Meatless? Are you mad?

I was at a local burrito place today and ordered “seitan chorizo con papas” as my protein option. The preparer checked with me to make sure I knew it was vegetarian. I told him that was why I ordered it. He then shared with me that a lot of people freak out when they learn this. They reject it and go with the barbacoa.

I’ve noticed a lot of people are like this. They are terrified of being without meat. I’m like this. I’m trying to eat less meat but I haven’t taken the plunge yet and gone totally vegetarian.

It is as if there is a fear of being without meat, like we will faint or fade away from lack of nutrition.

Looking at the obesity rates of Americans, there is no worry about fading away to nothing anytime soon.

I had a coworker that I invited to an Indian buffet. He asked what was available and I started to describe what we were likely to find. He was quite interested in the chicken tikka masala but bored by the spinach and potato dishes. He was a little dismayed by the absence of any beef dish. When I told him that the best dishes were the vegetarian ones he visibly got defensive.

What? Not eat meat? Are you kidding?

I pointed out that there are people who go without meat for their entire lives and they do just fine. One meal without meat wouldn’t kill him. He was so skeptical that he decided not to go.

I remember a conversation with the manager at an Indian buffet many years ago. He said that people in India and in America are both dying because of food. Indians are dying from not enough food, while Americans are dying from too much food. We are eating ourselves into our graves. We suffer from preventable diseases for many years beforehand.

Our doctors, insurers, and pharmacists make a lot of money on treating these diseases with palliative treatments. I don’t have all the words yet to explain how angry and upset I am about Western medical thought, about how it treats symptoms rather than addressing the cause of illness.

I know I feel better when I eat a vegetation diet. I feel lighter and happier. I know I am doing something nice for my body.

Our bodies are temples. Our bodies are temporal houses for our immortal souls. So why do we fill them up with trash? Why do we pollute them with preservatives?

I haven’t made the full switch because I like the taste of meat. I like the texture. I don’t want to limit myself to only two or three options on the menu when I eat out. I don’t want to be a bother to friends when they are kind enough to invite me over to their homes for dinner.

I remember when I was in college and had gone entirely vegetarian because my boyfriend was. It was as if I needed a buddy or a partner, like in a hike in the wilderness or in AA. I needed someone to participate in this different diet with me. Plus, he cooked.

I was invited to a cousin’s wedding and the invitation said that if you had special dietary needs to call. I called and told her that I was vegetarian. She said that wasn’t a problem. A day later I got a call from my aunt, her mother, saying how dare I insist that they change everything around just for me. I was immediately uninvited to the wedding.

It was years later before I realized that side of the family was crazy in an abusive kind of way.

There is a knee-jerk reaction against being vegetarian. It is seen as counter cultural. It is seen as rebellious. It is seen as other, as weird.

But the norm is to eat all you want, spend all you want, and die soon and poor.

I don’t want to be normal. I want to live a happy, healthy life. But I also want the convenience of eating out. It is a sign of our culture that it is almost impossible to get vegetables if you eat from fast-food places. And when you do find vegetables they are either very salty, or cooked with pork, or they are just salad greens with little nutrition.

Perhaps it is time to Occupy the Kitchen.

There is nothing more countercultural than cooking your own food. There is nothing more rebellious than taking charge of your health.

Hat. (This being human is messy)

There is a guy I know who drives a hover round. It is essentially his everyday car. He is too disabled to drive his truck, but he does it anyway in the winter or when it is raining.

It is summer now and it is very hot. I saw him today when I went to the post office. He was riding around with shorts, in a short sleeved shirt, and no hat. I thought about giving him my hat. I can get another.

He isn’t well off. He’s nearly died a number of times. His ex wife just died, and he is mourning her terribly. He’s been homeless before, for at least two years. His living conditions aren’t ideal, but they are better than a shelter. He’s a veteran. He lives on Social Security.

So I feel sorry for him. But then I remember his tales of going to Tunica, Mississippi and gambling. I remember how he’s constantly buying lottery tickets. I remember that his wife divorced him because he was cheating on her.

He’s made some bad choices.

He has chosen to spend his money on gambling rather than a hat. He was homeless because he chose to cheat on his wife. He is retired from the military and has chosen not to seek aid from them.

I dislike the term “enabling”. It really should be “disabling”.

To assist someone in their addiction is not loving. I’ve called it “aiding and abetting a sin.”

I know other people who are getting older and have some chronic health issues that are getting worse. They moved to be closer to their children. One of their children suggested that they move into a condo or an apartment so they wouldn’t have to worry about yard work or maintenance on a house. They ignored this advice and bought a house. Now they call their children to come take care of the yard work and the house maintenance. They have both become infirm, and this situation will only get worse the older they get.

I feel that they have made a bad choice and that they are abusing their children by asking them to rescue them from a preventable problem.

I’m very frustrated. I want to help people, but I want to do it in a way that really helps, instead of keeping them in the same old ruts. I want to prevent problems rather than treat them. I don’t want to cure anything. I want to stop problems from happening.

