Lately I’ve been following my own advice about giving more of myself than I think I have. You know, the old getting-out-of-my-own-skin routine. Life has been coming at me like a curve ball apocalypse and for some reason I don’t have the energy to freak out about it. I know what I have control over, and what I don’t. Doing the “next right thing” is the only thing I know how to do. There is almost too much for me to worry about, so why even go there? I know everything will work out, because so far, things have fallen into place very well. If it was going to fall apart at all, I think I would see the cracks by now. From my experience, the universe doesn’t give half of what you need and then abort mission while you flounder along. If things aren’t supposed to work out when life comes at you hard, then usually there will be a big sock in the gut that tells you not to proceed. I haven’t gotten that sock in the gut. In fact, the green lights are blazing as I step into uncharted territory. I trust myself and I have an overall vision. Having that vision is paving the way for me like an unfolding bridge before my feet.
I recall a time when I used to look for validation from others, and now, 3.75 years into my recovery, the closer I get to my genuine self, I’m not concerned about needing approval from other people. For example, it isn’t easy being vegan around carnivores who have strong opinions about eating meat, but being vegan for me is honoring my feelings about animals. For years, I blocked out the sadness I felt regarding factory farming, and I got to a point where the feelings were too strong for me to ignore. It was about a year into my recovery when I decided to go with my gut on shifting my diet. Like everything else in my recovery, I took things really slowly. I didn’t overwhelm myself with the changes. I adapted to the earthy food in a way that didn’t shock my body or make me crave a hamburger to the point of going on a fast food bender. I did it compassionately, like a ceremony of change. It’s been a couple of years now and I realize that I’m not so focused on food the way I was before. Food is no longer the center of my universe, and thank the gods, because we only need food for survival. I got tired of worshiping food and looking forward to meals. There is so much more to life. Also, when I’m at a party where there isn’t a lot of food for me to choose from, I’m more focused on my diet than I am about avoiding alcohol, so becoming vegan has had the unexpected effect of shifting my focus away from alcohol. I also feel much lighter, and I am closer to who I truly am.
I get off-handed judgments a lot for being vegan, but I’m ultimately the one who has to live with myself. If I were to give in and eat a piece of meat, as often suggested by others, I wouldn’t feel good about it at all. It may taste amazing, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling horrible about the abused animals. Some people may call this being too sensitive, but honoring my innermost feelings takes a great amount of strength. It would be much easier to simply eat the meat when it is offered. I’m very connected to life, and when people say, “Just don’t think about it,” regarding the slaughterhouses, I think to myself, they’re avoiding their true nature and I don’t want to do that anymore. Recovery for me has been tapping into the well of myself, rather than living on the surface of my emotions. I go deep because it keeps me in alignment with who I truly am, and in turn, this keeps me sober. Perhaps from now on when I get glares about my food choices, I will say, “Being vegan keeps me sober.”
In regards to life throwing curve balls, there is always the suggestion that I go backwards and let go of my vision and just give up. I have a lot on my plate. I’m responsible for a lot of things, including two young people. So I think of what it would look like if I stepped out of my vision and went back to my hometown and took another job that just paid the bills and got a place to live near my family. It’s not that simple though. There are so many elements to consider. None of those elements flow together the way things are flowing now. If they were, I would take a step back in a heartbeat, but I feel very strongly that I am where I’m supposed to be. I’ve met amazing people along the way. I feel connected to where I am. From an outsider’s point of view, I don’t know what it looks like, but from where I stand, everything feels right. I’m not forcing anything to happen. I’m simply following an inner pull that has much more commonsense than it may seem. I don’t think like most people. I feel. I feel my way along (because that’s what keeps me sober).
If you go through life seeking validation from others, you never truly get the full effect of living your life in such a way that it feels the universe is embracing you. Getting guidance from people is one thing, but drawing answers about what you should do and where you should go, needs to come from within. Yesterday my daughter was struggling with a decision about a friend. The friend is always causing trouble, but she ultimately has a good heart. She’s simply misguided. We love the friend. She has not influenced my daughter in a negative way. In fact, on the contrary, but my daughter has been given advice from several people to not be friends with her because of her negative behavior. My advice was to embrace the friend, to bring her over more often, and to make her a part of our family. Give her guidance where it is needed. When I said this, my daughter was so overwhelmed with relief. She didn’t feel right at all about what other people were telling her. I said, “You’ve got to listen to your own gut. You can’t expect other people to tell you what’s right and what’s wrong. You’ve bonded with this person, and you know that she is ultimately a good person. She just needs to be taught certain things.” My daughter is wise beyond her years and told me that her friend claims that she can’t help it that she is often “rude.” My daughter told her, “YOU aren’t rude. You ACT rude. That’s not WHO you are.” I was impressed. I mean, that’s exactly right. If her friend buys into that label about herself, perhaps one day she will literally be a rude individual, but we’re not allowing her to buy into that label. We’re trying to show her that her behaviors don’t define her. If she begins affecting us in a negative way we’ll put up our boundaries, but for now it seems that she simply needs a little bit of extra love and a lot of acceptance.
Labels don’t define us. Religious preferences don’t define us. Political views don’t define us. My veganism doesn’t define me. Getting validation from other people doesn’t breathe life into my existence. I’ve found a way to stand on my own two feet and to draw from the deep well within myself. I’ve had a lot of curve balls thrown at me lately, and some of them hurt, but they don’t define how I ultimately feel. Nothing will sway my stance because I know who I am and where I am going. I will be tested and tried and pushed and pulled, and I will continue standing on my own two feet and drawing from the deep well within myself. I have to live with me for the rest of my life. I’m the only person who has to live with me for the remainder of my life (twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week). So if I’m seeking validation from sources outside of myself, or drawing from someone else’s well, I will never ever experience the eternal joy that continues flowing even while I’m facing unexpected adversity. I will only have moments of happiness, which never kept me sober.