Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why I'm Fasting for Lent

Boring Preamble:
It's the 28th day out of the 46 in Lent. (Wait a minute, you say, I thought Lent was 40 days. Actually, it's 40 days not counting Sundays. And thus, whether one keeps the fast on Sundays or not is controversial.)

Lent is a little more than halfway through, and even though Brandon and I have not been taking our fast all that seriously (we decided in advance to break it for a few special occasions), it is beginning to get tiresome. So I thought it would be good for me to reflect on why I'm doing this.

A few years ago, we found out that the Eastern Orthodox give up eating meat, dairy, eggs, fish and oil during Lent (pretty much--their rules are actually more complicated, but there's no need to go into that now). We were so impressed by their show of self-discipline, we decided to try giving up just meat, dairy and sweets. We found it was miserable, but possible. And then for some reason we decided to do it again the next year. And again this year.

Actual Reflections:
Anyway, I think the fast is a good idea because, although in theory I value moderation, I don't actually practice it. I greedily put more food on my plate than I need. I eat too many sweets, and if the food is really good, I eat past the point of fulness.

I tend to forget that fasting in Lent does not warrant gorging myself all the rest of the year. The need for self-discipline does not end on Easter Sunday. I am disciplining myself more austerely now so that I can continue to discipline myself, but more leniently, after Lent is over.

I must say, now that I've written it out, the idea of eating moderately all the time sounds very bleak and awful to me, and in fact, that's not what I value at all. My true ideal is eating moderately most of the time, and then totally pigging out on a few special occasions (e.g. Easter, Thanksgiving, or an unspecified day on which I may be able to eat fried clams at Woodman's of Essex again).

1 comment:

jenzai studio said...

Meat, dairy AND sugar? Man, you guys are making me look like a wimp. I just gave up sugar for lent. (Though I think I can use the "nursing mom" exemption for not giving up the other categories.)

You hit the nail exactly on the head! Whenever I feel like I am going to break down and weep for wanting sugar so much it's not so much because I want it that very moment (though sometimes that is also the case). It is that I am trying to fundamentally change my relationship with sugar for the long haul. Sure I can have some sugar on Easter, and that will be nice, but what I fantasize about is being able to consume vast quantities of sugar with impunity. I'm such a "if some is good, more is better" kind of person, I'm afraid that I'm incapable of eating sugar in moderation. And since I don't want to go back to eating sugar the way that I was, that might leave only one option. Which makes me feel unbelievably sad, like one of my best friends is dying. Plus, it was never my intention to become one of those crazy anorexic types who doesn't eat sugar or gluten or meat products or anything that tastes good at all and yet here I am, on a sugar fast and contemplating eliminating gluten and drastically reducing meat. One more example of how being judgmental can come back and bite me in the ass.

I'm so glad that you shared this! And sorry that I went off on a rant, but I did really relate. Give my love to Brandon!