fasting, or not

According to one authority, to fast means:

1.a. intr. To abstain from food, or to restrict oneself to a meagre diet, either as a religious observance or as a ceremonial expression of grief.

b. with mention of the kind of spare diet permitted. Const. on; †formerly also in, to, with, and quasi-trans. in phrase to fast bread and water.
2.a. gen. To go without food. †Also (contextually) to go without drink. Const. from.
b. Irish Hist. to fast against, upon (a person): said with reference to the custom of sitting without food or drink at the door of a debtor, or any person who refused to satisfy some lawful demand.
c. quasi-trans. in various nonce-uses.
d. trans. To cause to fast or be without food.
3. trans. To pass (time) fasting; to keep or observe (a day, etc.) as a time of abstinence. Also, to fast out. Obs.
According to another trustworthy authority: “The Church defines this [fasting] as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem contrary to the spirit of doing penance.” The Church doesn’t approve of liquid dinners, though this article rightly points out that while there are guidelines for fasting during Lent, there isn’t a cookie cutter mold or one right way to do it. The practice is contextual, not absolute; “good fasting” will look differently from person to person. If you’re wondering whether you’re doing it right, I like this baseline rule: “If you feel as if you are cheating, you probably are.” Guilt is a powerful, revealing thing.

Last year, I observed Lent for the first time by giving up processed foods. I wrote a few entries on the experience, which ended up being a mixed bag. It got off to a rough start, as Lent apparently started before I realized it had. But I valued the opportunity to re-establish some of the connective tissue between myself and the natural products I consumed, and I was grateful for the excuse to struggle with what “processed foods” means in the first place. In the end, though, I questioned the idea of “giving up” something in favor of the inverse notion of “giving toward,” and wondered whether framing my Lenten resolution around the latter would have led to a more fulfilling, less frustrating experience.

At any rate, I’ve decided not to abstain from anything this season, and will content myself to continue pursuing the paths of mindfulness, happiness, and creative expression that I’ve recently discovered. In reflection, I think a lot of my life thus far has involved abstinence of sorts, and I’m willfully shunning that mindset for the time being. So, bring on the Girl Scout cookies — I have 18 years worth of catching up to do. :P

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