When you try to make big changes in your life people take notice. If you stop doing things the way you’ve always done them, or start doing new things, people start to question your motives and intentions. Sometimes the questions arise from sheer curiosity, but sometimes the origins are much deeper.
When I was a teenager I stopped eating red meat. My grandmother kept trying to get me to eat her meatballs.
‘Have a meatball.’
‘No thanks, Grandma.’
‘But you always like my meatballs.’
‘No thanks, Grandma. Not today.’
‘What do you mean, not today?’
‘I’m not eating meat any more, Grandma.’
‘You’re what?! Not eating meat?! What do you mean not eating meat? What does she mean, no meat!?’
This was an Italian household in the 1980s. It was like I was stabbing her in the heart! She expected me to always eat her meatballs. How could I say no? This was a Sunday tradition? It’s not easy to move away from other people’s traditions and expectations. (For many years I would still eat the occasional meatball. Just to make Grandma happy.)
When I gave up beer for a month, everyone around me was very supportive. They teased me. They sent me photos of beers. Articles about beer. Film clips about beer. Tons of beer memes. They’re a bunch of comedians, but they’re supportive comedians. When the month ended and I decided not to go back to beer things changed. Some people tried to get me to drink.
‘Come on. You can have just one!’
‘No thank you.’
‘Just one, come on! Don’t make me drink alone!’
‘I’m not making you drink alone.’
‘Ah, eventually you’ll drink again! You’ll be back. You’ll see.’
‘Yeah, okay. Maybe I will. We’ll see.’
People expect you to go back to the way you were. They need you to fit into your prescribed slot in their mind.
When my husband decided to hop on the wagon with me he got much worse from his peers. One night he was at a pub (drinking soda) with his coworkers (drinking beer). They kept offering to buy him a beer. He kept refusing. After a few, the guys began tossing 100 dollar bills onto the bar, telling him he could have all the money if he had one drink. 700 dollars to have one drink. True story!
He didn’t take the money. But what the hell is that about? Why would they want him to fail? Is it schadenfreude? Is it envy ? Fear? What drives that behavior?
When I gave up sugar, people were constantly trying to feed me things.
‘Want some cake?
‘No thanks, I gave up sugar.’
‘But it only has 3 grams of sugar in it. You can have it. You can have just one. It won’t kill you.’
What is the reason behind it? Why are they trying to make me eat sugar? I know it has nothing to do with me. Their reaction is all about them. What kind of reflection are they seeing in my behavior that makes them want to tempt me, or undermine me?
Whenever we decide to break away from a ‘normal’ acceptable behavior and challenge the pack mentality we can expect those types of reactions. Deep down we are just like animals. Our status in the pack depends upon our buying into those behaviors which are deemed necessary by the rest of the dogs. When we start to forge our own path it upsets the order of things.
With each thing I release from my life, I get the same question- Why? People often feel compelled to ask me why I don’t eat meat.
Do you mind if I ask why? Why don’t you eat meat? Is it for religious reasons? Is it a digestive issue? Is it about the animals?…
I never ask people why they do eat meat? I know why you eat it. Because you always have. Because it’s what you grew up eating. Because it tastes good. Because you like it. Because you want to.
People ask me why I’m not drinking a beer. Do you mind if I ask why? When did this happen? Is it for a diet? It must be for a diet? Oh, wait, are you sober? Will you ever drink again? You will, won’t you?
I don’t ask people why they do drink.I know why you drink. Because it tastes good. Because you always have. Because you think you need to. Because it feels good. Because you enjoy it. Because you want to.
I recently went to my general practitioner and explained to him that I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I’ll be having a double mastectomy. I told him I was not going to reconstruct. He looked at me without skipping a beat and said, ‘May I ask why?’
In that moment I couldn’t help but wonder if he would have asked me that question had I chosen to get implants?
(I don’t think he would have.)
I thought for a moment. How do I answer this question? It was a very big, very personal decision that I made after careful consideration, detailed research, and much introspective meditation. It would take some time to explain it all. But how could I simplify it?
‘May I ask why? Why no reconstruction?’ he asked.
‘Because it’s not necessary’ I said.
That was all. Simple. It is not necessary. He just nodded. I’d like to think he understood me.
Soon, as long as everything goes smoothly, I will be walking this earth without boobs. It might make people uncomfortable. They will look at me, and wonder what it is that seems a bit off. Maybe they will figure it out. Then they will wonder what happened. How did I lose them? Then they will wonder why I didn’t reconstruct, or why I’m not wearing implants. There are so many reasons, but they all boil down to that one simple sentence. If anyone asks me I will simply say ‘I didn’t think it was necessary’.
From now on when anyone questions my personal choices, asks me why I don’t eat meatballs, or drink alcohol, or dye my grays, I will simply say ‘I don’t feel it’s necessary’.
I remember when I stopped dying my hair a couple of years ago, people started to look at me funny. Especially people I have known all of my life. I think it makes some people uncomfortable because they see their own mortality when they see me. Ageing. Graying. Wrinkling. Soon to be breast-less.
We don’t really want to face it, do we? We want to fight it. We want to cover it up. We want to maintain our status in the pack, and numb ourselves into thinking we can escape the inevitable passage of time. We think it’s necessary to struggle against the ticking clock. We fight against it with comfort foods. Alcohol. Pain killers. Hair dye. Skin creams. Religion. Money. Possessions. Traditions. Prosthetic boobs.
I am letting go of those things. I am letting go of all of the things I can. Every single damn thing. Watch me shed my skin.
I am releasing into what actually needs to be, for me. By letting go af all of the unnecessary in my life, I make room for acceptance of everything that actually is. And acceptance brings peace. It brings a little more peace every day.
I am not running with the pack anymore. I’m passing the baton and stepping off the track. The farther I move from the pack, the more firmly I can stand here, grounded in my vulnerability, grounded in my own truth.
The more I let go of, the easier it is to stand here. Unencumbered, unburdened by unnecessary things. Accepting all of the changes that come my way.
Guilty! And you’re right, it is about me. Giving up things I enjoy is way too difficult and, seeing someone succeed in doing what I can’t stings a bit. But, Kim, I’ve always admired you. You inspire me to live better, do better, be better. In fact, I think of you as my guru. And, by the way, I like your grays. Some day, I’ll join you.
You’re pretty inspirational yourself!