Tag Archive | vegan

Looking forward

Hi people 🙂 A happy post for a change. I’m feeling good!

I have been so down for so long. All the heaviness of the past few years just heaped up on me and I was so weighed down I couldn’t get up. There is obviously a situational basis for my misery – I had the most miserable year of my life living by the beach (ironically) because I was ill in an unsuitable house, with financial troubles (not to mention marital, car, family troubles!) and no friends! But it was more than that. The stress had worn me down until I had no mental or emotional strength to fight it.

But then, there’s no rhyme or reason to depression.

black cat

I feel better now, but there’s no particular or obvious reason why I should feel better. I just do. I’m sleeping better too, and hopefully that means that the vicious circle is straightening itself out.  I hope I’ll be able to shrug it all off now and things will start to look better on a permanent basis.

I know I keep saying this, but I don’t have the life I wanted, or hoped for, or thought was right around the corner. But we hopefully have some good things on the horizon, and I truly am grateful for all the good things I have.

(But, do you know what? the glad game doesn’t work when you’re deep in the pit.)

I started a dose of amitriptyline about 3 weeks ago, and honestly I usually forget to take it, so I’m not sure whether or not it’s having any effect. But at this point, knowing what the deep pit looks like, I thoroughly recommend taking whatever hand is held out to you, just to get your head above the parapet where you can see the sun again.

Funnily, you know – I have been down in the pit deep enough to ask my GP before to give me anti-depressants, but that GP refused (bizarrely, a few years before, when I was desperately trying to get a proper diagnosis of ME, I was offered anti-depressants when I didn’t need them). This time, I just casually mentioned to my new GP that battling ME makes me feel a bit depressed every now and then, could I try anti-depressants?

No problem.

It totally depends on the doctor you get. If you need it, don’t take no for an answer, or by all means find a better doctor. They are so variable, and some of them are complete buggers.

So now, despite contemplating moving house again for the 7th time in just over 5 years, I am actually looking forward to moving. I think. I mean, I’m not looking forward to the actual moving of course, that would be crazy. But I am looking forward to being settled.

I’m looking forward to living right in the centre of town where everything I need will be within walking distance. I’m looking forward to living in a place where I already have a bunch of good friends who can’t wait to visit us.

Incidentally, I keep wondering why I found this place so unfriendly? I can’t work it out. I don’t think it has anything to do with Cornish culture, because we’re not even that far down into Cornwall, and it isn’t that Cornish here. (And before I am accused of being racist, I never thought it was that, but the suggestion keeps getting thrown into the mix, so I thought I’d mention it. Whether there is a truly Cornish culture, or whether what we’re experiencing up here is just countryside culture is another topic.)

I think the problem here has been a mixture of being here at the wrong time, with the wrong aged children (home educating never isolated us until we moved here, but the HE group in this place was just filled to the brim with under 8s. The only families with teens we knew passed through and moved away long ago) and apparently having nothing in common with any of the people we met. It can’t be helped. I think we weren’t meant to stay here, it was just for a season. I do just wish that season had been a little easier. But anyway. It’s nearly over.

And here’s another irony for you. After all this time – five years with virtually no friends despite huge effort on my part to be social and gregarious (without appearing desparate! lol) to no avail – I just discovered a local vegan group that didn’t seem to exist when I searched for it a year ago, or five years ago, and I’ve MADE FRIENDS.

Really.

So here’s what I am expecting to happen: when we move away, we will be coming back here to visit and go to the beach more than we ever did when we lived here.

Isn’t life just gloriously ridiculous?!

p.s. I just passed my one month as a vegan mark. It’s about as long as I’ve managed to stay vegan before, but this time I have plugged into social networking for accountability, and I’m thinking about getting a vegan tattoo. That would probably keep me vegan. Oy vey.

 

Choices, Changes

Over the last few years, I have moved from a Paleo type of diet to Vegan and back again several times. This blog had ‘From Paleo to Vegan in one easy midlife crisis’ as its subtitle at one stage.

The truth is, though, that it hasn’t been ‘one easy midlife crisis’ at all of course, it’s been more like a car with a faulty starter motor, so I lurch from one obsession to the next, and never quite seem to get anywhere.

Every year, it seems, I try to go vegan again.

Even going back to being properly vegetarian seems to be a challenge this time. But I will keep trying.

