Tuesday, January 26, 2010

the vegetarian chronicles

I am chronicling the switch.

I've slowly been easing myself into it. My interest was first seriously piqued on the night of Obama's election in 2008. A friend of a friend (who now works for PETA) started sharing with me why he was a vegetarian and urged me to consider it for health and spiritual reasons. I sort of was intrigued and ended up reading a lot of the literature he gave me, but at the end of the day, a filet mignon or a pulled pork sandwich (plus sweet tea!) sounded just too good to pass up. I also had recently read Skinny Bitch and was appalled at the amount of antibiotics apparently pumped into the animals that I was later eating, and also just the general treatment of animals. I even had a dream about being surrounded by piles of meat and had no desire to eat it. I seriously considered switching to vegetarianism, even tried it for a couple of days, to no avail.

For Lent in 2009, I at least gave up red meat for 40 days, which made my backpacking trip throughout Australia, the land of cattle and shrimp on the barbies, a little bit of a challenge. I survived. I even found one vegan burger and fries in Melbourne (which I can't remember the name of anymore, sadly enough) that I found to be just as tasty as anything from Five Guys, my fave hamburger joint. Halfway through the trip though, Lent ended and I was back to eating hamburgers and chips and amazing chicken pad Thai and fish and chips, the Aussie way.

Toward the end of my stay in Australia, I finally learned how to grill. The couple we were renting a room in a flat from had a gorgeous gas grill on a terrace overlooking the neighborhood south of downtown Sydney, and I was thrilled that I had finally learned how to perfectly grill chicken or steak. This love for grilling followed me home back to the States, where I was reuinted with the ChickFila sandwiches, Chipotle carnitas burrito bowls and Longhorn filet mignon that I loved (and had missed so dearly while I was in Australia).

Follow me through Thanksgiving of 2009, where I enjoyed a perfectly cooked turkey (recipe courtesy of Giada di Laurentis). Christmas dinner consisted of the traditional lechon (pork cooked Cubano style, for the uninitiated) and piles of fried shrimp and chicken parmesan. I would feel a pang of remorse when I thought about how I had wrestled with becoming vegetarian prior going to Australia. The aforementioned PETA friend (the one from Obama's election night) would post links and articles on facebook about cruelty to animals and I would read them, and immediately regret reading it, knowing I was accountable for the information I had just read....

This new year, however, my friend Jeanne recommended I watch the documentary Food, Inc. (Visit her blog for more info). This sparked the old flame of responsibility and health and environment-conscious living. I became frustrated at large corporations for manipulating virtually most of what gets funneled down into grocery stores and restaurants. This was only fueled further when I sat down in Borders one afternoon and began to thumb through Fast Food Nation, which chronicles how a combination of socio-economic conditions led to the development of the fast food industry and largely influenced the way meat was produced. I began to remember (and actually believe) that I have a daily responsibility to care for the environment and live compassionately.

So over the past few weeks, I've been trying it out, easing myself into it. Eating meat 2-3 times a week, rather than 2-3 times a day. But this past week, I finally made the general switch (and commitment) to at least be vegetarian for three months.

I'll let you know how it goes. I'm not craving meat today in anyway so at least that's a good sign. Also, if you have any help or advice, please let me know. I went grocery shopping today for the first time with specifically no meat in mind and it wasn't as hard or as tempting as I thought. I do think eating out is going to be difficult...

But we shall see.

you have used 3 continues.

Lately, I feel like I have been increasingly put in scenarios where I am forced to be direct and not apologize afterward for being direct. Conflict resolution. Honesty. Confrontation. Accountability. Character growth.

All of these have been colliding into my life in various relationships, at an exponentially growing rate within the past 2-3 months. I told a good friend of mine recently, it's almost to the point where it feels like a game. A continuous quest or RPG where I am completing various objectives and puzzles and growing stronger and dying and being reborn, gaining coins and lifes (1 ups?) and propeller hats along the way. Every now and then I'll beat the castle and savour the moment of triumph, only to have the princess whisked off to another world.

And so the quest continues.

I'm slowly learning that I often apologize for things when I am not responsible, and don't apologize and get defensive when it IS my responsibility.

Diplomatic, peace-making Mel is learning the ropes of this honesty business and it's none too fun. How do I grow without being reactionary and pendulum swinging to the opposite extreme?

But I am starting to see the patterns a bit clearer. And feeling the growing pains again. It's good but it's hard. And not nearly as fun as Super Mario world.

But it IS almost getting to the point where it is happening so often, that it is comical.

I started to laugh about it today and it felt pretty good.

