I just got off the phone with a new vegan friend. We shared our stories of how we became vegan. I went first and told her mine was long-winded. It was refreshing to share my on-again/off-again journey with someone so sweet and unjudgmental.
As a child, I did not like meat. I’d hide it in my napkin or feed it to the dog. When I was 22, I decided to no longer eat meat. This was in the 1980s and back then if you were a vegetarian, you were looked at as if you had two heads. People thought it was weird that I wasn’t eating pizza. And if I was stressed and had some vegan candy, I’d hear rude comments, “What do you do when you really go off the deep end? Eat meat?”
But I put up with it. For 28 years. (And the comments were worse when I was a raw foodist for a few years, but that’s another story). During these 28 years of being vegetarian, I dabbled in veganism on and off.
Then I hit my 50th birthday and menopause was upon me. I began having dizzy spells and getting kind of sluggish. Three male nutritionists said I’d be better off with some meat. Against my better judgement, I said a prayer to the animals and began to consume grass-fed beef. But I continued to stay away from pork, lamb, and veal. For some time I followed the paleo diet and I did feel better.
Last year during the pandemic, something happened. I changed. For the better. I wasn’t sad or stressed about anything. My husband and I continued to thrive in our careers during the pandemic. However, I did feel a sense of loss because one of my best friends died, not of Covid, but a heart attack. The best thing I could do for dealing with it was look inward.
I used to meditate in the 1980s. I somehow came across the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza and started doing his meditations, and other ones–twice a day. What came out of it was not only being incredibly at peace, but having greater compassion for both people and animals. My husband and I had just took in a feral kitten that was abandoned. My bond grew so strong with the kitten and it led me to study feline behavior.
When I got my certificate, I was looking for a shelter to volunteer at. None of them got back to me. Perhaps because we’re still in a pandemic? I don’t know.
I started following more animal groups on Facebook, to continue learning about cats and other animals.
Pigs were always my favorite farm animal. Protecting them was my biggest concern during my original run with vegetarianism. I never paid much attention to cows. Then watching what loving creatures cows are, on Dodo videos and videos on vegan pages, it inspired me give up meat again.
Then a few months later, while on one of our vacations, my husband and I were in a sea aquarium. A stingray kept going over to him. It seemed they made a connection. Then I saw a beautiful octopus. He winked at me! I can’t eat octopus anymore, I thought to myself. I just can’t.
I’ve been to aquariums before, but this time, due to all the meditation I was doing, I was moved like never before. These are living beings and we are one with them. With that in my head, I decided to stop eating fish. Might as well give up rennetless cheese too. And a vegan was born. Cold turkey. It wasn’t a hard decision to make. All the time I was on the paleo diet, I never stopped buying cruelty free/vegan make-up products. I never stopped going to cruelty free/vegan hair salons. And I never drank alcohol that wasn’t vegan. Absolute Vodka and White Claw were always my go-to drinks.
My husband asked me if I was sure eating vegan was what I wanted to do. He pointed out that I was feeling great, that the dizzy spells stopped, and I was sleeping good. That was all true, so I decided to hire a vegan health coach to make sure I was doing it right this time. I now knew too much, and experienced too much to go back. For months I was following vegan pages on Facebook, educating myself. I saw vegans of all ages thriving on the diet. I knew if I tried one more time I would thrive too. And I wouldn’t go back.
With the health coach, I learned which supplements you needed, and was inspired to experiment with different colored vegetables. I also learned of a service called Imperfect Foods, where you can get cheaper organic produce because it may be bruised or look weird (like a carrot with two legs!)
Now, three months later, I am feeling fantastic and I even lost a few pounds–at age 58! My husband has been eating more vegan meals, and so are my friends when they are around me. I recently signed up as a volunteer for vegan group to help animals.
I’m so happy and at peace with myself. Each day has so much meaning. It’s another day to save animals.
Sometimes I beat myself up and wish I never listened to the nutritionists who told me that I’d benefit from eating some meat. I was a meat eater for almost six years. But I did learn from the experience. The most important lesson is that everyone is on their own journey. People eat meat for their own reasons. Who are we to judge? The best I can do as a vegan, is to humble myself and lead by example. I will never tell a meat eater he or she is a “murderer.” It’s not right. It’s not my business.
But I will go to restaurants and suggest vegan options. I will continue to support vegan companies. I will continue to talk about the fun vegan food I get to eat on weekends (because during the week, I’m a more serious vegan, natural as possible).
It feels good to enjoy oatmeal again, after shunning it for years. And making scrambled tofu brought me back to a beautiful place. It was one of my first favorite vegetarian dishes back in the 1980s.
My husband and I drove past a farm a few weeks ago. He said to the cows, “She’s saving your lives.”
It was a beautiful thing to hear. Yes, I am saving lives. And it feels like home.
Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
She is available for blogging, editing, and writing. She is also available for book signings and motivational speaking engagements (via ZOOM during covid). She is now coaching aspiring writers via ZOOM.
Maryanne is the author of the following books:
“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit:Be (Extra)Ordinary
“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: I Don’t Want To Be Like You
Her fiction book “Love Cats” second printing is now available, under the pen name Krystianna Mercury, from Pink Flamingo. You can purchase it here: Love Cats