It’s not that I don’t care. It’s not that I don’t know either. I know.

I’ve had to block several over-zealous vegans who insist on sending me graphic pictures of animals being brutalised.

I know.
I really don’t want to see it.
I really don’t want to eat it.

So why do I keep falling off the vegan ‘wagon’? Why is it so difficult to stay vegan?

I have personally justified it with regard to my own specific health issues, most particularly PCOS which comes along with insulin insensitivity which means that, contrary to the oft-repeated mantra of ill-informed vegans that “carbs are not the problem”, they really can be a serious, even potentially life-threatening problem for people who can’t tolerate them.

Not all carbs are equal, and not all fats are equal, but that discussion is for another post. Suffice to say, though, that even allowing for the insulin insensitivity issue, it’s no real barrier to veganism. Low, or at least lower carb veganism is possible, it’s just more of a challenge.

On an unrelated note, I’m finding it a little bit difficult to stay ‘Christian’, or at least keep up the ‘respectable’ middle class mainstream image version of Christianity that is sometimes confused with authentic Christianity.

I’ve actually been exploring paganism – firstly for general cultural literacy (I had so many misconceptions) and secondly because it is something that has fascinated me for years. I will post again with more details about that exploration and what I’ve found, what I’ve been able to love and embrace, and what I’ve had to reject and draw the line at.

To me (and what was communicated to me by my Dad – what he saw in the Bible and in Christianity), the core of the faith is clearly love, peace, joy, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and more love.

Matthew 12v7

But sadly it doesn’t seem to be what is commonly offered by the church. Certainly individual believers embody those principles and exude a genuine spirituality. But the church as a whole seems characterised by the very opposite: intolerance, unkindness, judgmentalism.

Why should this be?

In fact, these things are not unrelated at all.

Veganism is supposed to be about compassion, kindness, love for all creatures. And most of the vegans I have met in person do indeed embody the compassion they espouse. But veganism as a whole has without doubt been brought into disrepute by some of its most vocal members.

I completely understand the anger that vegans feel about people blithely and ignorantly allowing animals to be brutalised and killed just so we can have a certain taste and texture on our plate.

We have no excuse.

But those tastes and textures continue to persuade us to ignore what we know, to carry on along the path of least resistance.

But the anger and self-righteousness and judgmentalism of some vegans continues to drive people away.

The anger and self-righteousness and judgmentalism of some Christians continues to drive people away.

(Do you see what I did there?)

I think I know what the essential problem with Christianity is. It is the over-riding emphasis (at least in Western Christianity) on ‘right belief’ over and above ‘right living’ and ‘right feeling’. It is entirely possible to be a Christian in good standing with the church who claims all the ‘right beliefs’ and have absolutely no change of heart, absolutely no true spiritual experience whatsoever. But as long as the beliefs are in line with the doctrines your denomination emphasises, there is no reason to question the heart or the spirit. It is entirely possible to carry hatred in your heart while claiming to follow the God who is Love.

I think the same thing can be true of veganism.

As long as you maintain a vegan diet, and you are able to feel self-satisfied in that, there is no reason to question yourself, search inwardly, become more compassionate.

But I think I’ve said before that there is no ‘upper limit’ for compassion, kindness, love. All of us can always move forward, become kinder, more compassionate, more understanding, more loving.

In the Bible, a ‘righteous’ man is defined not as the one who never falls, never makes a mistake but rather the man who ‘falls seven times and gets up again’. Proverbs 24:16

This year is probably the first time in maybe 15 years when I haven’t really managed to celebrate Passover/ Easter, count the Omer/ Eastertide or keep Pentecost/ Shavuot (the fact that they are all out of sync this year hasn’t helped). There’s a little voice in my head that wants to condemn me, make me feel guilty and miserable. But I’m not listening to it.

I’m not as observant as I’d like to be right now, but it is what it is – this is the season I’m in, and there’s not much I can do about it. The traditional Passover concludes “Next Year in Jerusalem”. This too shall pass, and perhaps next year I will be where I want to be with my religious observance.

I’m not going to kick myself either about repeatedly failing to be faithful to veganism. Honestly, I may never reach 100% total veganism for ever. But that’s ok. I’m moving towards it, I’ll keep trying.

And actually, as much as I can understand the wish that the whole world go 100% vegan today, every little helps. Small steps save lives.

