Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Negative Narrative

I’m not selling anything with this blog, which affords me the privilege of being as honest as possible regarding my values and experiences, whether that is related to veganism or running. I don’t try to romanticize my experiences or ignore the negatives in order to falsely represent either, and so it goes that I will give you the downsides of veganism should they present themselves, though that seems to be confined to the animals, and I will give you the downsides of running too, which I loathe to admit become apparent more than I would prefer.

And so here I am, after an epic weekend of running, now four days without taking a single step.

I am, without reservation, without skepticism, without grey area, injured. This is how it went down.

I ran 30 miles on the trails of Brown County, hammering the ground at every chance I could take, sometimes pulling, often getting pulled, by friend and ultra runner Scott Breeden. We were preparing to set him up for an attempt at the 100 mile world record next month at the IT100 in Northern Indiana. I was going to be his pacer. Despite getting dropped the last few miles, everything went smashingly and I walked away from the run with greater fitness and an even greater confidence.

The next day I took to the treadmill for an easy 10 miles, using the comforting give of the treadmill to allow my quads to rest and build. I followed that run on Monday with another easy 12 on the treadmill, continuing my rest, and walking away from the effort with no concerns of physical ailments what so ever. I rode to the coffee shop, drank too much coffee, got some work done, then rode home to make dinner. That evening, however, my stomach turned on me. It felt like I had cramps all over my abdomen, as if the coffee was revolting, but I suspected gas or something food related and planned to sleep it off. I, however, did not sleep much. No position was comfortable and the pain was consistent if I moved even just a small amount. I woke the next day and noticed I was relatively hunched over walking throughout the house, my stomach muscles tightened in on themselves, unwilling to let go of whatever they might be clenching onto. I instantly called into work and let them know I couldn’t make it, figuring a day of rest and another night of sleep would take care of everything.

It didn’t.

That night I felt the same discomfort and awoke with the SAME level of discomfort Wednesday morning, greatly spiking my concern that this wasn’t merely a run-induced muscle fatigue and soreness that simply needed rest, but something more problematic. That’s when I noticed the bump on my navel.

Now, it should be mentioned that I’ve had a small protrusion around my navel for quite some time now, I’d estimate over a year now, which I gave little thought to as it wasn’t painful to the touch. I actually assumed that the core workouts I had been doing strengthened my abs to the point that they pushed my navel out a little bit.

This time, however, I noticed the bump was protruding a little further, had grown another small bump to it’s side, and was now discolored. This couldn’t be good, I thought to myself. The concern that I had a hernia became instantly apparent and so I did what any obsessive runner does when they have a run-stopping issue…I went to google, asked my friends in the medical community and put out a call for theories on Facebook. The answers were resounding consistent….I had an umbilical hernia.

For those of you unaware of what that means, it’s basically a tear in the abdomen walls, often caused by repetitive stresses, allowing parts of the intestine (don’t google image search it…it’s gross….and mine is NOT that bad) to push through the abdomen wall creating small bumps or disgustingly huge bulges to show themselves. This is obviously a problem it its own right, but there is a greater concern for “intestinal strangulation” and other problems that can cause very severe issues in the body.

I had to get a professional assessment on this, of course, but in just talking to knowledgable friends, I was quite concerned. There was enough of an urgency that they wanted me to go to a hospital immediately, but I was confident enough that I could wait until the next morning, which is what I did.

I called up my friends at the St. Vincent Sports Performance Center here in Indy, who I’ve mentioned in past posts. Every single employee of this organization are the most genuine, caring, friendly and knowledgable people I have ever had the privilege to work with. Maybe I shouldn’t admit to it, but when I have a physical issue that I know will end me at St. Vincent’s….I’m actually excited. I KNOW they will give my concerns full attention and will give me not only a solid diagnosis of what is going on, but will explain to me how it happened in the first place….and then corrective procedures. So, without reservation, I reached out to my contacts there, who went out of their way to help me get in and get moving on dealing with this issue.

I walked into the facility this morning and within 15 minutes of being in the exam room was told my assumptions were correct, that I had an umbilical hernia, and was very quickly sent to a general surgeon for further consultation and scheduling. This was no joke.

