I’m generally a ‘glass 3/4 full’ guy. Why debate half empty, half full when I can just remind myself the glass has more in it than I actually think does? The reality is that if I look close enough, my glass is usually way more than half full and any whining I do to the contrary is just me forgetting the wonderful, full life that I have.
When I plunged in to the cool, vegan waters last October, I did so with the loving support of friends and my very understanding family. I claim that my transition was rough because of the cravings and old habits that I had to fight through. It was me against my food history- and I won my battle and was then able to bask in the warm cheers of family and friends, unaware of how lucky I was or how easy I had it.
Then a comment from last week’s Gateway Compassion post made me take a closer look at my glass of water and once again find that it is well over the half-way mark and on the verge of spilling over the top. Erin is a brave veganaut who is encountering problems at home while she tries to lead a compassionate, animal-free life. Her comment reminded me of what a lucky jerk I am. It also contained a question that stumped me for hours. Honestly, I still may not have a very good answer, but that wont stop me from sharing it. Here is Erin’s comment:
“I have been oscillating between omnivore and vegan for a long time. I make all kinds of excuses for eating some sour cream or cheese or a chunk of meat here and there. Usually, my excuse is the fact that none of my family is vegan, and so I just have to eat whatever delicious food they cook. I feel too sheepish to ask for no animal products, or I’d rather avoid a debate about it.
My question is how do you convince your family to accept your choice to be vegan? Some of the feedback I get from them is that I’m being “elitist” or that I “don’t know the facts.” I am kinda sick and tired of debating all the time, and I’d rather just peacefully eat my vegan food without being questioned about it all the time.
On that note, thank you for your post about changing your name to a Veganaut. I really liked it, and it really helps to take the pressure off when you slip up and eat some animal product (as I often do).”
I never considered that the veganaut umbrella could be used by people who are almost forced to eat non-vegan grub. I never thought that people yearned to be vegan but faced such overwhelming opposition in their omnivore homes that it was inaccurate to call themselves perfect vegans. Having now met Erin, I am amazed by her bravery, humbled by the challenges that she, and others like her face, and proud that she finds solace among the veganaut community.
To the Erins of the world, I applaud you loudly and often since you are not getting it at home. I am joined by millions of others who cheer for you and your desire to live a compassionate lifestyle- because we know that every time you avoid eating meat or dairy or eggs or wearing leather- you are voting against the butchering industries that profit from their once living inventory.
Applause comes easy though. This question, however, is a tough one with hundreds of solutions that all come with a price of one kind or another. The answer I’ve come up with isn’t so much of an answer as it is an accounting homework problem that will need to be solved by the individual veganauts facing the challenges.
For this homework problem, lets pretend that as healthy vegans we get 90 years on Earth, and that as an unhealthy SAD omnivores we get 60. Lets ignore bus crashes and other freak accidents and lets also set aside the quality of life offered by both options. Just by focusing on the numbers you are gaining 30 years of life living plant-strong. Next, factor in ethical beliefs which are more difficult to quantify. Add a clean conscience to your long life span or attach some shame and half truths to your shortened existence on the planet.
Now comes the most difficult part of the homework problem. Divide all of your previous calculations by the family you surround yourself with. What do you get?
It is easy to ignore co-workers and neighbors when they tell you how to live your life. They are not your family. It is possible to ignore old and new friends who disagree with your choices. Friends show you who they really are over the years and we all make adjustments in who we consider to be our friends as we age. But family…
Family is also a choice, but it is a much more complex and serious choice. Some veganauts may be defending themselves against nuclear families that they have been nurturing for decades. Harsh comments like “elitist” must hurt hundreds of times more when coming from people who you have cleaned up after and nurtured back to health. How you decide to proceed depends entirely on the family situation you are in and the future you want to have for yourself.
Some people may spend a week calculating this homework problem and realize that their fiance of six months might not be the sweet girl they though they knew so well if a dietary change causes friction in the new family. Others may take mere hours to realize that 30 years of marriage and a gaggle of grand-kids may require a different approach when considering an herbivore lifestyle. In any case, veganauts need to add the pros of healthy, compassionate living along with the cons of living an unhealthy lie… and the answer is not always veganism.
honey agave nectar coated answer is to lead by example, show the benefits without being preachy, and wait for common sense to come to your loved ones. This type of a sitcom solution is cute but unrealistic. Some families are going to be almost disgusted with your choice to live without harming others. They will be so brainwashed by mainstream media and the USDA propaganda machine that they wont believe what you believe no matter how many times you make them watch Forks Over Knives. It is in situations like this where being a veganaut is so useful.
The Erin’s of the world need to make some calculations and then embrace a solution if they want to find any peace. Is ditching your family over lifestyle choices the answer? In some unfortunate cases, yes. Is hiding your compassionate belief system in favor of the family you love the answer? In some unfortunate cases, yes. Is there a middle ground available when balancing your family roots with your heart and soul? Of course there is- it just requires varying levels of sacrifice to make it jibe with who you are and who you want to be.
The most important part of the equation is to accept the answer you come up with. If you decide that Sunday night fried chicken night with the family is more important than constant feuding, then embrace than decision. Guilt, remorse and shame are worse than smoking. Free yourself from these poisons after you have calculated this homework problem and always give yourself the right to be content with your decisions, knowing they came from heartfelt reflection.
There’s always the hope that the ‘sitcom solution’ will work for you- your energy and health and vitality will be all that your loved ones need to see to be convinced of your wise decision. However, there are hundreds of different family situations, wrought with variance, and no single solution- but there is also a place of proud acceptance and unyielding support when you need it. The Veganauts will always have your back.