If I fall down again, I’ll just get up again.

Don’t be discouraged.

Do whatever you can and know that it’s good, and don’t let anybody condemn you because you’re ‘not good enough’, ‘not vegan enough’, ‘not Christian enough’, or whatever.

It’s a cliche, but learning to love and accept and forgive yourself is the first and crucial step towards spiritual growth. And it’s probably the hardest.

But it’s never a wasted effort.

Don’t give up. 🙂

From my heart to yours. xx

 

Empathy

I’ve been upset this week to be confronted on more than one occasion by angry, aggressive, judgemental vegans.

My reasons for being vegan have been questioned and rubbished, my delay in becoming vegan has been judged. That first one made me laugh to be honest (after I was cross). How can you be vegan for the “wrong reasons”?

Would a pig/cow/chicken/deer really care about the reasons why you do or don’t eat it? (if you shoot a deer, say, is he really gonna care why/ what colour your pants are?)

These angry, aggressive, judgemental vegans obviously have issues. As I said to a contact on twitter, he who fights with another fights himself. It’s corny, but true.

But what they don’t seem to realise is that it is precisely the aggressive, judgemental attitudes that put people off veganism. It’s exactly the same with Christianity.

Frankly, I’m sick of it. Self-righteousness is a massive turn-off. Six weeks in? I’m not sure I want to be associated with the name vegan if this is what it’s about.

Whether they realise it or not, they’re ambassadors for the cause. If you don’t show empathy for other humans, you can hardly expect people to buy into the empathy for animals you say you’re promoting.

It has made me realise that, just because we share one thing, veganism, or Christianity, or whatever, it doesn’t mean that we will get on. Everyone has issues, and being vegan or Christian (or Buddhist or whatever) doesn’t mean you’ve resolved them. It doesn’t even mean that you’re self-aware enough to recognise you have them.

As I read recently, there’s no upper roof to veganism. Read empathy for that instead. You haven’t “arrived’ when you become vegan / Christian or whatever. If you’re not open to re-examining yourself, if you’re not aware that there’s room to grow, you’ll be stuck in an ugly rut. It’s not attractive, people.

21st Century Christian

According to Cross Rhythms, the UK Christian music site in its history of magazines involved in raising the profile of Christian music, 21st Century Christian Magazine was “stunningly unfunny”, “conservative and cozy”, and its unwieldy name was “conceived by committee”. Critics apparently called the magazine “The Christian Yuppie”.

But it’s not how I remember it at all. 21cc ran from October 1987 to 1990, and for me it was radical and left-leaning, part and parcel of a radical and left-leaning Christianity, something you could unashamedly read in your squat and leave for your non-Christian mates to read.

Cross Rhythms goes on to say that “21st Century Christian eschewed the controversy and satire settling instead for a safer, cosier Christian overview, in the process cutting back still further its music coverage. Sales continued to slide downwards and by the time of its closure, in 1990, had reached only a little over 14,000 sales.”

I was surprised when I looked for it again a few years ago to find that it had had such a short run, and been so opposite to what I remembered, because for me it had felt important and influential, and I obviously took from it the opposite message that everyone else was seeing.

Most of the Christians I knew in the late 80s were slightly hippyish, vegetarian, rainbow jumper wearing, Greenbelt festival-going rebels and radicals, bringing the government down with love and flowers and marching for Jesus. It was a while before I discovered that most of the church was made up of comfortable, conservative-voting status quo-lovers (and not the metal kind).

The one good thing about being faced with an all Conservative government determined to abuse the poor and vulnerable at every opportunity, not to mention attempting to repeal the hunting ban and the Human Rights Act, is that I feel catapulted back to my youth and I’m encouraged to look again at Christianity as rebellion against the Babylon system. (Don’t be fooled, it was always the Babylon system, even when Labour was in charge, the Conservatives just make it much easier to see.)

Government is not our saviour, it’s not our friend, and it’s not a friend to animals, the environment or the world.

I bought a vegan cookbook last week called “Soy Not Oi: Over 100 Recipes Designed to Destroy the Government”. (Available through http://www.akpress.org )

Now is the perfect time to go vegetarian or vegan, question your assumptions, review your comfortable position and ask what you can do to make the world a better place in spite of government.

Are you with me?

