Monday, August 22, 2011


Note: The giveaway ends tomorrow night, August 23, 2011! Comment before then to be in the running for some amazing books!

Changing habits is work. There are no two ways about it. For me, changing to a plant-based diet was fun work so it truly didn't feel like work at all. That's the best kind, isn't it?

Since giving up animal products (and "giving up" is not the right term. I don't feel like I'm losing a thing, but rather gaining a lot),  I've had many conversations with skeptical but well-meaning folks who tentatively ask, "So, what made you decide to go vegan?" When I respond that it was an ethical choice once I learned what happened to the animals, a common response is a hand up and a fearful "I don't want to know about it." First off, I find it oddly endearing because I have no plans to jump in and tell people about the specific abuses unless they ask very specific questions that require specific answers. (And even then, my answers are pretty tame.) So the fear and the hand are for naught. The reason I don't blurt out the awful truths right away is simply that I don't want to scare people from having these conversations. It takes courage to ask, but most people are more inclined to learn more if they can do so at their own pace and comfort level.

And interestingly enough, many of the people I talk to have sworn off one animal product or another, be it for ethical, religious, or health reasons or for simply disliking the taste and/or texture. But the idea of swearing off all animal products tends to make people balk. Which I get. I balked for many many years. Not having butter and cheese was unimaginable to me.

But I think we tend to feel that it has to be all or nothing. It doesn't. I do understand that tendency, though and am always haggling with it. I often look around at all I have to do in my house and yard, for example, and get totally overwhelmed and, as a result, end up watching a Sex and the City rerun instead. But there's a secret. And I learned it from one of my favorite silly movies, What About Bob?  ....  Babysteps.

As you can see in the above clip, the whole thing is done as a farce, but there's actually a lot to it.  I often talk myself into just doing one thing. "The yard's a mess and the house is disgusting right now. But I can put this pen away where it belongs," or "I can put the timer on and work on straightening this room for just ten minutes," or "I'll just weed this small section of the garden." And in every case, it's all I need to get started and I'm usually rarin' to keep working after that prescribed task. And I tend to make some impressive progress! But it's that initial knowledge that I only have to do this one small thing that gets me out of the powerless funk. 

It's the same with changing any habit. For our purposes here, "I don't have to give up all animal flesh. But I'll replace one chicken dish this week with something vegetarian that has ingredients I like." Or "I'm not giving up cheese, but I'll try replacing the cow's milk in my cereal with hazelnut milk and see if I like it. If I don't like that milk, I'll try a different kind." It can be very slight adjustments.

You may find that just making this one small change will be quite satisfying for a few months, and maybe later you'll try one more small change. Maybe you want to know about some of the abuses in the animal industry, but you don't want to know about all of them because you can't handle potentially giving up everything at once if the abuses upset you. Do a google search on just the egg industry and focus on that. If videos are too overwhelming, do a specific search on just written information.

You might find yourself surprised to see that you want to make further changes. As Kathy Freston recommends, "Lean into it." And as Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says, "Don't do nothing because you can't do everything. Do something. Anything." You don't have to change everything at once. In fact, you don't have to change everything, period. Making small changes keeps you moving and prevents that powerless and overwhelming all-or-nothing stance. And for many, if gives them a new feeling of power. We can make the world better by these tiny changes! It's quite exciting when you think about it!

Which is why I think that the whole Meatless Mondays thing is really catching on. It's a small change many people are willing to make and they are reaping the benefits, both in health and in that powerful sense of doing something

I'm still taking babysteps to where I want to be. I got a bag of most of my leather products and have them by the door waiting to go to a thrift store. But our leather chair still sits in the front room. My down comforter still covers my bed. (Down is a horrible horrible industry, I discovered.) My shoes are still mostly leather. (In some cases, it's simply a case of not having the financial resources to replace goods with animal friendly ones yet.) My cats still eat meat and that weighs very heavily on me. But I know I'll get to a place someday where I am doing the least amount of harm possible. Babysteps!

So try it! Baby steps ... Baby steps ... Babysteps through the office ... Babysteps out the door ...

No comments:

Post a Comment