“Nothing with a Face or a Mother”

That was always my mother’s explanation of her vegetarian dietary choice, which she made when I was 14 years old, about three months before I joined her in her vegetarian diet.

My parents and me, about to enjoy dinner. My mom is a vegetarian, like me, and my dad is the founder of PETV, People for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables
My parents and me, after a delicious dinner at The District Table. My mom is a vegetarian, like me, and my dad is the founder of PETV, People for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables.

And I have followed this way of eating faithfully up until about a month ago, when I ate fish in preparation for my plans to cruise for extended travels in my boyfriend’s sailboat. There will be times when we’ll be a week or more at sea, with food stores dwindling or pricey, and there is sure to be fresh seafood aplenty.

Yes, I ate something with a mother AND a face (yay for a reason to include this Dr. Demento favorite!). But before I get into it, let me provide a little more backstory on myself.

My mom and I were always what was known as the “lacto-ovo” vegetarian, for those not up with the vocab; that means we would eat milk and eggs. Otherwise, no meat, no fowl and no fish, but yes to cheese, butter and all the by-products of the meat industry. For 22 years, I was a strict and healthy lacto-ovo vegetarian.

When I first became a vegetarian, I was so grateful to have my mother along for the culinary adventure. It wasn’t rebelling that way. So many kids are laughed at or worse, made to eat crap and develop really unhealthy habits of sneaking “acceptable” stuff like French fries and Doritos. (Read here about why junk food is so bad for you.)

Sure, there was a fair share of laughing at me. My cousin still makes jokes about Tofurky to this day, more than a decade since we stopped sharing Christmas dinner together. I remember when I worked as a lifeguard at a local apartment complex, some creepazoid tried to endear me to him by offering to “dive down and pick up the leaves at the bottom of the pool for my lunch.”

Insert dummy laughter and my 17-year-old disgusted face.

When a creepazoid tried to flirt with me
When a creepazoid tries to flirt with me

I had chosen the vegetarian diet for a number of reasons. It dates back to sixth grade, when we were dissecting a frog and I learned what meat actually was. It was that little muscle on that little frog leg. Gross, I’m sorry. Barbaric. Why ever would someone think to eat that? That’s the simple origins of it: I have a problem differentiating meat from its reality, and I never thought it was something humans were really supposed to do.

Tangent: When I was in eighth grade, it was dissection time again, and I wasn’t having it. A precocious and socially conscious vegetarian, I wrote to PETA about my quandary. Stoked to have someone join their righteous outrage, they sent me a super-big pile of every paper and collateral material they had. I marched into my science teacher’s room and said I didn’t want to dissect. She asked why, and I dropped the entire pile on her desk and said “This is why.” She had me do some BS computer program instead, and this is one reason why I am poor at anatomy.

Over the years, restaurant employees have turned from “Um, you can have a salad” to providing all kinds of fabulous meals. A list of awesome vegetarian-friendly restaurants is available at www.thelovelightproject.com, where you might be discovering this blog!

Two years ago, as I was preparing myself for my Yoga teacher training, I decided to go vegan, which is a much stricter diet. That means not eating meat, fish, fowl AND also not eating or buying all the by-products including cream, butter, milk and honey.

Insert endless debate about whether bees are really animals and aren’t they happy and no! they are slaves and hey one time a swarm of bees was in my house, man! Whoa, are you allergic? What were we talking about? Oh yeah, this is total bullshit, right? What IS honey, anyway? I read this interesting article.

So, being a vegan is really hard and takes real dedication, and I honor everyone who is living the vegan lifestyle. Especially those who are living it without being annoying. When I was in college, I was the president of Earth Matters, the environmental and social justice club at NYU, and we were totally in cahoots with the vegan club. I remember our efforts got soy milk in the cafeterias, and isn’t crazy to think it wouldn’t be there now?

Veganism was a lot of work but worth it. I remembered what food tasted like for real, not covered in butter or cheese. Breakfast in restaurants was difficult, but not impossible. I had to get used to drinking my coffee black (I gave up sugar a while ago, but not cream until two years ago), but again, that’s actually what coffee tastes like. Don’t like it? Maybe you shouldn’t drink coffee.

Annoyingly, I gained weight. Am I the only person you’ve met who gained weight when going vegan? I sure was. I blame the over-nutrition: I was so focused on what I could eat that I ate it all! Nuts, beans … hello five pounds!

How could I let an aversion stop me from THIS?
How could I let an aversion stop me from THIS?

Anyway … that was how it was until I sold all my possessions and moved on to a boat with plans to cruise indefinitely with a man who loves to fish. Now before you start judging me as a love fool (who knows, you may be right – stay tuned), there is a lot of spiritual text on this topic that makes sense.

Meat, for me, is what is known as an aversion – the opposite of an attraction. It is a klesha, which are obstacles to realizing our highest self. By labeling myself, I am identifying with my aversion to eating meat products. This is a great way for me to separate myself from others and, frankly, suffer. It’s one way to forget the One Love.

So when my boyfriend shot a snapper on the reef, I ate it. And I felt gross! I had a major tummy ache, but otherwise I was OK. So I bought some enzymes for round two, which happened about a week ago. I had a bite, and the reaction was way worse! It was like I felt all the pain and suffering of that fish. I cried and went to bed early. I really didn’t understand it.

I’ve had a little time to think about it, and it is what it is. At this point, I plan to only eat fish that has been freshly caught by my love and is really necessary for my nourishment. I don’t ever plan to eat fish out at a restaurant. And I guess, for now, I’m going to feel bad as a result. I’m working on that.

