Hey everyone. Yeah, I know, it’s been a while. Let’s just say that we will have plenty to talk about now that I’m back!
Let’s start with the V word. And no, I’m not talking about virginity, although sexuality does have a role in this story… I’m talking about the OTHER V word — VEGETARIAN. I’ve been a yoga teacher for over 10 years, and during these 10 years, I have to admit that I have made it a point to NOT be a vegetarian, for a variety of reasons…
1. I am a mover and a shaker, and I need a lot of protein in my diet, but it has seemed for a long time that non-meaty protein sources messed up my digestion in either direction (beans one way, tofu the other… you got me?)
2. One of my students once tried to feed me the biggest shame sandwich once about NOT being a vegetarian when we ran into each other in line at a deli, and I thought, “holy shit, if this is the holier than thou attitude that vegetarians have, then deli guy, make that a double meat sandwich please!”
3. Yeah, I’m a rebel. I won’t do the THING, even if it’s theoretically a good thing, if it means it might turn me into a righteous asshole… Ok, a MORE righteous asshole, because I’ll own that, I am already a righteous asshole (sometimes).
4. Bonding. My husband and I totally bond over food, and he is a corn-fed farm boy that LOVES his meat… And I LOVE the joy of sharing FOOD with him!
DISCLAIMER. Ok. Please, if you’re a vegetarian, we got this far… Stay with me… I LOVE you, I RESPECT you, and I have NO PROBLEM with you, and I don’t want to FIGHT with you, or hear the 4 bazillion reasons why I should be a vegetarian yesterday. I get it! Read on, trust me!
5. I used to be a vegetarian. When I was in college. Why? Well, here goes, but we need a little backstory, starting in high school. From the “outside,” I was the typical top-of-the-food-chain high schooler… (we’ll take about the behind the scenes later…) I was a cheerleader, an athlete, and an honors student. I had the blond perm and the puffy bangs, it was the 90’s after all! I liked the big beefy football players because I was a teenage girl with raging hormones and they had big muscles, to which my brain said “yummy.” So when I got to college, there were even MORE big beefy football player guys, and these were the guys I continued to like. I’ve got a thing for quarterbacks in particular. Quarterback 1 was a year older, had a guitar in his dorm room, a super cool deep voice, blue blue eyes with long lashes, and a mysteriously busy schedule that made me feel so gosh darned special when he DID call. Quarterback 2 was a littler older still, a fellow alumni of the same high school, and did the “I’ll take her back to my house after a few drinks and we’ll make out, and no, she won’t notice that my friends are watching from around the bend…” Needless to say, I DID notice, and Quarterback 2 was a shitty kisser and had a surprisingly small penis, so that was the end of THAT. Quarterback 3 was sneakier. He was more honest for sure. I mean, the first thing he did was tell me why quarterback 1 was so busy (enter the girls softball team…). He made it a point to only make out with me in private, and had better assets (win-win). He would sing REO Speedwagon songs with me at the top of his lungs. He was kind-hearted, though not academically motivated (yes, I did write some of his English papers — in a perfect college freshman quarterback voice). He was fun, and he was real, and he was a real boyfriend for a while. Until he kept showing up at my apartment wasted, and puking all over the place, and I realized I was kind of done with taking care of him.
Enter punk rock boy. Punk rock boy was not a college football quarterback. He was an ad-junct 6th year art student at a college in another city. He was “straight edge,” meaning he didn’t drink or do drugs or show up at my apartment late at night and puke all over everything. He was in a band and played the drums and was super sensitive and sweet. He was a feminist, and spoke at “take back the night” rallies. And, he was also a vegetarian. It was a slow courtship that moved along at an anti-punk rock rhythm. But him being so different was exactly what I (thought I) needed at the time. So we ended up in a 3 year relationship, that led to me somewhere along the way becoming a vegetarian. And eating lots of bagels. And pound cake. And burritos. And probably a self-righteous sandwich or two… Meanwhile I gained my freshman 15 as a junior while carb loading for the marathon that never happened… because grains — wheat especially are NOT my mojo.