So onto the next hospital facility where a surgeon sat down with me and did a little poking and prodding at the area of concern. Now, far be it from me to question the expertise of a practiced and studied medical professional, but if I’m being blunt here, and I am, I was not enthused with this surgeon. His level of expressed concern was lower than I would have preferred and his questioning of problematic activities was almost non-existent. He did very minor poking and prodding, not even asking me to get out of the chair I was sitting in and felt that it might NOT be a hernia, though did not offer any other possibilities or explanation as to the greater abdomen pain I was experiencing. Again, he may very well be right, but I felt his assessment of my situation was simply not as thorough as it should have been. Regardless, we established a plan of action.

He, rightfully so, didn’t want to go in and just start cutting, which I appreciate, and so determined I should have a CT scan to get a better visual of just what might be going on in there. If the CT scan doesn’t give an unreserved image, literally, of a hernia or knowable issue, he said he will make a small incision under my navel, lift the skin and get a direct visual of what the protrusion may be and then proceed from there depending on if it’s a hernia or something else. So, it sounds like I’ll be going into surgery (next week?) for one reason or another.

The quick assessment was unceremoniously ended and I was sent to a woman down the hall for scheduling of the CT scan. I sat in her office, feeling myself getting sucked further and further into the medical wormhole of process and fear of increasing debt, despite the comfort that comes with understanding an issue and having a plan of action. This was all happening so quickly and I think the realization and seriousness was finally catching up.

I will say this, I am INCREDIBLY grateful for all the individuals who took extra steps to help alleviate my financial burden through this initial process. They saw that I did not have insurance (it doesn’t start with my new job until 6 months in) and so either waved the consultation fees completely, gave me discounts at the Medicaid level or made calls to find the cheapest scanning facility or those with payment plan options. None of them had to do that, but they did, without me asking.

And so here we are….waiting until Tuesday for a CT scan and a more detailed plan of action, which may very well end up as a surgery appointment next week to get this taken care of.

And for some reason I’m not as concerned as I thought I would be in a situation like this….to be honest…I’m somewhat relieved, almost excited.

I’m relieved and almost excited, because something has been wrong lately. Something has been wrong with my running and I simply couldn’t figure it out. I’ve had a general feeling of weakness in my abdomen, sometimes discomfort, sometimes pain that I have run through. I’ve run through it because it hasn’t been consistent and I’ve been more concentrated on the issues I’ve had with my right leg more than anything else. And I’ve run through it because it was nothing pointed. Sometimes I thought it was related to my new smoothie breakfasts and I just needed to adjust. Sometimes I thought it was related to all the fruit I started eating at my new job. Sometimes I thought it was running hard workouts in the winter, in the dark, in the morning. Sometimes I thought it was just bad digestion for one reason or another. Sometimes I thought it was just winter season weakness. Whatever the reason, I was just waiting, waiting for it all to turn around, fix itself, the weather to break, etc. etc. etc. I CERTAINLY never thought it was related to a (potential) hernia though.

But then this week happened. And now I KNOW something was off. It wasn’t just poor fitness, abdominal weakness (my core workouts have been better than ever!), or any other concern…it was a possibly progressive and unavoidable physical ailment. And now I know what it is, what to do about it, and how to proceed.

The question begs, however, WHAT caused this? I instinctually, and understandably, start questioning my running, the stresses I put on my body and if I’ve gone over the edge too often. Hernias can be caused by repetitive stresses, yes, so it makes sense that the repetition I subject my body to could have caused this. Maybe. Who knows? Hernias, however, can also be genetic. The weakness in the abdomen walls, or increasing weakness, can be a genetic trait that is passed along and become problematic under certain circumstances. And then I consider lifestyle changes. I’ve taken on a new job that is VERY physical. I lift 30 – 75 pound bins repeatedly all day, carrying them from delivery van to doorsteps and back all day. The work at the warehouse also involves constant, repetitive lifting. And I also sold my car, so that I ride my bike as transportation now. Maybe, with the stresses initially caused by my morning runs, my body just started to break without rest. The past few months I’ve felt like I’ve been going non-stop without any respite at all, just going and going and going. I haven’t felt fatigued, mind you, and was actually surprised how well I was able to handle everything…but then this thing happens.

