What causes some people to think that if you do not follow something 100% of the time, then all of the efforts you previously made toward your goal are suddenly no longer valid? I am not talking about when one changes their path; that’s different. For example, if you normally exercise regularly and then skip running for a week, are you no longer a runner? If one Sunday you visit a church of a different faith does that mean you are no longer true to your religion? I had a year a while back when I was tired of being caucasian. (There wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it, but I spent that year keeping my hair a darker color which seemed to help.) Nobody is 100% anything all of the time, and the same works in reverse: no one is 100% not something, either. Even determined meat-eaters are known to eat vegan fare on occasion: salad, bruschetta, guacamole, cereal, fruit, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, etc. The reason I bring this up is that I’ve noticed this tendency some folks have to discount all the efforts someone has made toward an aspiration when one missed opportunity is brought to light. Here is a conversation I found myself enduring a few years back:
A new neighbor dropped by one day to visit. We got on the subject of my vegan diet and although I did my best to change the topic as I knew she was not open to veganism at the time, she embarked on a parade of questions for me as if going down a list. “Well then, do you eat cheese? Milk? Eggs?” I shook my head and tried to think of a way to get out of the conversation. “Why not eggs? If you eat your own chicken’s eggs, it does no harm to them.” I had some chickens at the time who were delightful company. (Someone who no longer wanted her hens had given them to me because she knew I would not eat them.) Not wanting to argue but not sure how to escape my neighbor’s questions, I said that I had no interest in eating eggs and preferred to avoid the cholesterol. Unfortunately, she kept going: “What about your shoes?” I fought the urge to give her my license and registration. “I prefer to buy synthetic shoes.” I then tried to change the subject to shopping. “Where did you get your shoes? They look really comfortable…” Not a chance, she was on a mission. She paused for a minute while she looked around my house and then it seemed as if a light went on in her head. “What about your saddle?” I had the privilege of taking care of a horse then, too. It just so happened that I had a 20-year-old saddle that had come with the horse. My plan was to buy a synthetic one as soon as I could afford to, but hadn’t done so yet. “Aha!” She proudly announced, as if she had at last proven that my lifestyle was somehow not valid. I was surprised by both her weird reaction and the entire conversation. What’s great about people like this is that they help me get clearer on my purpose. Her litany of questions had in fact, reminded me of how far I had come over the years. I debated explaining to her that for many people, veganism is a process and that we each do the best we can as we learn and grow. At the time, I decided that would have been lost on her.
Sometimes we do this 100% business to ourselves. It is extremely difficult to be 100% vegan in everyday western civilization. Animal products are in so many things that it is hard to keep track. I listened to a Ted talk recently on how pigs in Holland are used for no less than 185 different purposes, many of which are not food items. To name a few: film, cosmetic surgery injections, personal care products, heart surgery replacement items, vaccines, pavement, vitamins, and on and on. Of course, this does not mean that making every effort to avoid using animal products is futile, the point is that every effort counts.
Often, being vegan is a moment to moment choice. Even though I am 100% committed to causing no harm, I cannot bring myself to avoid driving on pavement right now. Maybe one day soon, I will research where to write and request that pavement be made without animal parts. We each do the best that we can.
Every time you reach for the vegan bread instead of a butter croissant, it makes a difference. That one vegan choice counts for 100% in that moment. Every time that you choose cruelty-free personal care products instead of items that use animal testing or animal parts such as placentas (for example), that decision counts 100%. We make these choices every day; every time we eat, bathe, use chemicals, buy clothing, and on and on. Instead of viewing your choices in terms of all or none, look at the many moments when you were able to choose well. If you focus on the many compassionate and healthy options that you DO select, it will make it easier for your lifestyle to expand into new areas. Increasing that percentage in a manner that will continue is the grand goal. You deserve to feel good about every vegan aspect of your life.
© Jill Powers and The Feel Good Vegan 2010.<
Posted in: Social Situations for Vegan Adults