I’m flying high over the country right now in a big airplane, Steve asleep next to me. We’re embarking on our 10-day trip back East for the holidays. The next 10 days will be filled with family, celebration, and, of course, delicious food. Fortunately, this year, the food will be mostly vegan. Because nearly everyone in my family is either vegetarian or vegan as of today.
|With a new friend at Farm Sanctuary (Orland, CA)|
This has been a long journey for me – one of many ups and downs. Having lived vegan purposefully and joyfully for the past three years, I have learned what it truly means to believe in something and stand by it, no matter what. I’ve gone through every awkward conversation, every confession from a friend trying to eat vegan who later “cheated,” every bit of sadness as I watch videos and read stories about animal cruelty that have broken my heart, every bit of peace I’ve found visiting each beautiful sanctuary I‘ve come across. I’ve failed more times than I can count in the kitchen with a dish I tried to perfect, I’ve learned my lesson every time I watch myself make excuses or laugh off living this way around a group of peers, and with each mistake or challenge, I’ve come out realizing how important it is to remain strong and loyal to what I know is right – that no animal, human or otherwise, should experience unnecessary pain. More importantly, I’ve learned that I do not want to be the kind of person who ever inflicts that pain by making an easy choice over a hard one at the grocery store, dinner table, or out with friends. As I’ve written many times before on this blog, I will, without a shadow of a doubt, honor the animals of this world, and this beautiful Earth, by living a vegan lifestyle. No matter what.
I’ve been in the Christmas spirit for some time now, holiday tunes ringing through my apartment, and my very kind (and very Jewish) husband smiling and lovingly allowing me this little luxury. I am a Christmas baby, after all. So after nearly nine years together, he’s used to it by now. For me, the holidays and New Year are a time of deep reflection, celebration, and acknowledgment of the year past and the year to come. Tonight, my heart is focused on remaining present the entire time I’m home. And part of that includes consciously celebrating with lots of vegan food shared and received.
|Lindsay, sister Whitney, Mom Myra, and Brother Jon. All vegetarian!|
I pinch myself thinking about how lucky a girl I am – I’ve held onto to my compassion these 3+ years, kept sharing all I learned with my family, and they have responded in kind with compassion. I had a feeling it would happen, but never at this level. So, to all of my readers who are struggling just to maintain your vegan lifestyle amongst your family and/or friends, I say to you: please keep going. It will get easier – I promise you. The best things in life always do. To be honest with you, this world, at this very moment, needs you to live vegan – we just plain need more vegans in this world setting a joyful, positive example for others. We need more compassion, more awareness, and more respect when we sit down for dinner with family, especially at the holidays. Your loving example will change lives – please continue reminding yourself that when times get tough.
Take my dad, the “least-likely-to-go-vegan family member,” for example. My dad has been a blissfully unaware carnist his entire life. When my stepmom went vegetarian, he remained unshaken in his meat-eating ways. When my brother, mom, and sister all leaned towards vegan, he started perking up a little during our conversations, but held onto what comforted him. And then I took him to the Woodstock Animal Sanctuary in New York. And then he adopted a pig named Cromwell. No more eating pigs for my dad. And with every new rescued animal he’s adopted, he’s taken that animal off of his plate. And this past Thanksgiving, there wasn’t a single piece of a turkey on my dad’s plate. Does this mean he’ll change completely? I don’t know. But it’s a very, very good start.
At this time of year, it’s so easy to eat animals and their by-products. At every holiday gathering (unless it’s completely vegan, which is rare), there are countless party foods screaming out to us to enjoy. And, without too much thinking or effort on our parts, we grab. We say, “Oh, it’s the holidays,” or “I’m enjoying myself tonight,” or “I’ll start tomorrow.” Like trying out a fad diet, we give as much focus and willpower to eating vegan as we feel like – which, for most people on fad diets, is not that much. I wonder what our world would be like if we chose to value the human and animal connections we share in this world over a holiday snack food. I wonder what we would be like if we remained strong in our resolve to live compassionately (and healthily) while under the pressure of the holiday season. I wonder what would happen if everyone just brought one vegan dish to a party, instead of taking chances with what’s there. I wonder.
This holiday season, I ask you, my beautiful, kiss-worthy readers: please remember the animals. Please remember that while you are enjoying yourself at a party, there are so many in this world in desperate need of our help. The least we can do is remember them, and honor them, by abstaining from the cruelty inflicted upon them. It’s easier now than ever to do just that.
It’s almost stupid how many vegan holiday resources there are at this given moment. I’ll share a few below just in case you haven’t found them yet. I invite you – get your butt on google and find a vegan recipe for that holiday dish mom makes that you love. Veganize those cookies for Santa (and get the almond milk ready!). Pass some cruelty-free latkes at the next Hanukkah party. Give the gift of information to your sibling and place a copy of Forks Over Knives under the tree. Give your boyfriend a vegan restaurant gift certificate. Or adopt a rescued animal from a farm sanctuary in your child’s honor! Be willing to be reflective and present while you celebrate with those you love. Be grateful that you have a family to share your life with and the freedom to enjoy them, and that family can include whomever you choose – human or animal.
|Eating a delicious vegan dinner in Italy.|
At the very least, please take some time to look back on this year and really evaluate the times where your actions reflected your values. And make a promise to yourself – and this world - to reflect them 100% next year. I can’t emphasize it enough – if you just say, “Yes – I will commit to living vegan” and choose it consciously, life will fall into place. You will get better at it, people will eventually either leave you alone and stop pushing their opinions about your lifestyle on you, or they will change for the better!
This holiday, I promise to maintain my compassionate lifestyle, even if it means that I have to patiently answer the protein question another time at my Dad’s Hanukkah party. I will, with a big, fun smile on my face, inform the waiter that I’m vegan when I’m out with family. I will remain blissfully aware, committed, and present.
Whatever holiday you celebrate, have a beautiful, compassionate, kiss-worthy one! And a very Happy New Year too!
A Few Compassionate Holiday Links: