To make it short and to release you from the question that I’m sure has been nagging at you all week – my television fast was a disaster. I failed miserably and completely.
How it happened, I can’t really say. I searched through my computer files and journal and found not one single word about my failed attempt at fasting television. Obviously I was so embarrassed at my failure I didn’t even want to write about it. I think my will-power just started to slip. Patrick and I would watch the news and then instead of leaving or asking to turn the TV off, I hovered, hoping no one would notice I was still there. My skills at becoming invisible also did not improve during that fast, so Patrick would peek at me from the corner of his eye with an all-knowing smile. This would infuriate me as I knew he was right.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m going,” I’d say without getting up.
“Ich habe nichts gesagt!” (I didn’t say anything!), he would reply.
“You don’t have to.”
But instead of leaving, I waited as a small child might wait for a parent to notice she had been into the forbidden chocolate. It would have been easier had Patrick just scolded me and reminded me of the fast I had chosen and told me to get out of the room because he wanted to watch TV. He didn’t.
At the beginning of those forty days, I still found the will-power to leave, to go do something else. But it didn’t last long. Soon I convinced myself I had only half-committed anyway, so who cares. Probably only weeks into it, I didn’t even pretend I was going to leave anymore. I had failed; the television and the power it held over me had won out. What remains is an on-going joke between Patrick and I, and the knowledge that indeed television had been the proper choice for a fast.
Perhaps it is my unsuccessful attempt from last year that influences my minimal fasting-excitement this year. I am well aware a television fast will be a necessary and inevitable consequence of last year’s failure, but not this year. Excuses are always easy to find: I’ll be away and out of our routine anyway for a good portion of that time; with cancer affecting our Dear One life seems too unpredictable right now, and I need something “easy” to fall back on in the evenings; I don’t have the necessary energy to commit.
Of course I could fast something else – there are certainly enough possibilities. Several friends are fasting chocolate or all sweets, alcohol or potato chips. All feasible choices, especially alcohol, as I do enjoy a nice glass of wine at the end of the day. Coffee could be an obvious choice, but the thought of walking around with severe headaches for weeks on end seems too dramatic. “Too dramatic”! Trust me, I am full aware of the irony in that statement. If the idea of a fast is to sharpen the lines of what holds us, severe headaches and something defined as “too dramatic” are clear indications, are they not?
I’ve been trying to identify what exactly my feelings are on the issue of fasting this year. Writing “I can’t quite put it into words” is a nice cliché that often seems to work, but this time, it doesn’t. I am unable to describe it because I have yet to name it or understand the reasons behind it. What I know is fasting seems too hard this year. As I’ve been asking myself, for over a week now, if and what I should fast, all I come up with is a vague “not this time” feeling.
Strangely enough when I consider this Lenten Season and what it typically brings with it, I think of spring. Spring is typically the time of year when I am filled to almost overflowing with joy in the promise of a new – hopefully warm – season; with hope at the life exploding out of a brown, cold earth. The knot of excitement deep inside seems to grow with the crocuses, sprouting deep laughter and the urge to spend every minute soaking up warm rays of sunshine. I tend to choose a lighter jacket instead of the sensible warmer one, taken in by the potential of the weeks to come.
We’ve had incredible weather for this time of year. Really – perfect spring weather. Purple, violet and white crocuses have popped up everywhere; armies of white snowdrops showed up in droves; daffodils preparing to make their appearance. Usually I too would be bursting with my typical spring emotions, but for some reason, this year feels different. There’s no bubbling joy; no overwhelming “overflowing moments” like I so often experience in spring. I strongly suspect my subdued spring enthusiasm has to do with the absence of a real winter this year. It was never cold enough to certify my usual winter whining about the length of the horrible season and how I just can’t get warm and how it’s like living in a dungeon for months on end. I’m sure North Americans are feeling different about spring this year. The first signs of spring (even if followed by yet another snow storm) could most likely throw most of them into a frenzy of spring dancing.
So what I’ve been trying to figure out all week is what my irregular spring feelings have to do with my non-committal feelings towards fasting this year. (If anyone has any insights here, I would love to hear them!) The only thought I keep coming back to is the ever-human truth: we can’t truly appreciate something until we’ve had it taken away. Without a cold, harsh winter, spring seems less bright. Not until a diagnosis of cancer comes does one realize what good health truly means. It is through a fast we understand what truly holds us back.
On the outside you may not recognize the degree of my enthusiasm. You’ll still finding me exclaiming about the gorgeous weather to neighbors, napping like a cat in the warm rays of sun and pointing out the bright array of spring flowers to my children (and there are a LOT of flowers…), but inside there are strange feelings in this season of spring.