Again, who knows what caused this, whether it was directly related to running, an issue developing over time, genetics, new lifestyle stresses, bad luck, etc. etc. I don’t know…but it did happen, and considering all these circumstances is important in making sure this doesn’t happen again.

But I’m relieved. I’m relieved because although running has been going well and I’ve been progressing, there has been a constant, nagging “annoyance”, to put it lightly, holding me back physically and mentally. I haven’t been enjoying my runs as much as I used to because there was something there, something accumulative, something quiet, but noticeable, always there and always giving me concern. It was almost just quiet enough to not be noticed, or at least not enough to pay attention to. Or maybe I just deliberately blocked it out to continue progressing physically, hoping it would give up and go away. I don’t know, but to have this happen now, keeping me slightly bending forward in pain as I go about my day, screaming instead of whispering, gives me great relief that I wasn’t failing as a runner…that something deeper was happening. And now it’s come to the surface and I can take care of it and move on.

Practically speaking, hernia surgery is relatively non-invasive and recovery is incredibly short. Some are back at it in a month, others in 2 weeks. Those on my side has suggested my running strength will have me on the latter timeline. I don’t know, but to finish this procedure, begin the recovery and get back out there with just a minor break is both relieving and exciting, because I’m hopeful that this will only turn out well, that I’ll be fixed up, stronger, rested and ABLE to run to my potential when this is all said and done. Yes, I’ll miss some epic experiences I was just getting fired up for, but the long term benefit will be more than worth it.

I am grateful for the community of friends and acquaintances who have concern for my well-being, have offered words of support and encouragement, and even physical resources or knowledge. I can’t excessively-express the overwhelming feeling of appreciation I have for those that feel compelled to offer support to me in both good times and bad, and I hope I offer something of value in return.

There certainly are the negative experiences that come with this running story, undoubtedly, and I will continue to be honest about mine, but the positive experiences have consistently out-shined the former. This minor setback is just one part of the cumulative narrative, and for whatever reason, I feel enthusiastically hopeful for the next chapter.

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Ruin and Reward (and a little something at the end)

“Find the thing you’re most passionate about, then do it on nights and weekends for the rest of your life.” – The Onion

I saw this fake headline from The Onion, mocking an often expressed meme, and it got me thinking…almost angry. I’ve seen this meme expressed in a lot of different ways, “Do what you love and never work a day in your life”, etc. etc. and although at face value it sounds good, inspiring, motivating, when I think about it deeper, it becomes cheapened.

It becomes cheapened, because what it doesn’t say is that this phrase, this powerful motivation, this utopian expression, is to ultimately bring the individual into a state of financial security. It’s all about the money. Sure, “do what you love and never work a day in your life”, “find what your passionate about and make it your life’s work”, but what if you love, if what you are most passionate about DOESN’T PAY. Then what? I’ll tell you. That meme, that expression, transforms into a privileged pat on the back for having the options to make money doing something you enjoy.

Granted, I get it. I GET the motivational aspect of the meme and I’m often drawn towards it, taking a huge leap of faith in abandoning financial security in order to do something that one loves…but always with the hope that they’ll end up back in another state of financial security…only happier. Unfortunately, for those of us in less privileged circumstances, say burdened with others debt, supporting a child/family/etc., and so on, the risk in just dropping everything and doing what we love isn’t so utopian, isn’t so romantic….it’s more annoying.

On a bitterly cold “Spring” run this past week I thought about this expression further. Sure, I enjoy graphic design as one of my relative talents and interests, and sure I’d love to make a living doing it, but the obstacles are great, and jumping off that cliff, hoping “the net will appear”, is just too much of a risk. Further, however, it’s not my GREATEST passion. It comes second to what I truly love, what I’m truly good at.

Running.