I didn’t see the fish’s face, and I don’t think the fish even saw his mother – but I did think of my mother’s rule, wondering the benefit of having rules for eating. What is the root of my suffering when eating a not untasty meal? Is it the energy from the fish? The simple biology of my gut bacteria? Or my own Self-imposed rules?

When Failure is Not an Option

For a while last year and earlier this year, my friends and I were part of a band that was really more like a movement of art, music, flow and fun called Intercoastal Swell. The gigs we played around town – at the Pineapple Festival, Coffee Bar Blue Door, Arts Fest and elsewhere – felt like a mini festival, as we spun fire and hula hoops in the streets and created live art to original

Joshua the Man and me, during one of the band's rare and wonderful practice sessions.
Joshua the Man and me, during one of the band’s rare and wonderful practice sessions.

music. The name is a homage to the interconnectivity of life on the coast, mixed with the energy of a swell that makes the ocean such a magical place. The band lives on, in different incarnations, and I loved that I will always be a part of it.

The music and flow never ended, of course, but as if by a lunar-influenced tide almost all the members have or are about to make their way to the next phase of their life journey. Joshua, our singer/songwriter extraordinaire, and Didgeridoo Master Jake traveled to Colorado, but then Jake’s car broke down so in the amazingly lovely Manitou Springs they remain. (Seriously, that little town is epic with delicious, sparkling potable springs bubbling in fountains throughout the quaint streets. There’s also a restaurant that makes a mean huevos rancheros, and I can’t wait to return.)

Ditta the artist moved back to New Jersey, and beautiful spirit Maddie is finding herself in Orlando. Alex, our lead guitarist, is moving to Philadelphia for love. Vocalist, videographer and vibranta Brittny and multi-instrumentalist Malik are heading out this week to meet Joshua and Jake, perhaps scooping them both up and heading onward to San Diego. Wilkie, my favorite uke and beat box beast, and Firestarters JT and Sean are holding it down on the Treasure Coast.

As for myself (I played a variety of percussion and specialized in good vibes), I am a handful of weeks off from cruising with my love to places known and unknown. Of us all, I will be the one most intimately enjoying the literal intercoastal swell.

So, as Brittny and I were jumping around in the super-low tide of the shore pound recently, to honor her last time at the beach for a minute, we were talking about this beautiful, liminal moment almost the entire band was in. Are you familiar with the concept of the limin? That’s when you’re at the crossroads, actually moving through a threshold of life. The limins are those times that you look back and say, oh yes, that’s really when I realized that things were changing. That’s when you make those decisions and say, yes, I’ll go that way, not that way. You go down the path you’ve decided is right for you. You pass through the doorway. You are on your way.

I guess some people believe it takes a lot of guts to do what we are doing, because frankly we are all living the bohemian lifestyle. Oh! Theme song for the blog post time. But I don’t think it’s a matter of guts, because for all of us, the big adventures we’ve created for ourselves isn’t anything that’s scary. The journeys are actually obvious. For each of us, it’s exactly what we know we are going to do. So there is no reason to be worried or scared. At all. Really. It’s called being alive and realizing how you want to live your life.

Because failure is not an option! Let’s dissect that concept a little bit. Technically, you could say that Jake and Joshua “failed” because the car died and they never made it back to that

This quote was on my refrigerator for quite a while.
This quote was on my refrigerator for quite a while.

rental in Stuart, Fla. But why would you think that? They are hiking and meeting people and spending time with Joshua’s nephews and generally having big ole smiles. It doesn’t feel like failure to me. Alex, who is traveling because he wants to be with his love, may feel like it’s a risk. Is it really? Isn’t a bigger risk deciding NOT to try a life together with someone he feels so strongly about? Wouldn’t it be sad if no one made big moves for love? What a sad world this would be.

It’s all a matter of perspective. I suggested this to my parents, who were understandably worried about my plan to sell all my worldly possessions (look Ma, no storage!) and move on to my boyfriend’s sailboat. What if it didn’t work out? my mom asked. Well, here’s the backup plan: Pack a bag and buy a plane ticket. Hey! Now I’ll have great contacts in Colorado. And I have friends in Charleston and Mount Shasta and Woodstock and Atlanta and Pittsburgh and San Francisco and Portland and the Jersey Shore and Idaho who I would love to see. That doesn’t sounds like failure to me, since my general plan is travel and love anyway. And yes, love is everywhere.

I have a mantra for creating success. I live an “active, no expectations lifestyle” – or at least I try. (Sometimes I fail … see what I did there?) The active, no expectations lifestyle is a sure-fire method for reducing suffering. If you have no expectations, chances are you’re not going to be disappointed. How will it be for Alex? Or Brittny or Ditta? Or me? If we all have no expectations for how life is going to be, we’re never going to be sad that it’s not another way.

Yay! Congratulations to my friends moving to Colorado this week! High love!
Yay! Congratulations to my friends moving to Colorado this week! High love!

But the word “active” is in there, too. We need goals. We can’t just wander around, floating on the intercoastal swell. That’s no way to reach our highest self. We need to set goals. For example, I had a goal of ridding myself of unnecessary possessions, and that’s still a work in progress. I have a goal of writing a book or two. I have a goal of experiencing new people and places, thinking about new ideas and allowing myself to swim in the depths of love like I’ve never done before.

If I’m not active in these goals, they will never be realized. So I remain active, but detached from outcome and expectation. The big-picture goal, of course, is not to suffer, right? Sounds good to me.