What happens when you give up cheese for 28 days

Today marked a celebration for our family: we successfully completed a 28-day food challenge in which we gave up meat, diary and processed foods in efforts of eating a plant-strong diet.  The purpose was for us to: 1) redefine our relationship with food and therefore, our bodies and 2) work together toward a shared goal.   We agree that both of these two goals were met.

We also agree that we are ready for some cheese. And bacon.  And cheese.

So, this morning I woke up extra early to fix the kids a breakfast of bacon and eggs.   I went upstairs to wake them up.  Thomas immediately smelled the bacon and ran down the stairs to find that Hannah, our dog, had counter-surfed the bacon, stealing it right out from under us (Clearly we weren’t  the only ones in the house who missed bacon!).

I was surprised at Thomas’ reaction.  Expecting a tantrum and tears, instead I witnessed him empathize with Hannah.  Sure, at first he was upset.  “Maa—um”  (The two-syllable pronunciation of “mom” that signifies any level of upset).  But then he turned and looking at Hannah, his focus promptly shifted to her: “Oh, girl.  It smelled good didn’t it?”

I’ve been thinking about empathy and connection.  As a counselor, this is kind of what I do.    This week has presented me with several powerful reminders that connection is driven by vulnerability.  Only when we open ourselves up to pain can we authentically connect with others.

The problem is we don’t really open ourselves to pain.  In fact, we do the opposite.  We mask it.  We hide it. We medicate it.  We drown it.  And when someone shares their pain with us, it scares us.  We dismiss it.  We downplay it.  We avoid it.  We silence it.

Instead, if we could hold first our pain and then the pain of others we could connect in real and powerful ways.  Transformative ways.

Feeling and sharing pain can heal us.  Can heal the world.

I’m not saying that our 28-day food challenge was necessarily painful.  It did require enough sacrifice (indeed  no cheese for 28 days is a sacrifice!) that we felt vulnerable.  Together.   And in this way, sacrifice led to fulfillment.

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