And running doesn’t pay. Which is tragically amusing, because I put an incredible amount of work into running. Without any external dictate, I get up at 6 am, sometimes early, every morning and run at least 10 miles. Sometimes 20. Sometimes 30. I run speed work. I run hills. I shape my body, inside and out, to withstand stress and deterioration. I build it to progress further and faster, strong and longer, day in and day out. I truly WORK at this to a degree others simply can’t comprehend. And I do it because I truly love it, in a way that embodies the expression of that meme, to do something one truly loves, one is truly passionate about…..

But it doesn’t pay. And so it doesn’t make sense in the context of that expression.

This is not to say there isn’t reward, however. There is, conversely, GREAT reward….or else I wouldn’t do it. We wouldn’t do it. The unbelievable (to me) track record of good health is worth it. The denial of disease and deterioration is worth it. The epic experiences and early morning sunrises are worth it. The friends and communities and cultures of super humans are worth it. The contentment knowing I’ve done something amazing every single day is worth it.

It’s not monetary, but the reward is undeniable.

It is, however, also frustrating. To know that the greatest of rewards, the greatest of efforts, the time spent, the mental preparation made, the attention to detail given, etc., can all be swept away under the dictates of the economy, of the need to make a living, of the chase for dollars to provide for yourself and others…it just seems….wrong. It just seems wrong that an act that is so compelling, takes so much dedication, and is a true and honest passion and love is relegated to second-tier status to drudging through the day at a job we feel compelled to do out of obligation instead of passion.

But…immovable obstacles aside…this is what we do. We find a way. We refuse to let the dictates of economy erode our passions, our interests, our lives. We refuse to throw it all away just because we must get up extra early to engage in the life we want to live, to throw ourselves into the experiences we create, to get epic. There may be a risk in doing so, but the reward is undeniably greater.

Find what your most passionate about, and DO IT. Don’t make it your life’s “work”. Don’t expect it to become your job, to provide for you or your family monetarily. But understand the reward is much, much greater.

—————————————————————————————————-

I haven’t mentioned this yet….because I wasn’t sure this was going down on my end. But my friend and ultra runner come-up, Scott Breeden, is running the Indiana Trail Running 100 in Northern Indiana on April 20 – 21. A couple months back he asked me to pace him, something I have never done, but which I gladly answered, “Yes”.

Here’s the thing. If you haven’t heard, this particular race is offering $25,000 if the winner breaks the 100 mile world record, which I believe is something like a 7:38/mile pace. Obviously, I won’t be running even half the race, or going for the record, but Breeden will….I will just help along the way as much as I can.

This, right now, is what I’m most excited about with my training. It has lit a fire under me and if I can work out these leg issues I’m having, I hope to be a strong pacer for him and get him to that record.

There is, of course, much to be said about this attempt, but I won’t go into it at this point. All I want to mention, is that this is happening, and it’s funny I post this after the rambling above in relation to money and love. Let me say this, however. This is not about money. I’m not doing this to get him $25,000 and I’m not getting any of that even if he did.

I’m doing this to help him make history, and if we succeed…to be a part of making history.

And that is all I’m going to say about that right now. Till next time. Get epic.

Embarrass The Other

My current running schedule has me waking up at 6am, riding my bike down to the gym and then heading out (or treadkilling it, dependent upon the weather) for a preparation run or full on workout. The weather is just beginning to turn and this should mean that the enthusiasm to get out there and go should also get better, but right now it’s not always so effortless. In the deep of winter, when the biting cold has taken its toll on your psyche, it’s not so easy to find the drive to face the conditions for a run, knowing you’ll always be in some relative state of discomfort, moving groggy-eyed through the darkened morning sky as if you are still half-asleep, extremities stabbing with increasing pain towards numbness, and to then add a structured, hard effort on top of all this is…well…almost paralyzing.

A fear grows. Or builds on the accumulation of fatigue, some physical, but mostly mental, that resides in the deep, deep winter. It is a fear of fatigue, of not performing to your abilities, of comparing your winter times to your summer times, of knowing where you want to be, but sure you won’t be there.

It is, again, that fatigue. The fatigue that resides in your head, your spirit, more than your body. It snuffs the flame of your enthusiasm, throws icy water on warming muscles, and compromises your workout before you even get a chance to start.

