oh i see

I thought I would be good at fasting. After all, I am the queen of the restrictive diet. Wheat free, sugar free, dairy free, fat free, meat free, gluten free, nut free—just ask. So giving up meat (which I don’t eat), fish (eh), dairy, eggs (whatever), and oil? That’s kindergarten stuff.

Scene: my first fast as an official Orthodox person. Being the slightly somewhat unbalanced person that I am, the rules and requirements of the fast didn’t seem rigorous enough. So I decided to make adjustments.

I would begin the fast with the master cleanse (a scrumptious blend of lemon juice, cayenne, and maple syrup). After ten days of that, I would progress into an extended juice fast, followed by rice and steamed vegetables for the duration. With all the free time not eating gave me, I would maintain a dedicated rule of prayer, and make every attempt to fill my days with good works.

Ahem.

I lasted three days. On the third, I walked into a corner store, bought a block of cheese, ice cream, and a cinnamon bun, and resigned myself to trying harder next time.

You see, fasting isn’t about food—it’s about obedience. It’s not about being better than everyone else, being special. It’s about doing exactly as you’re told. And though I am very very good at dieting, I am very very bad at obedience. Fasting brings out my rebellious spirit. I eat worse during fasts than I do off them (really, who eats cheese at every meal for a week unless they are making a statement of protest?).

I’m sure it isn’t this difficult for every Orthodox person. After all, I have food issues (we call them fissues around here). Since my fissues have their roots deep in control issues, turning over that control to someone or something else is, quite frankly, terrifying.

But that’s exactly what this is about. I’m not in control of anything, really. O sure, I am responsible for my life and my choices, I am the master of my fate, captain of my bla bla etcetera. I certainly do believe that if you ask nicely (and persistently), the universe is inclined to cooperate. However, I am also a small boat on a very large sea with the clouds roiling and no land in sight. I don’t know everything.

Shocker.

Maybe (only maybe) I don’t know enough about fasting in the Orthodox manner to make my own special modifications.

So, on the opportunity of this, my second Apostles’ fast, I’m trying it (just the rules, ma’am, just the rules). No adaptations, no exceptions, no rationalizing, and no cheese.

It seems that fasting isn’t much like what I thought it was. It’s not heroic. It doesn’t really make me special. It’s not unusual, and it’s certainly not a weight loss tool.

But neither is it about deprivation, drudgery, and endless plates of sludgy lentils.

Fasting is about recognizing abundance in what I already have.

It’s about the quality of attention that I give to my food, its selection, preparation, presentation, and consumption. It’s about being present in the moment in which I participate in an act which gives me life.

When I have less on my plate, I chew more. I linger. All around me, nature is bursting out of her frock with green things. Her garden is blooming (all of it is fast friendly :)), and I have a standing invitation to pay a visit. This is the season of abundance. I feel so thankful.

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