So, here I am in the midst of another month of doing without. My plan calls for doing without, for one month at a time, something I enjoy; this month, I’m depriving myself of a category of food I enjoy: meat.
Now, on this eleventh day of October, I have just twenty more days of meatlessness. When I went without coffee in August, it was fairly easy, as I expected. And I expected doing without alcohol in September would not be particularly challenging; it wasn’t. But this, this doing without meat. This is not as easy as I expected. It’s not so much the desire for meat, I suppose, as it is the habit of meat.
I do not really crave meat, but I do enjoy eating it. I’ve often said I thought it would be easy for me to become vegetarian because I enjoy so many non-meat dishes; I love veggies of all kinds prepared in all sorts of ways. Frequently, I (we) will forego meat several times a week in favor of a vegetarian dish. But it didn’t occur to me that our several times a week were not several consecutive days a week.
Part of this matter of missing meat so much almost certainly has to do with my lack of proper planning. I haven’t created menus. Instead, I browsed through a bunch of recipes, made a list of ingredients I needed to make them, and bought the stuff. But I failed to take into account that several of the recipes I glanced at were just side dishes. Eating more of them doesn’t necessarily make a balanced meal. I wondered what I needed to do to make this month of doing without a little more tolerable, a little easier.
And then it occurred to me that my dilemma is so very, very petty.
As I was mulling over what this exercise in doing without may be teaching me, I kept coming back to the fact that my experience is purely voluntary. The challenges of my “doing without” pale in comparison to the daily experiences of people the world over who have no choice but to do without. People everywhere do without electricity, running water, adequate food, sanitary living conditions, and reasonable assurances they are safe from attack. They live in a state of imposed asceticism with little hope for escape.
My one-month experiments are pin-pricks compared to the open, festering wounds of people who have no choice but to live month-by-month and year-by-year in conditions that I might be unable to tolerate and sustain for even a week.
Though my one-month experiments thus far have not been especially difficult, at least they have begun to make me realize and appreciate how truly little I suffer in comparison to others. I hope to keep learning from these experiences.
Perhaps I can learn more than to simply appreciate what I have. Perhaps I will learn not only that I don’t need some of the luxuries to which I’ve become so accustomed, but that I am doing myself, and the world around me, a disservice by taking advantage of their availability. Maybe doing without is good.