I know this well…right now, I know this VERY well. Too well. But all is not lost. There are ways to combat this paralyzing accumulation, but for me, it resides in yet another mantra.

“Embarrass the other.”

There are two runners in me. There is the runner before the workout and there is the runner during the workout. They couldn’t be more polarized.

One is unmotivated, filled with doubts of performing well, fearful of quick, shortened breaths, increasingly heavy legs, and the mental strength needed to push when shoved. That runner doesn’t want to start the workout. That runner has a novel of excuses, justifications and downright lies to prevent me from running, putting in the necessary effort, and overcoming the barriers that turn goals into accomplishments.

The other runner, well…he’s awesome. He’s also determined, a bit angry, and fully willing to shame that other runner into a cowering heap of quivering, sniveling regret. His main goal, above all else, is to embarrass that other runner. His goal is to start the workout, no matter what, conquer those previous fears, and finish the run with an unparalleled sense of relief and accomplishment, where he can look back at the pre-workout runner and laugh at him mockingly, in effect, shaming and embarrassing him for being who he is.

These are my personas.

And when the first runner has awoken, has pulled on his running shoes and starts talking to me, telling me to rest, to just put in the miles, to shorten the workout, to scale back…I repeat this….

“Embarrass the other. Embarrass the other. Embarrass the other.”

I hate that runner. I want to embarrass him. I want him to feel ashamed for the thoughts that consumed him before the run. And there is really only one way to do that, to prove that he is wrong, by running him into the ground. By starting the run and building those quick, shortened breaths, fatiguing the legs, reading off the splits, and continuing on until that other runner is lying on the side of the road crying for mercy.

So that when the workout is completed, and the better runner stands there accomplished, alone, on top of the world, knowing they are infinitely better for the struggle they just overcame, they can look back at the other runner, now fully embarrassed and ashamed, and say,

“What the hell were you worried about?”

Running Confidently

It took me until my Junior year in high school before I started to actually enter some sort of growth spurt. Up until that point I was about 5 foot 2, which is to summarize, incredibly short amongst my peers. If you think, in a school of a couple thousand, this doesn’t translate into hanging off the bottom rungs of the ladder of hierarchy, you are sorely mistaken. Add to my small stature an interest in the fringe cultures of punk rock music, skateboarding, and the fashion peculiarities that went along with both, and you have a recipe for constant ridicule, physical harassment and the confidence crushing demoralization that comes with it all.

I was verbally assaulted with the usual, “Skater fag!”, of which I could shrug off quite easily, but it was the physical assaults that took a much greater toll on my confidence and sense of self-worth. There was a particular stretch of my high school career that involved a string of efforts to try and stuff me in a trash can (that I successfully fought off, but dreaded having to do every day), an effective campaign to intimidate me into giving away the meager lunch money I had, a neighborhood of older kids that would toss me around like a rag doll as they exploited their size in trying out the latest wrestling moves they saw on TV, and low-level, but repeated physical assualts in the back of the bus that had me sunk down and fighting off tears that surely would have only escalated the abuse.

There was nothing I could do. I was small. So small that I simply couldn’t fight off the physical demoralization I was faced with every day, even under the pretense of just “joking around”, which actually made it quite worse. A full on attack would have been episodic, but joking around is repetitive, consistent, and harder to convince others to intervene and act on your behalf.

So for most of my growing years I dealt with being in this position on the bottom of the bullying hierarchy. My only solace was having a best friend who would sometimes bear the brunt of the bullying along with me…and the occasional ability to run away from the bullies. It wasn’t anything I could rely upon, but every once in awhile I could escape the physical grip of certain situations and take the hell off, of which I simply couldn’t be caught by the time I reached the safety of my own front door. But running doesn’t fix the effects of bullying. Running just gets you into a physically safe position, while the internal dialogue of frustration, fear and anger continues on unabated.

