For the past 13 years, I’ve been a vegetarian. I eat fish and eggs and dairy, but not meat or chicken of any kind. I love eating this way: it feels good in my body, and it’s healthier for the environment (not to mention healthier for the animals!). Living in Charlottesville, when I tell people this, I hardly get a reaction. People here, at least to my face, seem to take it in stride and not to think much about it.
This week, we traveled with friends to visit their Midwestern parents who are wintering in Myrtle Beach. When our friend told her parents that we were vegetarians, I think they were worried. They had no idea what to buy for us or how to find places where we could eat. Although we did our best to assure them that (a) it isn’t difficult to find vegetarian alternatives in grocery stores and restaurants and (b) that we were self-sufficient and would bring food with us, they were concerned about how it could possibly work.
Once we arrived, they were kind and welcoming and were obviously delighted to have us with them. Yet when it came to food, they seemed baffled by our plant-based choices. It was strange for me, after all these years, to be with people who seemed to find my diet to be eccentric or even bizarre.
Sometimes this happens to me with Nia. Someone asks me about what I do or at the club they see me teaching a class and they make a comment (either spoken or unspoken) that tells me that they think what I do is odd. Some people make jokes about how silly they would look or how much alcohol they would have to drink before they would join my class. And when that happens, I sometimes can feel myself shrink, ever-so-slightly, from my Body’s Way. Even in class, there are times when I am moving in my own particular, peculiar way, and I see that nobody else is moving that way, and a part of me wants to be not-so-different.
We all have a range of tolerance of being different. It is my hope as a Nia instructor, that Nia offers a safe place to be ourselves without judgment or comparison. Yet it is in our own minds that the real safety is created. How does it feel when you are the different one? Or when someone comes to class and they move differently – maybe taking up more space or (gasp!) standing in your spot? Play with what it feels like to fully be yourself, and allowing others to be completely themselves. Imagine how it would feel to live in a family, a community, a country in which nobody – and everybody — was a weirdo.