionate person, but I feel my ability to express that has been underdeveloped after living amongst such closed off people my whole life. For me, Christmas is an excuse to really lay my love on thick without feeling awkward about it. It feels like grand emotional displays are more acceptable during this time of the year. It gives me the courage to let myself be truly vulnerable. This holiday makes my heart feel so open.

I have a friend that always writes a lot in every card she gives you. They are always beautifully worded outpourings of genuine love. For years now I’ve made a tradition of this for myself. Every gift I give for Christmas has a least two parts: the physical gift, as well as a poetic verbal summation of my profound love and appreciation. My family has come to expect these tear-jerking messages each year. I always joke about the way people cry whenever they receive a gift from me. I’ve learned that no matter how wonderful your gift is, nothing can compare to putting your love for someone into words.

Even if you think the person already knows how you really feel, don’t hesitate to tell them whenever you find a chance. Kind words can mean so much. I save every heartfelt card I’ve received from my friend over the years. I read them over whenever I stumble across one, and they never fail to cheer me up and calm me down. I treasure them more than any physical gift I’ve received from her.

Writing a personal card for someone can also be a great alternative to buying a gift. Especially with the financial insecurity this year has brought, it’s comforting to know that you always have something you can give: your love. You may be surprised to find this warm gesture is even more significant than an expensive gift would have been.

I hope that you can also use this season to open your heart and share that deep well of love with the people around you. It is a beautiful thing to witness yourself learn to shift your focus from receiving gifts as a child, to giving them as an adult. It’s hard to decide which phase is better. The excitement of waking up to presents under the tree as a child was amazing, but I think I may prefer the soft, deep, reverberating warmth of being able to give to those you love even more.

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Veganism & the Holidays

The holidays are a perfect microcosm of some of the underlying reasons most people find veganism unappealing. As someone who thinks from a very analytical and logical perspective most of the time, it is hard for me to accept some of the more social and emotional considerations people have surrounding veganism. I can understand these factors, but in my mind they hold absolutely no weight in the matter.

I adore food and the days centered around eating as much of it as possible are some of my favorites. So I was not immune from the initial hardships of a vegan lifestyle. That first vegan holiday will be hard. You’ll have to give it a bit more effort. Finding new recipes to try or cooking your own dishes when you’d normally have everything prepared for you. Maybe there is a particular dish that represents a lot of tender memories that you can no longer enjoy with your family.

Every year I still go out of my way to put on a good show for the holidays. I pull up pictures of past Thanksgiving meals on my phone to satisfy the many questions I’m sure to receive from friends and coworkers. What do you eat for Thanksgiving? You don’t have turkey?? Yet no one ever seems happy with my reply. I can’t tell if they are disappointed I was able to show them an immaculate meal, calling into question their own commitment to a meat filled holiday, or if they still find my meal sad and feel pity for me.

To be honest, this part of my holidays is harder than my dietary restrictions themselves. I detest playing the vegan emissary. Answering the same questions, hearing the same responses and comments year after year with a stiff smile. I feel it’s my duty to at least give a good face to veganism. Even though I know it never changes anyone’s mind in the end. I know it would be worse if I gave them a reason to believe a vegan holiday was desolate and pathetic or that vegans are hostile, angry, or unfriendly. Most people are dying to believe those things already.

However, it makes me sick to play the part of the happy, welcoming, friendly vegan. I don’t want to have to cater to people’s childish, selfish concerns about a vegan diet. In my mind what I eat or don’t get to eat for holiday meals is totally irrelevant. Sometimes I just want to shout: Animals are suffering. Animals are dying. For a fucking meal. Its absurd. It’s horrific. It’s an outrage. Why are we talking about if I miss my mom’s homemade stuffing?! Even if I ate the paper plates on Thanksgiving, it doesn’t give anyone the right to murder another being.

I know most people’s minds are not so black and white. But to me it’s the most black and white issue there is. Nothing justifies unnecessary death. We can live perfectly happy and healthy lives without meat and dairy products. That should be the end of the discussion. There is nothing else to consider. Why must I dance around this fact with everyone I meet? Even trying to nail someone down on that simply fact doesn’t work. The mind is a slippery mistress. Even though I’m sure everyone can agree that killing animals is wrong, they somehow build a defensive, exclusionary wall around the killing they participate in. And that wall is impenetrable.

So today I prepare to play the “good vegan.” I will bring delectable dishes that hardly anyone will try. I will ignore the jeers and unoriginal jokes. I will avert my gaze from the body parts my family happily fills their plates with. And I will try to remember that I was once one of them. I will try to remember that the mind is fascinating and complex. It’s defense mechanisms are strong and enduring. And 2 + 2 does not equal 4 when it comes to human beings. Killing and eating animals is horrific and cruel, my family and friends kill and eat dead animals, but my family and friends are not heartless or cruel. Some days it’s hard for me to accept that.

Hypocrisy for the Holidays

In memory of the 56 billion each year, 153.4 million each day, 6.4 million each hour, 106,546 each minute.

Carol Adams

When I started this blog, I intended to focus on veganism. I wanted to make a change in the world and help vegans in small areas of the country like me be successful. As you can see from the majority of my posts, I’ve all but abandoned that goal. I quickly grew weary of fighting what seems like a hopeless battle.

Yet I still have a small ember of that fire in my heart. I feel guilty about giving up on the billions of farmed animals that are alive and suffering at this very moment. I know that I should be fighting every day, every moment, with every breath I have. Even if it is hopeless. Even if I burn myself up in the process. Even if I lose my voice from screaming. Because who else will help them? What right do I have to live happily, to turn my head away, when they are still suffering?

When the holidays come around each year it gets more difficult to avoid these painful truths. There is a seemingly never ending stream of curious questions about what I’ll eat for Thanksgiving. Looks of mild disgust when I happily explain how yummy my tofurky always is. Looks of pity when they think about my holidays as a vegan.

I try to be a good example, give a good sales pitch. I try not to get annoyed when I have to answer the same questions for the 9th year in a row. That deep well of rage still simmers in my soul. Bitter outrage at the insanity, the inhumanity of it all. But after all these years a heavy sadness overwhelms that anger. A cold damp rain in my heart, threatening to extinguish that ember. A sadness about the ways things are, my inability to change this fucked up world, about all the lovely, innocent babies crying out somewhere in the dark.

There are very few things that can bring me to tears. Imagining the grand scale, the sheer magnitude of unimaginable suffering the human race inflicts upon these gentle beings is one of them. I spent my meditation today silently weeping for them. Saying I’m sorry, desperately wishing them some sense of peace, an end to their pain.

Maybe if I could shed these tears at the dinner table on December 25th I could finally get through to my family. Maybe I could show them the anguish I feel. The anguish they contribute to, are complacent with. The sickening absurdity of praying for peace on earth before carving up a corpse.

I know even that would not move them though. They would just think that I’m insane. Or trying to get attention. Because that’s how all vegans are seen. We are dramatic, attention seekers. We are arrogant, know-it-alls. We are despised and mocked. No one wants to confront their own hypocrisy, their own atrocities. And I can’t really blame them. It isn’t easy to live with this immense weight. This horrible knowing.

And so I prepare to share my table with death, with violence, with cruelty, with ignorance this holiday season, as I do every year. And I will swallow that pain with my red wine. I will pretend it’s all okay. I will close my heart to the bodies of my brethren laid before me with shame. Because I simply cannot bear to feel what I truly feel. I cannot bear to scream and fight anymore. And I am so ashamed. I am so sorry that I am not strong enough to save them.