Then there was the supposed safety net of adult intervention that often came up short, only adding to the sense of isolation and lack of self-worth. The bus driver couldn’t be bothered to stop the bus and deal with the purposefully hidden abuse or even go as far as changing my seat in the order. My mom did her best to appeal to the school authorities for help in certain situations, which resulted in a one-day suspension of a particularly adamant bully, but only served to create an escalated backlash. That safety net of adult intervention seemed to have way too many holes to be anything reliable to fall into for my liking, again, leaving me feeling powerless and alone.

I can really only look to the saving grace of an older, protective sister….or at least the appeal she made to her friends to help ease the onslaught of bullying I seemed to be dealing with. My sister had friends….big friends. Big friends who listened to the same punk rock I did, wore danzig shirts and pulled their hair into devil locks that divided their mascara lined eyes. They were intimidating in every sense of the word and, fortunately, they were on my side. They made a very direct, and apparently convincing, demand of one specific bully in question who was taking advantage of my small stature, and although I remember him dismissing the threats of my sister’s friends, giving me quite an internal worry in the process….he stopped. Immediately.

But that was just one battle overcome. There were others as I worked my way through high school, navigating the difficult terrain of social development with a now fully compromised sense of self-worth, trying desperately to develop the confidence to stand up for myself and be comfortable with who I was.

My junior year rolled around and I gained a few physical inches, and although I don’t remember the specifics, I went out for the cross country team, which simply meant running a mile time trial and then showing up for practices. I, however, ended up as one of the top seven runners, quickly earning my position as a top fiver and affording me the privilege of earning points for the team as we went undefeated in the regular season meets, then winning Sectionals, Regionals and making a go at State.

Maybe more importantly in this process, I had developed that position of value on the team, which inadvertently gave me a sense of value within myself. I had something I could directly reference, even if only to myself, and say, “There. I can do that. I have an ability others don’t. You can’t beat that.”

And that ability ended up affording me a sense of respect, that initially took me by great surprise. Our cross country team basically had enough kids to make a complete team, with not many more to spare, but when we made it all the way to State for the first time in a LONG time, the rest of the school was forced to pay attention to us. And me. That short, “skater fag”, who came from a tiny Catholic school, that offered little of value to others, was now some sort of representative of the school community. I could run, and it had to be recognized. After making it through Semi-state the school  acknowledged our success publicly and the student body did as well, gaining me a sense of POSITIVE attention I was NOT used to. But it was there and that sense of value I achieved through running gave me a confidence that I carry with me to this day as an adult.

There was even a more specific and direct occurrence of validation that came with my running. One of the previous bully’s who delivered some of that low-level, but consistent ridicule and physical abuse was actually on the team, however, I was faster than him. Being able to outrun him on the course and the inherent bonds we had to form as teammates generated a respect and appreciation that overcame any impetus he had to intimidate and bully me. My running ability put him on a ladder rung, in that arena anyways, below me.

Ultimately, running was my escape from intimidation and path towards the confidence I needed to generate to tackle the rest of my life from that point on. I attribute that initial discovery of my own confidence and subsequent growing to my ability to handle most every obstacle that has met me through life, from getting jobs, to navigating relationships, to overcoming adversity of all kinds. There were a number of factors that gave me such an ability, of course, but none that had the lasting power of my running abilities.

As a father, one of the most important traits I want to instill in my son is a strength of confidence. I truly believe confidence becomes more important than any skill or body of knowledge one acquires in traditional schooling, and will carry you further in life than a degree or social standing. This confidence, of course, doesn’t have to come through running. I was simply fortunate enough to discover mine through the act of running and it’s surpassing of the bullying I had to endure. It is simply more important that one discovers their own confidence, wherever it may lie within them.

I have been especially fortunate to rediscover this confidence and develop it even further as an adult, again through my running.

I wish the same for everyone else.

How We Do It

Normally I would be posting a race report today, as I raced, 15 kilometers through the wooded area of Indianapolis. I would tell you that I ran hard, putting it down from the start and dropping anyone hanging on as soon as I could. I would tell you the mud was shoe-sucking and hilariously thick, coating my calves with a good 1/2 inch of peanut buttery goop. I would tell you I pushed up the hills as hard as I could, even though I didn’t have to, but I did anyways, because all that happened. I won the race and all, but this was nothing but a battle against myself and a tromp through absurdly inefficient trail conditions. I would tell you all that in much greater detail, but I have a few other pressing subjects I find more pertinent and which I want to put out into the world. Namely…how we do it.

