One of the readings for today’s mass (or was it the gospel? I really was paying attention when I wasn’t whisper-yelling at Snert to stop jellyfishing* all over the pew) was about fasting. The one about not letting yourself go all greasy and starved-looking so that everyone knows how hard it is for you. In the homily, Father made the point that fasting is not just for Lent. It should just be part of life. This is exactly the kind of thing that I don’t want to hear. I’d like fasting to remain one of those things that’s meant for Other People. Like sainthood.
A friend told me recently that “nothing unites body and soul” like fasting. She’s absolutely right, but it’s a strange statement, because if fasting unites our body and soul, then they aren’t united to begin with. We’re all living, at least to some extent, divided lives. Divided from ourselves. But yes, well, duh, Sin what what? This isn’t a new concept, it’s just that I feel honestly creeped out thinking of myself as fractured. Like the Janus head – half of me pointing one way and half of me pointing the other.
That just made me think of something totally unrelated. When my mom was a girl, her mom used to warn the kids to behave because, she said, she had eyes in the back of her head. My mom took her at her word, and used to live in horror that one day her mom would pull aside her hair, and there would be those head-eyes, staring at her.
Another thing that struck me about fasting is that there are many different kinds. There is fasting from food, of course, and it really is powerful (always with God’s grace) to choose to do that, but there are other ways we fast, too. In fact every single person, at every single moment, is fasting from something, whether they like it or not. The mother of many small children fasts from
sanity alone time. The elderly and sick fast from physical freedom. The lonely fast from friendship (I think loneliness might be one of the greatest unsung sufferings). And so on. I realize that this is oversimplified – each unique situation has unique nuances of suffering – these are just quick examples.
Now I could just use the word “suffering” for all of those fastings, and that would be correct, too, but I want to emphasize the sufferings that are a “doing without”. It matters to me right now because this morning I felt a hunger for more children that was as real and as physically painful as actual hunger. The similarity was stunning. And I thought (I probably didn’t think. It was probably the Holy Spirit. But that’s always hard to say, because while that makes me all humble for not taking credit, I makes me seem like an ass for saying that I’m so super that the Holy Spirit talks to me. (But I am an ass, and the Holy Spirit talks to everyone (I just listen because I’m so super (Damn.)))) Shoot, where was I? Right, so there was a thought, “But what if I approach infertility like fasting?” What if, even though I don’t have an actual choice in the matter, I choose the fasting of infertility? Another way to say the same thing would be “What if I ’embrace my cross’, ‘lean in to the pain’, or ‘offer it up’?” So again, nothing that hasn’t been said before. It’s just a nuance of suffering I’d never considered before, and since infertility is the major cross in my life, and it’s a suffering of “doing without”, it seems particularly apt. I dunno. I’m still thinking about it.
It has occurred to me that I like this idea so much because I tend to think of fasting as finite – something you do for a little while, and then you get to eat again. And I’d really like to eat (children?) again.
Also, it strikes me as… breathtaking… that infertility, the thing that makes me feel most divided from myself – most freakish- could be the very thing through which God unites my body and soul.
So many deep thoughts up in here.
Anyway, since I’ve way surpassed the limits of preachy, here’s a little bit more nerd. According to diction.ary.com, these are some other definitions of fast:
“fast: noun. a chain or rope for mooring a vessel.” [Fasting keeps you grounded in God, etc.]
“fast: adj. proof against fading.” [Kind of like a proof against fading-in-faith-or-love-for-God, i.e. lukewarmness. Boom. Am on fy-ah.]
fast: apology. I have milked this for all it’s worth and then some, and if you are still reading it’s only because you’re my sister or my husband and I’m sorry I really am I will try to keep it toned down next time.
*Jellyfishing is when kids go all limp, and won’t sit up at mass because they are so “tired”. This never happens at the park.