I went to a friend’s birthday party this weekend, a BBQ cookout. I arrived a bit late, running from one party to another, to be greeted by my friends cheering my name as I stepped through the gate. I spent the afternoon and evening feeling loved, happy and completely at ease. As a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and an introvert, it is a beautiful and rare thing for me to be so relaxed in a social setting.
Part of the reason I was so at ease was because I’m getting a lot better at choosing the right people to surround myself with, the other part is that I’ve become more open, more vulnerable, and more joyful. I realized that I’ve spent my entire time in San Diego with my walls up, feeling transient and temporary. I didn’t want to get close to anyone, I wasn’t actively participating in my own life. I was…waiting. For what, I still have no idea. I lived inside a fish bowl of work and my relationship, looking out at a distorted, unwelcoming world.
After exiting my four year relationship in December, I finally decided to live. To take from others what they are dying to offer me, and to give out what I’m dying to give. I’m learning to see each person for the ways that they and I can have fruitful, nourishing interactions. A reclusive friend is good for deep conversation, a social friend for spontaneous companionship, a vegan friend for talking about animal rights, a feminist friend for exploring male privilege in our society, a drinking buddy for trying local beers.
By seeing people for what they are, rather than what they are not, life has become full and rich. A bartender or a grocery store cashier can now have momentously positive influences on my day, as I am open to what they put out and vulnerable enough to give something back. It may sound silly to receive so much joy from a simple interaction, say, with a server about my favorite local IPAs, but it is a small piece of a much greater whole. Instead of feeling apart, I feel like a part.
So, my friend invited me to his birthday cookout. And I accepted, gleefully. He is private, like me, and selective with who he invites to his home, like me, so I was incredibly touched to receive the invitation. Going up to the food table, I was greeted with a wealth of vegan-friendly options. My friend asked me a couple times if I had enough different things to eat, and even more sweetly, if I felt welcomed and comfortable with the foods that were available. He was extremely conscious of me and his two vegetarian friends, wanting us to feel safe and loved.
This leads me to my point as it relates to veganism. When you are a vegan, you can feel very isolated, despite best efforts. You can associate solely with other vegans and live in a bubble. But, the best option, is to seek out open-minded people who will love and care for you as you are. My friend is an omni, like many of my awesome friends, but he is wide open to other lifestyles. He’s well educated in veganism, vegetarianism and is comfortable with those foods. I find being around him as comfortable as being around another vegan. By not only accepting but embracing and celebrating my veganism, he has earned my trust and love. This allowed me to be loose and carefree at his party, being fully myself for the first time in a long time. It felt amazing.
I’ve learned that you can argue and bang your head against the walls of other peoples’ beliefs, or you can go slack and let people fit to your shape. My omni friends who don’t get it or are not supportive are my friends that I talk to about boys, movies, music, whatever. I don’t seek them out for encouragement or conversation around my lifestyle. Instead of letting this hurt my relationships with these friends, I simply let it reshape what my expectations of them look like. This may result in us being less close, but in a way that doesn’t cause me pain, anxiety or feelings of betrayal. It happens in a way that allows me to still feel fondly towards them, but also protect myself.
I spent far too long trying to get what I need from people who can’t give it to me and, admittedly, sometimes rejecting what was freely offered. It is a joyous relief to finally allow a natural ebb and flow to occur between me and everyone I interact with, to have found a balance. As I flirt with the idea of dating again, I’m happy to find that this philosophy extends to my romantic interests. If I meet a cute boy that is showing me signs of being flaky, emotionally unavailable, or lacking in something I require from a partner, I am able to sit back and let our interaction just be what it is – a nice conversation with someone I find attractive. And then I go on my way. I don’t seek to bend him into something he’s not, trying to make him fit into being what I need, but I also don’t seek to push him away. I am happy with the time and space we share, I let it make me feel good, and I take that little ball of warm energy with me into the next day.
Less Feelings, More Food!
Enough mushy-feelings-talk, bring on the food! Part of the give and take with my omni friends is to bring recognizable, approachable food to their events. This helps me share with everybody, to feel like part of the community. My all-time biggest hit dish with omnis is my vegan potato salad. Almost everyone loves potato salad, it’s a great dish to bring to cookouts, potlucks, family events, celebrations, etc. Dishes like this are always the best way to go for an event that will include a wide variety of foodstyles. You can plop this down on a table, walk away, and have everyone know what it is at a glance.
My secret weapon in this recipe is good quality mustard, celery and the right kind of potato. Select baby/fingerling, Yukon Gold or red potatoes (or any other waxy variety). Russetts are too dry and will fall apart, making your salad more of a mash.
Click here for the magic: Vegan Potato Salad Recipe
Give this dish a whirl for your next omni shindig and I guarantee people will be clamoring for the recipe!