After chanting I dug further into my books. I needed to hear another voice that matched my own so that I wouldn’t feel so alone in the world. I quietly hugged my son and diverted my attention to yet another book on Raw Food. Coincidentally, I reached the chapter on animal rights. I read colorful descriptions of things that go on in the slaughterhouses and tears blurred my vision. I was no longer able to hold them back, they were freely flowing down my cheeks and dripping on the pages depicting the horrible scenes. In a midst of a crying bout I questioned myself whether I really needed to hear these gruesome details, but then a sentence struck me in the heart – while it is painful to read about the suffering of animals, it is by no means comparable to the pain that animals are subjected to. If the animals have no other choice but to endure the things that go on in the slaughterhouses, then we should not turn a blind eye on it and have the courage to face the truth. Paul McCartney said - “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” People need to be aware! (Choose to be aware by watching a video.)
For the rest of the trip I resisted talking about animals or food or anything related to the subject. But, on the two and a half hour ride home from the summer house we had another argument. This time it was about helpful benefits of yoga and its potential to make people more peaceful. My optimistic view was shot down immediately. I got overruled by my mom and my brother, with my son and my ex step father sitting quietly and wishing that they weren’t in the car. It took me by surprise that even something as seemingly unoffending as yoga practice that integrates body, mind and spirit could bring such a negative response from my family. As a firm believer in its benefits because I experienced them for myself, I defended my view only to be accused of not being accepting of views of others! I wanted to say that there was nothing wrong with believing that something like yoga could make people more peaceful and positive, bringing forth the compassion toward all living beings.
I could hardly get two words out at a time - both my brother and my mom kept loudly interrupting me, “No, Nadia! No, you’re wrong!” Talk about being disrespectful of other people’s views. Our voices got loud and out of control, and once my brother told me that I haven’t changed one bit toward being more peaceful because of my yoga practice, I was no longer able to hold back the anger that I tried to control for the past two days. I just hated the negativity, the disbelief and the way that my opinions got shot down by my own family. I admit that I have yelled louder that I should have and that there came a point when I didn’t want to speak or to be spoken to by either one of them. I was unable to talk to my family about anything that mattered to me and I felt like my heart had been squeezed to fit in a tight little box, never to be taken out in their presence. I stared at the window as we drove in heavy silence for another hour, tears dripping down my cheeks again, thoughts of walking away from them once and for all filling my mind.
I called my boyfriend when I got home. He listened and carefully tried to calm me down, explaining to me that I can’t push other people to believe what I believe in. I understood all that, but the sense of urgency was overwhelming. I felt stuck in the “culture of death” kind of world where people were more concerned with you making a silly noise at the dinner table than with the fact that millions of animals are dying every day. I was in an awful mood and knew that talking about the issue wasn’t a good idea anymore, so I tried to get off the phone, letting my boyfriend know that that I needed some quiet time. As he often does, he ignored my warning and continued to push the conversation further, this time bringing up his Italian culture and heritage and how he didn’t see his life without having pasta and meatballs. Before I knew it I was weeping hysterically, I felt the pain of the animals as my own, saw each of their deaths as something that I needed to prevent, but being unable to talk to anyone about it I felt like I failed them. I wept for a while and by the time I was out of tears my whole body ached and my head felt swollen. I was doing it again, making myself physically ill because I was emotionally upset. I got myself to chant for a little bit even though my throat was sore and my eyes were puffy and red. Since every problem in life can be resolved, there must be a solution. And my crying myself to sleep was not it! I won’t be helpful to any animals ever if I don’t pull myself together and learn how to be patient with people, understanding that it takes time to change a perspective on something like this.
The next day at lunch I went online, looking for websites that encouraged vegan lifestyle. I visited PETA and Humane Society, but I craved a human connection. I wanted to read personal articles by people who were vegans and who, despite the opposition, had the courage to bring up their kids vegan as well. On one of the websites that I found there were beautiful pictures of children and animals. Those children were brought up to treat a dog and a pig the same way, with love and respect. It was lovely and I didn’t feel as alone anymore. There was one picture in particular that touched me – a baby holding a tiny kitten. It was a symbol of harmony and deep cross-species friendships. At that moment I wished with all my heart that I could have a second cat. It may seem silly, but the thought made me warm and toasty inside, like a hot bath on a winter day after playing in the snow, but much more pleasant.
I went back to work, putting the thought aside, leaving it as an idea that may one day manifest itself into a reality. I got home and went back to the usual routine with my son, calmer, more relaxed and determined to figure this out without starting a war with everyone who didn’t agree. My son and I went to get pizza for him. Sadly, he hardly eats anything and pizza is one of the few foods that he loves. When we came back to our house my neighbor called me with urgency. I went outside to see what happened. I was flabbergasted to see a tiny black and white kitten trotting clumsily on the grass under my window. He let out a tiny meow and my heart floated upward like a balloon. I loved him, the little fur ball of a creature with bright blue eyes, pink nose and pointy ears. He must have been three or four weeks old. My neighbor didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, but I had a feeling that it was a little he. I was about to call my son, but he was already running out toward us, barefoot, pizza forgotten. I watched him settle on the sidewalk with a little kitten which was now playfully biting his hand, running to get his toe and then his other hand. Maximus and the kitten seemed to be in their own little world - he was giggling, kitten was running around him in circles and purring.
My neighbor told me that she found the kitten a few days ago at her doorstep and that she could only keep him temporarily, she already had two cats at home. The kitten needed a home and a loving family. I didn’t expect the kitten to be handed to me the same day when I made a hypothetical wish, but here I was. Maximus was pleading, even though he was pretty sure that I would say no. I told him many times that we already had one cat and there was no space in our one bedroom apartment to have more animals. Plus, my boyfriend wasn’t really a cat person and we have talked about moving in together at some point. Having two cats would be complicated. As thoughts zipped from why I should to why I shouldn’t and back, I was overcome with love toward the little guy and before I knew it, I was telling my neighbor that I wanted to take him. I needed to straighten some things out before I could do it, but the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that his presence there was a gift from the universe, its reaction to my heartfelt wish earlier in the day.
We went home and the kitten was on my mind every single moment, no matter what I busied myself with. I would get him, I decided! If my boyfriend couldn't deal with me adopting an animal then he just didn’t get me or didn’t care to get me and we weren’t supposed to be together. I called my neighbor and told her that I would be happy to adopt the little guy. I then called my mom, forgetting the anger that I felt and seeing the fight that we had as an insignificant milestone of our relationship. Just a day before I felt like I could never talk to her again, but the kitten filled my heart with love where there was pain and I was able to see past our disagreements - she just needed more time, I should be patient and encouraging. She was surprised to hear my voice. Not sure if I will yell more or not, she cautiously asked me what was going on. I couldn’t hold back my giggles, “Mom! Guess what?! I am adopting a kitten…”