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Choices. Good, bad, or indifferent. Most parents
guide our choices when we are young, to allow
us the experience to grow. We make mistakes,
and often our choices go sideways. At a recent
appointment with my acupuncturist, our
conversation led from food choices to ancestral
conditioning and trauma and the threads stretching
from one generation to the next.
Food remains a contentious factor for me. A web of conflicting circumstances in my childhood created a table, often set with anger, accusations, alcohol, criticism, bullying and fear. The details remain a part of my past painted into a gritty, shadowed composition. My stomach knotted with hunger, although the emptiness alternated between the necessity of food and the need of a peaceful connection and acknowledgement of my presence and value.
I spoke of comfort food, knowing the comfort came from the individual preparing and sharing the meal. It comes as no surprise the foods that give me comfort connect me to the past with my Papaw, his baby sister, and my maternal grandmother, and in the present with my son.
Meals in the past focused on meat, as if the other dishes were an afterthought. Over time, despite enjoying the meat centric meals, my body lashed out in pain and apparent anger. Although I stepped into the world of vegetarianism for a year or so, meat tempted me, luring me back and before long, I found myself spiraling into a space of physical and emotional pain.
I was spinning in circles on the old merry-go-round again, and ribbons of words spun around me. Choices I had made, choices forced upon me, countless food allergies, indecisions, uncertainties, and reactions to commonplace items catapulted me into a void. The act of clearing out the massive freezers at my late parents’ home three years ago, proved cathartic, as packages of meat left with relatives and friends.
Regardless of this liberating moment, my relationship with food remained out of balance, much like the days when my sister held my small child-self hostage in the air on the seesaw, grinning at my utter dismay. Would she jump away and watch me sail into space, or would I slam to the ground in defeat? Trust me, I did both. The physical scars are nothing but faded lines and memories of the roots, crushed plant matter and mud poultices I ground and mixed on my small grinding stone to heal my bruises and my soul.
Others have questioned my choices, citing bloodlines, the ways of my ancestors, and the apparent requisite to eat in the same manner. A little over three years have passed since I made my decision to not continue to eat meat and so far, the Old Ones have not countered my choice.
Obviously, there are moments when I wonder how it might have been without the conflicts. It is impossible to remember sitting through an entire meal at home without the trauma, drama, and the pain, because for those years from toddler to late teen, I had no other frame of reference.
Occasionally I sit down to a meal like one made by my Papaw, my auntie or grandmother, one filled with comfort. Often, I am treated to homemade salsa and beans, or meatless hot and sour soup created in my son’s kitchen. He graciously encourages me to try new dishes, texting recipes and ideas as inspiration.
I opened a package today for a small snack of plant-based jerky, made by the company Beyond Meat. The irony is not lost on me. For whatever reason, meat and I are no longer compatible, and I am ok with that.
I am beyond meat, beyond the contention and the pain. My choice, finally, my choice.