As always I have some food-related commentary after the visit with the fam. After having such a long blogging absence, I am feeling a little pressure to come up with some inspiring words of wisdom for you. Unfortunately, I don't have any of that. But I do have a personal observation to share, you may or may not find it interesting...
Going vegan is easiest when you have support. And by support I mean, having people in your house who share your same dietary habits. Other than chips, salsa and cookies, my weakness is pizza. Ooey, gooey, cheesy steaming hot pizza is one of my all time favorite comfort foods. Since going vegan many a friend has asked how I will live without cheese. I honestly have told them that cutting out cheese hasn't been all that tough, including pizza. Until this past week that is.
I believe pizza was consumed a total of three times in my presence while my family was in town. This was difficult for me. The difficult part was not keeping myself from putting a slice in my mouth, the difficult part was not feeling angry and resentful that they were eating pizza and I wasn't. I know, anger is a pretty strong word to describe people eating food, but if i am to be honest, it was anger that I was dealing with.
After thinking on this emotional response for a bit I have come to conclude that there are a couple of things that contributed to my reaction. First, I was jealous. Jealous that they were eating what I would have loved to be eating. However, I really think that this jealousy I was feeling was an emotional reaction to what I have been taught about food.
We are taught, through the media, through family influence, through experience that getting what we want, specifically in this case food, makes us happier. This is a dangerous belief, in part, because it is true. However, it is not true all the time and like anything (think "Money can't buy happiness.") that sometimes delivers what it promises we can get caught up in a vicious cycle with wanting and needing certain foods... Thinking that if we eat pizza we WILL feel better and then getting subconsciously disappointed when we don't feel better, thus searching for something else (oftentimes more food) to make us happy. I see this ALL the time in working with addicts. They are always chasing the next great buzz. Just because a piece of pizza is associated with good times, does NOT mean that I NEED the piece to have a good time.
Let me break this down, because even I am confused now. Let me go back. Since I was very young pizza has been a way to relax and have fun on a Friday night with the family. When I was drunk in college, with my defenses down, all I could think about was a Gary's Special pizza at the end of the night. ( I felt so entitled to the drunk pizza experience that I put each and every one on my credit card. I did the math a few years back and the $15 Gary's Special really cost me, after interest and several late payments approximately $40 each. Crazy!) Pregnant and huge, the treat to myself was pizza (any ol' night of the week I felt like it). Birthday party's, lazy nights in and busy weeknights are always good excuses for a pizza. Pizza for me signals happiness, tastiness and reward. Pizza's are convenient, readily available, comforting and tasty, tasty, tasty!
For years, after going vegetarian, I always said I could NEVER give up cheese. Even the times that I dabbled with veganism during the past few years, it was always cheese that was my nemesis. I thought I had to have it to feel full, happy and content. Okay, not a big deal right? Wrong. This belief that I NEED cheese to be a happy person is a falsehood. In fact, it is so untrue it is almost ridiculous.
So, back to the emotion of anger. Anytime we are kept from the things that we think we need, an obvious emotional response is anger. Whenever we feel restricted from something, we get upset or frustrated when we don't get it. Remember when your best friend got her ten speed bike before you did? Jealousy right? Jealousy, anger, frustration, envy all these feelings come from a place of entitlement from a sense of "I deserve and need this".
Of course I could have just ate the pizza if I wanted to. That is not the point. Part of my vegan journey, I am learning, is to discover what it means to pass on some of the things in life I feel I need most. Pizza is one of those things. (Side note: most of the non-vegan foods I crave the most have more than adequate vegan substitutes. Ewey, gooey, greasy, melty vegan cheese however, is a myth. It just does not exist. This is why I believe watching others eat pizza was so difficult.)
I didn't eat the pizza that I once thought I needed. I ate split pea soup instead. Was I a little crabby about it? Yep. Did I get over it? Yep. Looking back I can honestly say that eating the pizza would not have made my wonderful vacation any better. The best part though is that I no longer feel in bondage to pizza. I have had myself a little growing experience. I can live my life with a new truth... brace yourself now:
Pizza does not equal happiness.
Hard to believe, I know.
The cool part is yes, this is about pizza, but it applies to so much more in life. How many things in my life do I go around thinking I need? Are there things I "need" that I can really live without... and still be happy? In a world where we are constantly told that "stuff" equals happiness, I am sure there are many things, other than pizza that I am in bondage to...
One thing that comes to mind is my dependency on other people's approval. What would life be like if I didn't live by how I thought people viewed me, but if I lived only for God's approval?
I am willing to bet I would find a much happier and fulfilling life.
Life truly is a journey. And there is so much to learn if I just open my eyes to each teaching experience. Funny how much there is to be gained from just a piece of pizza (other than a crazy amount of calories that is).