This is uttered directly to me, sometimes quietly around me, after some of the races I run or in response to the number of miles I put in a week.

“I just don’t know how you do it, man.”

I could go on and on about the many ways I have figured out how to do it. I could mention the mantras that cycle through my head. I could talk about the genes I’ve been fortunate enough to have inherited. I could talk about the slow progression of training expertly delivered to my by my coach. I could talk about the obligations I have to those that want to see me succeed, that look to me for inspiration. I could talk about the nightlife I avoid, foods I eschew and overall continuous preparations I make to “do it”. I could talk about all that, but ultimately, despite any tricks, mental exercises, motivations or external assistance, I do it because I make the effort. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter the goals I have in mind and understand of what it takes to reach those goals. All that matters is that I get out the door and turn my legs over time and time again, making the effort. It is simply the physical process of it all.

But I get it. What people are expressing is their unwillingness to do it themselves, or inadvertent expression that they CAN’T do it themselves…and that sucks. Barring a complete physical obstacle, everyone can “do it”, whether that is distance running, cycling or any physical activity that seems out of their capabilities. The biggest consideration then, is WANTING to do it. And in that WANT is where all the tricks, exercises, mind games, and support comes into play. But first you have to start with wanting it.

Ultimately though, I don’t belabor anyone who doesn’t “want” to “do it”. If running isn’t your thing, fine. If cycling isn’t your thing, fine. If baking, writing, reading, isn’t your thing, fine. But I find it inarguably important that all individuals have SOMETHING they WANT to do and find the ability to DO IT. The benefits having this desire affords our quality of life is immeasurable and carries over into so many areas of our lives and I don’t think it should be understated, whatever it may be.

There is, however, one other lifestyle choice of mine others express their disbelief in, or rather the disbelief in themselves to adopt, and which I don’t think should be viewed as a personal choice, easily discarded based on the idea that one can’t fathom how to “do it”, and that, of course, is veganism. The expression of disbelief was most recently delivered by a few coworkers who stated matter of factly, “I don’t know how you do it, man.” Except they DO know. They know I simply eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, etc. etc. etc. instead of meat and dairy. It’s that simple. What they are really saying is, “I don’t know how I could do that.”

And, again, I get it. Our culture consistently presents anything out of the norm as difficult, inconvenient, problematic, etc. To buy into these negative associations is quite tragic, not just because they demand the individual to accept a limited potential in themselves, but because the effects of accepting that limited potential has victims….and beneficiaries. There is a profit-motive in these cultural expressions and those profits are protected by individuals accepting their limited potential in overcoming personal boundaries, and the victims are millions of sentient creatures who have done nothing wrong except be born into an exploitive economic system. But all that is relative external, wrapped up in details, intricacies, selfish defensiveness, etc. All I’m concerned about is getting people to understand they “CAN do it”.

Veganism is not about changing your identity. Veganism is not about achieving a sense of “purity”. Veganism is not about personal hardship and sacrifice. Veganism is not about engaging in activism. It’s simply about recognizing that sentient creatures should not be harmed whenever practical…and it is almost always practical. And we can all simply engage in doing it. I’ve been doing it for 18+ years. Others have been doing it for longer, without sacrifice, without hardship, without sacrificing identity. We’ve simply been doing it because it is practical, easy and the most direct way we can effect change in keeping our hands out of the industry of oppressive and torturous animal agriculture. It is that simple.

So when it is expressed to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” I can only think, “Actually, you can do it, with the most basic recognition that sentient creatures do not want to be harmed and you can simply stop engaging in the systems that harm them.”

Period.

I know, it’s oversimplification, right? There IS the force of identity. There IS the transition away from old food and towards new. There ARE social niceties to consider. I know, there is all that, but at it’s most basic, above all else, there is reaching for foods on the grocery shelves that have not been created out of the bodies of animals.

When all is said and done, it is THAT simple.

THAT IS HOW YOU DO IT.

And that is not hard.