Friday, January 22, 2010

portrait of an artist by a landscape.

She knelt on the shore, tracing the shadows of the clouds upon the grains of sand. It was as if the sky and sea all appeared to conspire to draw her here, if only to sympathize with her restlessness under the unforgiving sun.

It had been awhile since it had even occurred to her to come here, but last night's dreams left her unconstant and unsettled. She had never felt an ounce of regret--ends justifies the means?--but recent events made her realize how so much of her current laceration had spiraled back from this moment. Conversations, hesitations, silences all seemed tethered to this singular constant in time.

She longed to whip out a pair of scissors, slash through and watch them float up through the atmosphere, but they were so entangled and intertwined, she wouldn't know where to begin. She had dedicated her life to accumulation and it would feel so damn good to let it all go.

Every look, a chasm.

Every breath, an ocean between them.

I heard the fatigue in your voice, she thinks. And I get it.

She wonders if she has tortured herself enough, concludes she hasn't, but then relentlessly lets herself off the hook one more time. And always for the wrong reasons.

Sure, grace is amazing.

But not when we're holding Her hostage.

Monday, January 18, 2010

dismantle, repair.

trying to pull together thoughts from tonight.

earlier today, i was consumed earlier with a piece of melodrama inside my own head.

this week, ironically, has been great. i've had a wonderfully full week of catching up with friends, having sparkling conversation over lunch or coffee, depending on the day of the week. i've melted into jovial circles of people enjoying the taste of beer or the smoke of a pipe as we said our farewells to friends bound for foreign countries. i've laughed over romantic comedies; i've jostled other people over video game controllers as we try to rescue the princess once again; i've enjoyed multiple glasses of wine and good food and good conversation; i've created and strummed and sung and had emotional catharsis; i've been reunited with jack, my favorite terrorist killer from one of my favorite television shows. if anything, this past week has been a microcosm of the spectacularly unbelievable grace of which i've been a recipient.

i've felt grateful, joyful and unbelievably content this entire week.

despite all my past involvement with missions and orphans and street kids, for some reason, i didn't let the news of the earthquake sink into my awareness in any way. i've tweeted about it, i've emailed friends who are involved with mission work in haiti, i've donated some funds, i've acknowledged the suffering, and shaken my head sympathetically at the horror and tragedy.

but it still seemed like statistics. i've felt removed and disconnected from the emotional reality of it.

that all changed tonight.

at status tonight, two young men spoke about their experiences in haiti since this past tuesday. they were working in an orphanage outside of port-au-prince when the earthquake hit. they stood on the stage and told their story. and slowly, the reality of what had happened in haiti started to unravel before my eyes. i could smell the stench of death as they described driving through port-au-prince, surrounded by stacks of dead bodies. i could feel the terror and confusion and shock in the tears of young orphans and street children. i could see the emptiness in the shocked, listless stares of the people trying to make sense of the destruction. the pain became real to me, not just hypothetical.

the piece of melodrama inside my head seemed to vaporize, swallowed up by the immense suffering of a million voices crying out to jesus for help, for aid, for anything.

this is a time for prayer, for listening, for action, for compassion. i am sick and tired of allowing apathy and inaction and indecisiveness and self-absorption and overanalysis to dictate the rhythms of my day-to-day. i realize sanctification is a lifelong process but i am recognizing more and more that i am being drawn into the fray, into the action and i can no longer ignore the throbbing, the fire that has been burning for quite sometime now. i feel God increasingly dismantling me, exponentially over the past few months and i am scared to death and excited and lately it feels like life is constantly spinning out of control but that's because it IS, but it's my control that it's spinning out of and it ought to. because God is ultimately the one in control.

tonight, i remembered a scene from elie wiesel's haunting novel "night." wiesel witnesses the evil of innocent people being mass murdered, most horrifically on the gallows. upon seeing innocent people swinging from the gallows, a bitter voice cries out in anguish "where is god?" and someone replies, "he is there. on the gallows."

for some, i know they think god is dead. or at least indifferent or powerless. or maybe even a monster.

but for me, that scene has always meant that god is indeed on the gallows, but only because he is suffering right along with the people. i believe that christ is never more real and more present than among people that are suffering deep and unspeakable pain.

i have no answers; i don't think anybody does.

but for now, i want to pray and listen and be ready to act at any given moment.

Isaiah 61

 1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
       because the LORD has anointed me
       to preach good news to the poor.
       He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
       to proclaim freedom for the captives
       and release from darkness for the prisoners, [a]
 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness 
instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins 
and restore the places long devastated; 
they will renew the ruined cities 
that have been devastated for generations.