Food (and other things) as Coping Mechanisms

Today, this post is only tangentially going to be about veganism. Instead it’s going to be about my mom, because it’s Mother’s Day and because I lost her quite recently. I want to talk a bit about how she, a dedicated carnivore and lover of all things cheese, made me become a vegan.

The very first time I ever contemplated veganism and vegetarianism was last September. My aunt rented a cabin in Deep Creek, Maryland and my mother and I went down with her and spent our Labor Day weekend by the lake. My sixty-six year-old mother, who loved to party even at her age, spent the weekend inebriated, while I spent much of it in a canoe by myself.

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With a view like that, can you blame me?

It was in this canoe, surrounded by water and trees and a sky that went on forever, that I contemplated my effect on the world around me. Not being a religious person, I feel that my role in the grand scheme of things is to be a walking, talking pile of stardust on a tiny rock in a distant corner of an insignificant galaxy somewhere in the vast reaches of the universe. However, when you look at it up close, this tiny, beautiful, miraculously life-supporting rock is all we have.

I don’t need to lecture any of you on the pollution that raising animals for food causes, and if anyone reading doesn’t accept that man-made climate change is a real thing, you should probably stop reading now. This post–and indeed this entire blog–is probably not for you.

Sidenote, à la Neil deGrasse Tyson: Science is real whether you believe in it or not.

From that point on, I made it a point to reduce my meat intake and even went vegetarian for about a month. Then Donald Trump won the election and there didn’t seem to be much of a point in caring about the environment (or even personal well-being) anymore.

I bought a pack of cigarettes and went to a wing joint. I’m bad at coping.

That was a knee-jerk reaction. I don’t smoke and even though I never went back to full-on vegetarian, I still continued to eat less meat than I did before.

Back to Deep Creek, my mother loved that vacation. She jumped in the lake before either me or my aunt did, prefacing it with “Sometimes you just gotta take the bull by the horns!” She loved the camp fire, the hot tub, brutally beating my aunt and me at 500 Rummy and making snide comments about it, and she even snuck outside one night by herself to go skinny dipping.

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She was diagnosed with lung cancer in February and died last month–not from the cancer itself but from complications from a surgery to help get rid of the fluid in her lungs from a case of pneumonia she couldn’t shake.

It was supposed to be the easy surgery, the routine one, the one that she recovered from quickly so she could go under the knife a second time and have the more difficult surgery where they removed the tumor and part of her lung.

I feel like I’ve been cheated. I have this image of her stuck in my mind, the morning of her surgery, sitting on the bed, being impatient because she wanted to get it all over with so she could go home.

She died twelve days later.

I didn’t buy a pack of cigarettes or go get wings this time. I went downstairs to the basement, hit my punching bag until my knuckles were bloody, and then a week later became a vegan.

Maybe I can honor her memory by making positive lifestyle changes instead of negative ones to help me deal with grief.

My mother didn’t want a funeral or any kind of service. She wanted us to throw a party to celebrate her life. So, we rented the same cabin in Deep Creek this August, and we’re going to throw the party there and scatter her ashes in the lake she loved so much.

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Happy Mother’s Day.

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