Every night, I share a bed — and even snuggle up closely — with my enemy. I set aside time to observe my enemies’ outdated traditions during holidays. I share deep and authentic emotional exchanges with them. I consider them my kin, my friends, my loved ones; and yet, they are vehemently my rivals. How can this be?
Alas, I was never trained in the tactics of an undercover agent. I’m not an expert at effectively infiltrating the lives of those who fervently oppose everything I stand for. But that is the task at hand. They (who’s they!?) say you shouldn’t try to change the ones you love. But there is something about my loved ones that I very much wish I could change. Indeed, I try incessantly to help them make that change of their own accord.
They are my enemies, you see, because they are not vegan. Our relationships are compromised by the fact that animal products still permeate their daily lives. I suppose I don’t want to change them, per se, only to help them be their true selves, to live according to their own values — values which I know they share, because it’s why I love them!
I find the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest version of themselves. —Steve Maraboli
As you might expect, it’s quite challenging.
It’s awkward, being the one at the table whose presence alone makes everyone uncomfortable about what they’re eating. (Despite that Iwant them to be uncomfortable about that decision.)
It’s draining, to take everything that’s left within me to not call out the injustice I see on their plates, in their fashion, or as part of their entertainment.
It’s frustrating, knowing that my loved ones are not bad individuals who don’t care about suffering; rather, that they are complicit with their limited awareness and they are unwilling to hear the truth regarding animal exploitation.
And it’s trying, to remain non-aggressive and strive to be a model for living compassionately as a means for getting the point across…but no matter the approach, everyone puts up a wall.
Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.
My chest becomes an echo chamber — I feel as though I am shouting from my core, “Open your eyes! See the consequences of your actions! Do something! Please!” But the vibrations wear down only on my own heart.
I am saddened, disheartened, and downtrodden. What I see on their plates is not food, but symbols of cruelty, exploitation, violence, and murder. It’s offensive, but I have to act casually complacent lest I want to become that vegan. But even when I look away, the stench permeates the room. Oh, if I could change just one thing about this world . . .
How can I avoid feeling “holier than thou” now that I’ve detached myself from the violence and oppression they cling to? How can I not judge? In what ways am I expected to relate when it’s been over a decade since I’ve recognized such cruelty and in all that time I’ve tried to spread my message yet so few are even willing to open their hearts to understand? Who has that patience?
How can I stay quite when I know with all my heart that something is wrong — and not only do I know this, but my loved ones do or would agree if they’d only be receptive to change!! It’s the Twilight Zone, the Matrix, an alternate reality that makes no sense to me.
If I could get just one point across, it would be this: We need not compromise our values to enjoy life. No one deserves to suffer so that we can live our lives fully. Indeed, we can remove animal products from our diets, our accessories, our entertainment and we can live happy, healthy, and satisfying lives just the same.
We are expected to be patient and understanding; we’re expected to remain strong. Every now and then, however, I crumble and I weep. I know not what to do.
For now, this story remains a tragedy.