I’ll admit I had high hopes for my first vegan Christmas. I don’t simply mean getting an impressive meal to the table before tears, tantrums or tipsy occurs. I’m talking full on hand crafted, pine scented, Pinterest high hopes.
Then right before I got the chance to remember that my domestic standards are routinely set by successfully getting the smell of dog out of the laundry my vision for the season came spectacularly crashing down. Medically speaking it wasn’t so much my vision that slipped as the disc of my lumbar spine. I’m pretty sure however that the crippling, crushing sensation which manifested physically in me is in direct proportion to the internal trauma experienced by so many as we deem ourselves of having fallen short of the dizzying heights of seasonal perfection.
When did we make the decision to allow ourselves to suffer such overwhelm and call it making merry? I’d like to blame the internet, but then I know that’s not strictly true. As a girl I watched my mam crawl her way through each and every Christmas, exhausted and spent. Even in those younger years I felt the strain, was deeply aware of the financial burden and the palpable, unspoken awkwardness of extended family politics.
Don’t get me wrong I have wonderful memories of childhood festivities, feasts and family fun. Moving forward those are the experiences I hope to pass on to my future nephews, nieces and grandchildren, but not to the detriment of my health or my choice to live a compassionate life. I don’t want the quest for perfection to absorb me so completely that I’m so busy fussing over spilled glitter I miss the childish giggles from the next room as my husband farts sprout fumes in his sleep.
As vegans imparticular the season can bring up all kinds of extra stress and social anxiety but I think we need to focus on keeping compassion for all beings, including ourselves as a priority. Veganism as a lifestyle is just as prone to being influenced by consumer madness as the rest. Don’t think we’re oblivious to the extra digits added to the price tag once the word eco, sustainable, fair trade or artisan are added to the label.
Perhaps the biggest challenge we face is to ensure that the peace of the season extends beyond our plates and into every aspect of our selves, our families and our celebrations.
On a personal note this first Christmas I’m facing breaking an ingrained 30+ year food tradition, coming out of the vegan closet to my in-laws and avoiding eye contact with anything that used to have a face at the dinner table. So no pressure then.
I have a list, if truth be told I have several. They break down into categories which call for lovingly hand-made vegan truffles and home-baked desserts for days. All types of social must do’s including Elf costume complete with bell festooned socks and pre-Christmas Christmases.
Fast forward one week.
I’m still heavily medicated, I cannot sit, stand or lie down in one position for more than half an hour before the pain, stiffness and shuffling sets in. My body has called a halt to all forms of working, shopping, wrapping, festooning, baking, trimming, cleaning and every other usual obligation that niggles the Christmas consciousness. I have to say it feels WONDERFUL!
Let me explain. The pain is bloody awful. However the initial heart-wrenching guilt and gut churning panic is beginning to slowly give way to a sense of freedom and dare I say relief. Whilst my body remains unyielding my heart and mind have begun to realise what does and does not matter to me at this time of year and release everything else.
Gone are the notions of picture perfect vegan fare the likes of which the world according to Instagram has never seen. There will be no food selfies at my table this year. I’ll be tucking into a plateful of seasonal veggies and gravy lovingly prepared by my husband. It is just one meal on one day, hopefully to be shared with those we truly cherish. Those of us who are fortunate enough, there will be three more the day after and three more the day after that.
I wish you everything you hope for this Christmas and hope that the thing you wish for yourself most of all is peace.