Quiet Down, Cobwebs

For two weeks, we had the non-stop noise of hammering every day as next door had their carpets fitted. The noise stressed me out but I couldn’t help feeling angry and jealous that whoever the people were had the ready cash to afford carpets and curtains before they moved in.

The new neighbours moved in last weekend, and I hadn’t seen them, but I had heard their little children laughing and screaming (which was endearing and irritating by turns) and their mother constantly shouting at them (which was upsetting).

I spent the week thinking how youth is wasted on the young and how so many young mothers wish the time away, not realising how short a season it is. I also found an old diary from 2004 (something my hoarding tendencies won’t allow me to part with) and thinking about what we were doing when our children were young.

We have also had visitors every day this week – a dear friend whom I love, but who has had a very different experience to mine. We are the same age, but she married late and her children are all little. She spent the whole time telling me how lucky I am to live by the sea. True. But depression can’t appreciate that, and I wasn’t able to communicate that to her. If you’ve never been there yourself, it’s hard to comprehend how depression draws a veil of grey over the sunniest day.

Last night as we arrived home, the next door neighbour was knocking on the door. I expected she was coming to introduce herself, but instead, she said:

“Your kids keep waking my kids up!”

“Oh, ok” said I.

“I wasn’t going to say anything but it keeps happening. Your kids keep running up and down the stairs” she said, angrily (presumably it had just happened)

“Oh, ok. Nice to meet you” I replied.

I went in and told my sleepy children to try to be more careful on our un-carpeted stairs. I’m pretty sure nobody has been running up and down, but they do get a bit stompy when they’re tired.

That was the last straw really.

Instead of crying, I went in and stuffed my face with (vegan) comfort food (banana, non-dairy chocolate spread & peanut butter in tortilla breads). Several of them.

I went up and checked my blood pressure, which is horrendously high (tablets notwithstanding). I’m a little bit frightened I will just drop dead, and I’m really not ready to do that. Not THAT depressed.

I will leave you with a poem that has been going around in my head this week.

“Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”

Song for a Fifth Child
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Veganism for Klingons

I had a little thrill yesterday, to discover that one of my favourite Star Trek people, Michael Dorn (@akaWorf) is a vegan, and we exchanged a couple of tweets last night. I have been thinking for a while about wanting to go vegan, and I think this might just be my catalyst.

You all know, anyway, that I’m basically a (Celtic) Klingon married to a Vulcan, right? 🙂 I do love my Vulcan, but if Michael Dorn said the word, I’d be off in a shot! Sorry, honey! ;-P

I have been vegetarian on and off for maybe 20 years, but probably more off than on while I was bringing up my children.

For now I would describe myself as a flexitarian, pescitarian. That is basically what I have been for the last few years. I eat fish occasionally (tuna and salmon mainly) but not meat, and I try to lean towards mostly vegan or vegetarian meals.

I’ll be honest and say that I’m not sure I could commit to being a vegan permanently, although I would like to. I have tried to go vegan several times – I have made three concerted efforts:

– In 2009 I went on a raw vegan diet, and stayed on it for about ten weeks. While I kept to it, I felt pretty amazingly good, but I found it too much of a challenge to keep to, in terms of time and expense. (I seemed to spend all day in the kitchen and was constantly hungry.)

– In 2012, I tried to go vegan again – starting with the Vegan Society’s Vegan Challenge, to go vegan for 30 days, and kept to it for just over three months…. But I got really ill that time, more about that later.

– And then, this year, I tried to go vegan for lent, but failed about halfway through. Main reason for failure: chocolates on Mothering Sunday! To be fair though, I had a *lot* going on this lent, what with being evicted and all, so I definitely indulged in a spot of comfort eating.

I suspect that I might have had more success if I had been more prepared in terms of having a good stock full of vegan foods in the cupboard, and since the rest of the family are meat-eating, milk-guzzling, egg-lovers, maybe I need a separate space for my food and their food.

Here’s the health issue though: I got very ill in 2012, and almost ended up in hospital with digestive problems and suspected Crohn’s / Ulcerative Colitis (both of which run in the family).

I believe that it was due to re-introducing wholewheat / granary bread and soya into my diet after not having them for years. I’m obviously sensitive to them.

I suspected for a while that it might be a gluten sensitivity, but with experimentation, I have discovered that I can tolerate small amounts of bread and pasta (although for some odd reason, potatoes seem to be a problem, which is so unfair because I love them).

