“Don’t try to figure out what do and then show up; show up and then you’ll know what to do.” ~Marianne Williamson

Out To Pasture farm animal sanctuary. Estacada, Oregon

After spending a lifetime as a meat and dairy-loving foodie, in the fall of 2016, I made the decision to stop eating animals. Had you told me even as late as early mid-fall that I would become vegan, I would have said you were crazy. That’s how fast this shift can happen. 

Once you know the truth about what we do to animals in order to eat them, when we don’t even need to for our health or happiness, if you’re not already vegan, you may want to become vegan, too. Never say never. I did, and, well, here I am. 

Once I learned the reality of the cruel and unnecessary suffering we inflict upon farm animals by eating them, I made the decision to go vegan for life, and I never looked back. 

There was no way I could continue saying I loved animals and still eat them. It would be like saying I love you and then string you upside down, slit your throat while you’re still conscious, and then chop you up into tiny pieces.

I know it sounds gruesome, but once you realize, as did I, that, just like us, they feel pain and fear, pleasure and joy, anxiety and loneliness, and want to live and love every bit as much as we do, it’s impossible to justify being the cause of such violence, injustice, and cruelty.

Once I made the decision, even though I gave myself full permission to go out and enjoy anything I wanted one last time before “crossing over”, surprisingly, I had no interest. Willpower would never have gotten me to stop eating the many foods I enjoyed for so many years. 

And I didn’t even need willpower. I just needed to decide that I wasn’t going to turn away from their unbearable pain and suffering and, unless you’re a sadist or psychopath, it pretty much leaves you no room but to stop participating in the cruelty. Hence, the desire to eat them was completely lifted. 

It was like an awakening. Rather, it was an awakening! My compelling reason to stop abusing them overrode any reasons or excuses I may have had for ever eating them again, no matter what that meant for my life and lifestyle. There was something so calming about being so clear about my choice – when you really deeply choose something, there’s a clarity and power that guides you. It’s liberating.

The actual boots-on-the-ground transition to becoming vegan was very much one day at a time for me. Not because I felt deprived or was tempted to eat my old favorite things, but because I had no clue how to eat vegan. NONE. 

I was one of those people who didn’t first wait to become vegan after I knew how to replace ingredients, or re-stock my kitchen, or order food when eating out, or learn how to “veganize” dishes. Once I chose compassion, my motto was, and still is, “I’ll eat cardboard before I ever eat an animal.” That stance really kept things simple, and me motivated – either I figure out each day what to eat, or I starve. Clear.

Fortunately, there’s the Internet so I didn’t have to starve. What I think is most valuable when transitioning, or when you’re endeavoring on anything new and big and life-changing, is to really stay present with yourself  and in your body, noticing  your thoughts and feelings – and to just take everything as it comes.

When you allow yourself to enjoy the uncertainty of the journey, things really unfold as they should and you keep getting everything you need. I just kept following the ‘hot tracks’ and each really cool, or confusing, or scary thing would lead to another. I found all kinds of wonderful vegan Facebook groups where I learned so much, and the support for going and becoming vegan was endless. And still is!

My first several months of going vegan I very much stayed away from eating at restaurants and eating with non-vegans. I wasn’t at all ready to deal with being out in the world as a new vegan in a non-vegan world. (Vegans make up for less than 1% of the U.S. population. Daunting.) 

It’s sort of like being a newly recovering alcoholic and at first needing to stay away from “slippery people and slippery places.” My old eating habits were so ingrained and, being a social eater was such a huge part of my identity for so many decades, I just didn’t trust I could function outside of my known domain and tight sphere of control without being susceptible to “having a slip.”

I’m so glad I trusted my instincts. If I’ve learned anything all these years is how important it is to listen to and trust yourself and that still, small voice within you. Extreme self-care never gets old!

Shortly after becoming vegan, it didn’t take long for me to want to do more for the animals than just stop eating them. Of course going vegan was great, and obviously a monumental step, but, for me, it didn’t go far enough. Knowing the non-stop pain and agony they are going through as a result of our deep conditioning, I knew I needed to speak out for them and do everything I could to bring awareness to their unimaginable suffering. 

The story of how I went straight from new vegan to out-spoken animal rights activist is for another time.

And, if you’re not vegan yet, consider asking yourself why not, and be open to where that inquiry leads you.

And if you are already vegan, but not involved in helping get the word out to the 99% who are still eating meat, eggs, and dairy, consider getting out of your comfort zone and becoming a more significant voice for the voiceless. There are so many ways to make a difference that doesn’t need to involve activities that don’t utilize your strengths and natural abilities and match your personality. We need what you have to give – the animals can’t wait for “baby steps.”

As Dick Gregory, long-time civil rights activist, author, and renowned comedian has said,

 “Animals and humans suffer and die alike. Violence causes the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel, and brutal taking of life. We don’t have to be a part of it.”

I hope you join me in learning how to live a life that does not involve being a part of the violence against animals. 

Be daring. Go vegan.

With Love,

Dani


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