Today my psychiatrist told me I’m too sick not to eat meat on ethical grounds.
He’s a functional medicine guy, and I trust him about this stuff. I’ve actually been thinking the same thing myself for the last few months, particularly with the anemia and the severe fatigue/weakness. But I just can’t quite stomach the idea of eating meat again.
I’ve been vegetarian for more than ten years now. For me, it’s an ethical and environmental issue, but even before I went vegetarian, I was never all that excited about meat. It was never hard for me to give it up, and I’ve never missed it. Now, the thought of intentionally putting meat in my mouth makes me feel queasy. He wants me to start with bone broth, and that will be easier, I think–it should be easier because it’s not actual physical meat. But I still have to buy bones and roast them and boil them. Even that’s going to be hard for me.
My psychiatrist loves to tell illustrative stories. The first one today was about a Russian Jewish soldier who was stationed in Siberia. He wrote a letter to his rabbi to ask what he should eat because all they had was pork. The rabbi’s answer was, “Eat the pork, but don’t suck on the bones.”
“The moral,” my psychiatrist said, “is you don’t have to enjoy it, but survival’s more important than doctrine. We understand that.” (I assume by the “we,” he was referring to himself as Jewish, but I got the odd impression that he might’ve thought I am too. Not sure where he would get that from–I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned my own religious practices to him. But whatever.)
Then he launched into a story about a former Karmapa (leader of a specific sect of Tibetan Buddhism). Many Buddhists are vegetarian, but in Tibet that’s basically impossible. So the Karmapa was traveling, and someone served him shrimp. After dinner, they asked how he liked it. He replied that he enjoyed the taste, but he was sad that so many living creatures had to die to make one meal He said he preferred beef because one cow can feed a hundred people, so there’s less destruction of life. “If I must eat meat,” he said, “I prefer beef.”
It was a strange conversation; my conversations with my psychiatrist usually are, but I like that. But today, I had so much ambivalence it felt like I was being dragged in two different directions. Not so much about food–about survival. I don’t really want to survive…but on the other hand, since I’m still alive, I’d like to be slightly less miserable if possible. So I bounce back and forth between feeling like it doesn’t matter since I’m going to be dead soon anyway and feeling like I might as well try because what else have I got to lose at this point?
So I’m just sitting in the middle, waiting. I don’t even know what I’m waiting for.