Surprising things happen when you travel deep into your spiritual journey after a life devoted to a traditional religion. Things I did not expect or anticipate. Things that are my new normal and I’ve found that I’m not alone in these transitions. This latest really caught me by surprise.

I must admit that I’m a bit apprehensive about using the “V” label. I don’t like labels but it’s the closest description I can use. Not for a second did I foresee this change when I started my awakening over a year ago. From semi-vegetarian to vegetarian – not a big deal. But, on Sept. 1st, I joined veganism. This is why I went Vegan.

Actually, let me clarify.

Am I truly a full Vegan? I do the best I can but I am not perfect nor do I feel the need to be at this point. I still have “leftover” leather products and non-cruelty-free cosmetics. I can’t afford to start over in every category in which I am not following the V code. I will still go to dinner with others who feast on steak and order a glass of milk for their kids.

Why even bring this up, then? For one, my brand is about transparency – the truth. Second, my peculiar experiences – I believe – are meant to shine light on various issues related to living in a more peaceful state. Third, it may happen to you. You may feel odd tugs or nudges in regards to your lifestyle choices. It might be about alcohol. It might be about sugar. It might be caffeine (oh, the horror!) It might be about your religious practices or social consciousness. And, finally, I have discovered that we are being deceived by many companies and the labels. I don’t like being lied to.

Or, you might feel lonely and misunderstood, like I recently did while shopping at Costco. The meat area, where I have walked many, many times made me nauseous. It took me by total surprise. Taking several deep breaths helped but it was still bizarre. Around the corner, diary. More of the same. I wanted to stop and get on their PA system and ask for “vegan support.” I searched for someone that looked like they might understand.

“Hello, is anybody out there,” as in the words of Pink Floyd. “Anyone else add the V thing to their already misunderstood spiritual thing? Some help, please. I’m disoriented.”

Ironically, I found myself near the shoes and face to face with a display of boots that featured the face of a lamb. Really?!

I am not advocating this lifestyle for you just because it’s now mine. This is what my heart and soul and body are telling me I need to do to live in alignment. Sometimes, my soul literally hurts around animal products and by-products and certain foods taste foreign and awful. Foods that I once loved. Upon reaching that decision, after intuitively knowing that I needed to do this, I started researching the industry. I had seen some of the footage and I had watched food, inc. I knew of the atrocities and that was one of the reasons I had transitioned to semi-vegetarian. I eventually lost my desire for all types of meat but did not think of myself as a vegetarian. I felt okay about consuming eggs (happy eggs from happy chicks that were happily roaming free and treated properly, etc., so I thought.) Sh*t!

I felt good about choosing free-range, humane, organic farming sources. I researched company websites, called their consumer lines and sent emails inquiring about their practices. Of course, I cannot possibly know about all of the smaller farms and farmers that are trying to do this “thing” better or right. This thing – this co-existence with animals and the demands of consumers. This paradox. I don’t have the answers and I am not here to provide them. I am here as a messenger. I am here to share and to hold space for others.

For example, this. A surprising confession from a pig farmer. Can I send love to him, his family and his pigs? Absolutely. My veganism is something I need to do. Raising pigs is something he needs to do. How that all works out in the end is not what I am here to decide or judge.

I search for information that I believe will help us all live healthier and stronger and at peace with each other. I post and write about my own experiences and changes for the same reason. My hope is that you can respect decisions that might not work for you, might not make sense to you and might be at complete odds with your philosophies. I dream of the time in our world when we can first try to understand each other and the reasons we make our choices. In doing so, I know we will find common ground and more compassion. So, please don’t bring up the humans first discussion. I, me – I am not called to champion every cause. Guessing that neither are you. I cry at abused and neglected kids and the homeless make my heart ache. The Amazon Jungle? I can barely think about the decimation. I am grateful for those who support all of the causes that deserve it.

Will I stay Vegan? Will I adopt something else? I don’t know. I am striving to live in the “now” and stay informed. I check in with my intuition. Choices will change as my life changes. As the lives of those I care about change. As my community and the world change.

We balance our utopias with practicality. We have experiences, convictions and opinions that support our actions and decisions. They come from our unique perspectives and our unique situations. Ultimately, I want us to appreciate each other’s differences and choices as part of individual life journeys yet understand that we are linked together in the big picture.

P.S., If you are interested in cruelty-free shopping, here is a guide. I also like The Humane Eating Project. They have a warmer and more amicable and user-friendly approach to this issue. Here’s a link to Keep It Vegan’s guide, which is will help you understand how to consider the Vegan lifestyle. And, Thrive Cuisine is also very helpful if you are just getting started. And, yes – there are other options for Thanksgiving. You do not need to kill a turkey to enjoy family time and good food around the table. Please just think about it. Try it.

Your turn. How ya feeling about this post?!

This post was originally published in Nov., of 2015.