My quandary really is that, if I have to go easy on wheat, potatoes and soya, will I find enough to eat as a vegan (that won’t make me fat!)?

What was that?!

Yes, you read it right. Because I have PCOS, my body doesn’t respond well to carbs. I’m currently overweight, and would *love* to lose weight by going vegan, but believe it or not, when I went vegan in 2012, I put on a lot of weight! It seems counter-intuitive, but there it is.

If I need to keep off the carbs altogether, what could I actually eat? Would I be back to the raw food?

I’m not sure what to do, how to go about it, or how to ensure I don’t get ill again.

But I think I am going to try. I want to try. So any advice, websites, recommendations, tips, recipes or food ideas you have that might help me, let me know!

Not Vegan Anymore?

I’ve never heard of Alexandra Jamieson before today, so I don’t know how important or influential she is, but this article was drawn to my attention as somebody with vegan sympathies.

http://alexandrajamieson.com/im-not-vegan-anymore/

Let me say at the outset that I’m not actually quite vegan – I eat free-range eggs and even fish occasionally, so technically I’m not even vegetarian, you might call me flexitarian. I don’t drink milk if I can avoid it, but I have cheese rarely. I aim for vegan as much as possible.

But I have been vegetarian on and off for the last 20 or so years, and I was fully vegan for a few months last year. I even considered writing a book to convince Christians to become vegan.

I had two reasons to become reason. One was my own health, which if you’ve been reading for a while you will know is not good, and has been for over ten years. I have an as yet unspecified illness which is currently called ‘ME/cfs’. In short, my health is pretty dire. I am overweight and in constant pain. So I hoped that going fully vegetarian and then fully vegan would help.

It didn’t.

In fact quite the reverse happened. I put on even more weight and got even sicker, and my cholesterol was raised from the year before when I tried paleo.

I found that although I’m not coeliac, I can’t tolerate much wheat, so adding wheat and fake meats into my diet exasperated my IBS to the extent that my GP started to be convinced that it was in fact IBD or Crohns. My brother has Crohns so it was a real worry. But I found that as long as I scaled back the wheat and the fake meats, my bowels behave themselves for the most part.

I was actually much healthier on a paleo / primal diet. All the science that I have read on carbs and cereals convinces me that a cereal / carb-based (as opposed to plant-based) vegan diet is potentially very detrimental to health, especially if you have metabolic difficulties with carbs, as people with PCOS and other endocrine disorders do.

My second reason though was conviction that, regardless of my health, it is essentially wrong to take the life of an animal, and further, to take the produce of an animal who is kept in cruel and inhuman captivity.

I admit I don’t have the same strength of conviction when it comes to fish as I do for mammals, but I have no doubt that the methods required for mass rearing and slaughtering even of fish are quite different than those required for small scale rearing.

I have always, since I was a pre-teen, thought that it was cowardly of a person to eat an animal if that person was not willing to do the actual killing themselves. I know I wouldn’t be. Could I kill a fish? Perhaps. (I’m not sure, perhaps not. Probably not, thinking about it. If I saw a fish suffocating and struggling I would probably have to throw it back.) A cow? A pig? A chicken? Never.

Hypocrisy and cowardice are things which I abhor. So I try to limit my own. OK so it is currently limited to fish-eating. I have at least stopped eating my favourite prawn sandwiches (my non-kosher guilty secret) after discovering the slavery scandal linked to supermarket prawn supplies.

But Alexandra Jamieson’s article disturbs me. Relativism, looking for ‘your truth’ as opposed to ‘my truth’ is so convenient! It becomes possible to justify almost anything that way. But there is an objective truth here, that animals are abused on an, unthinkable, indescribable scale.

And this is the problem with health-based veganism.

If you are a vegan for health reasons, without the moral conviction, it is doubtful that you will stay vegan. Being vegan is hard. It’s awkward. It’s difficult. It can make you a social pariah, and eating in restaurants is a challenge, and it may not reap the health rewards you are seeking.

But if you look into the reality of the way animals are treated, if you spend time with animals and realise they have feelings, that they feel fear and pain, and suffer when they die and when they are held in captivity, producing milk in painfully inappropriate amounts, if you know that it is the right thing to do, you will have a much higher chance of succeeding as a vegan.