The good news, is that I was also really inspired by social activism, and during the time of our relationship, I made some significant changes in my academic pursuits, and studied art and social change, and took some pretty non-mainstream theology classes that led to a (undeclared) minor in justice and peace studies (because that was the totally punk rock thing to do). The bad news was that the relationship was an energy vortex. Punk rock boy was very emotionally needy and unstable, and ALWAYS broke. So in between working like 47 jobs to pay my rent and finding time to stay on the Dean’s list, I was managing a lot of psychology. A. LOT. I feel like we’ve digressed a bit further than I want to go, and clearly I have more to talk about another time (note senior year, Martinique, gay bars, Ross and Rachel syndrome).
Needless to say, we broke up. As soon as we did, he decided NOT to be straight edge anymore, and proceeded to call me all the time while drunk saying crazy shit. Then I found out that he had a porn addiction (NOT his roommate — as he had told me) in addition to the nasal spray addiction he had told me about (I know, RIGHT? another time, another time). And so I went in a NEW direction called “let’s not date college football players OR punk rockers,” and 6 months later I was a travel agent (another long story), sitting in a restaurant in Marseille with my friend Tina eating a CHEESEBURGER and drinking the newly released Beaujolais of that year. And I was DONE with hypocritical BULLSHIT including straight edge punk rock vegetarians.
Ok. Deep breath. Back to NOW. Well, almost. In August I went to a yoga retreat in California with my husband. Needless to say, we were practicing hours and hours of yoga together every day, and the food that was provided was all vegan. I assumed that my corn fed, meat-loving, former college quarterback (I know, I know!) husband was going to want to supplement this tree hugger hippy kale and air diet with a huge steak now and again, but he didn’t, and I didn’t, and we felt really pure and illuminated and actually ENJOYED eating kale wrapped in chard and EVEN the TOFU. And apparently, when you are doing hours and hours of yoga everyday, the tofu comes out just fine!
So we came back home, and because this is my story and not my husband’s, it shouldn’t matter to you at all what he’s eating, so back off! But since I got home, I just haven’t been able to eat meat. It’s like I know I can have it, but I don’t want it. My digestion has been a happy dream, and for the energetic level that I hold myself to on a daily basis (running a yoga studio, raising 3 kids, and being a soccer coach to name just a few), my body is a high-performance machine that CAN’T break down. I’m not gonna lie to you. I was a mermaid in a past life, and as such, I have eaten a little shrimp and a little fish here and there. But something has shifted, and it’s a little sticky and uncomfortable because I don’t want to be the weirdo (please forgive me, this is my own judge Judy talking), eating my own personal Tofurky on Thanksgiving at my in-laws — who happen to be good old fashioned meat-eating farmers. I don’t want to separate myself. I don’t want to be “better than” anyone. Ever.
And there’s a story I’m telling myself about what happens if I go deeper down this path — I’ll just go ahead and call it the yogic path — because that is what it is, and that is the journey I am on — that if I go too far down this path, I’ll get all arrogant and separate and no one will want to hang out with me any more because I will be such a self-righteous BORING ASSHOLE. And no no no no no no no my dear friends who I know ARE vegetarians I am so NOT SAYING that you are the WEIRDO on turkey day, or that you are a self-righteous asshole, this is only about this ridiculous story I have made up about myself and who I am, and who I should be, and who I CAN be. And that story is called “the magical and mysterious and super cunning EGO of Heather.” But as the great Ram Das says…
Other things happened on that trip in California, along the lines of getting the fuck over myself, and getting the hell out of my own way. So here I am telling just a part of it to you, and also knowing that there are ways that we are all holding ourselves back from our greatest radiance, well-being, connection and joy because of our crazy old stories. And yes, legitimately, my crazy old story is connected to some real shit that happened, and some decisions I made about people, and who people are and why they do what they do along the way, and what I needed to do to stay SAFE, and OK in the world.
So I’m not ready to call myself a vegetarian, (or more appropriately a pescatarian), in the same way that although I love Jesus like a cosmic big brother that ALWAYS answers when you need him, even if he is at the best party ever, or out with the most beautiful girl, or having the most amazing bliss filled meditation with the divine — I feel so squirmy about calling myself a christian (thanks to all the maniacal bullshit said and done under this title)… But I am not-so-secretly moving closer towards a place of equanimity by reclaiming wisdom that came to me when I was younger, that wasn’t quite refined enough at the time to serve me. And yes, I am talking about vegetarianism AND college football players. But he’s a musician too… And for the record, kale STILL makes me GASSY.
Wanna get over yourself with me? Let’s do this! The world needs us to stop being afraid of becoming who we were meant to be, and we can totally do it without becoming assholes!
Om. Amen. Hallelujah.