I’m frustrated when someone gets surprised that they have lung cancer after smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for twenty years. This is how my Mom died. It was sad that she died at 53, but not tragic. She did it to herself. It wasn’t an accident. She knew that what she was doing was harmful but didn’t quit.

I took care of her after her diagnosis. I drove her to her chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I cooked. I cleaned. I watched her die, bit by bit, piece by piece, day by day.

That takes a lot out of you, to watch someone die from making bad choices. It takes a lot out to see their pain and regret and fear and know that you can’t rescue them. She put herself in that hole, and because of it she put herself in her grave.

It is Christ-like to help others without question. Jesus didn’t ask people if they created their own problems. He didn’t say to the lepers – why didn’t you stay away from lepers? You knew it was contagious.

I’m finding it hard to be Christ-like. I can’t just touch them and they are healed. We humans heal people in slow motion. We have to get involved. We have to get into it up to our arms. It is messy work, this business of healing.

I wrestle with it. Am I healing someone to make it easy for them to continue to make bad choices? Why should I wake up every day and go to work just to give someone else money when they refuse to look for work?

This isn’t very nice, but it is honest. This isn’t very Christ-like, but it is human.

All the child rearing books say there have to be repercussions to bad decisions. If you let them get away with it, you are encouraging it. They advocate tough love.

“Difficult Conversations” tells you how to speak up, so you can navigate the balance between not being a doormat or a tyrant. “Boundaries” says that Christians are taught to sacrifice their own needs and wants to take care of others, and that this isn’t healthy for either person. “Codependent No More” says something similar but it doesn’t go into the issue of Christian guilt.

Somehow this sounds like an excuse to ignore someone else’s pain. But then it is important to encourage them to stand on their own. If someone has to lean on you all the time, you aren’t helping them grow as a person. And you will find you are not growing either.

This being human is messy.

I think it is lucky for Jesus that he died at 32. He didn’t have so many issues to deal with. He never had to juggle work and aging parents. He never had to deal with his own chronic health problems. He didn’t have a history of being abused by his family.

It is hard to follow Jesus, and it is messy. We don’t do it right even half of the time. But when we figure out the balance it is beautiful and amazing. I’ve given up the church but I’ve not given up on Jesus. I don’t understand the Way but I feel it is a good path.

I fall, and I get up. I get distracted. I run away, just like Jonah. And yet I’m still on the path, all along. I think this is part of what it means to hear the call, and to follow Jesus. I want to do it right, and I know I’m not going to.

This is like exercise, like training for a marathon. But I’ll never get there because of the nature of the path. That is the price of being human.

Cycle (On taking time off for yourself)

This being human is cyclical.

We aren’t awake all the time. We aren’t creative all the time. We aren’t at our best all the time.

When we “fall off the wagon” of our plans – exercise, diet, or any creative goal, we feel like we are failures. And it is very hard to get back on that wagon and get going again.

But it is essential to allow for these times of rest and reflection.

Just like a seed has to spend time in the dark to begin to sprout and grow towards the light, our lives need times of inwardness and quiet.

This is very hard. Perhaps it is a guilt thing that our society puts on us. We think we should always be active and moving and growing. We think we should always be working on our book or painting or exercising.

But this simply does not mesh with nature. Every creature has to sleep. Every plant has periods of growth and decay. We have simply to look around us at the natural world to realize we are fighting against what truly is.

We like to think we are above nature. We have done a pretty good job of separating ourselves from it. We live in houses where we can have light anywhere and anytime. We can adjust the temperature to anything we want to suit our needs or our whim. We have created things to eat that do not resemble anything in nature.

So of course we don’t know about the natural cycles. We think we are more than nature. We forget ourselves when we do this. We set ourselves up for failure.

When we wind down and stop going to the Y or start eating fried foods again and we gain some of our weight back we tend to beat ourselves up for it. We think we are failures. We don’t notice that we’ve only gained back 5 pounds when in total we’ve lost 50.

When we wind down and stop creating we tend to think the same thing. Whether it is painting or drawing or sewing or writing or beading, we sometimes have a tendency to notice all the blank canvases or raw materials than see the finished work.

There is certainly a danger in taking time out. There is a danger in that lull, that slowing. There is the danger that you’ll stay there, doing nothing. There is a danger that you’ll stay in the dark and never sprout.

Inwardly, we all know this. We may not be able to speak it out loud. But that feeling drives us to get over our “slow” times or “no” times as fast as possible because we are afraid we’ll be stuck there.

But then we may burn out. If we constantly work ourselves we will wear out. We need down time. We need slow time.

Scheduling it helps. Entering into it intentionally helps. Being patient with yourself helps. Consider it a Sabbath for yourself. It is a time out, a time off. If you plan for it then it is easier to accept. It is like scheduled maintenance for your soul. Don’t wait until the carburetor of your creativity breaks down.