When I write posts like this in the morning they will most likely start with some kind of commentary on coffee. I like my morning coffee. I have no shame in admitting that. I also have no shame in admitting that I like that really awful non dairy creamer you find in the refrigerated section very near the real dairy items like milk and sour cream. When I told someone I judge to be super healthy that I used that non dairy stuff she shook her head slowly. “It’s so bad,” she offered. But I already knew that.
I’m glad to point out to anyone who asks that I’ve done a fair job in removing most of the “so bad” stuff from my regular daily intake of food fuel. I read labels, I read articles, I stick to mostly the outer ring of the grocery store and when my checkbook allows I’ll wander through the glittering fields of Whole Foods with the best of ’em.
It’s just this one thing. I love this non dairy stuff and in fact, I get a little defensive when anyone tells me it’s time to give it up. Even as my waistline expands to keep pace with my mid life crisis bound middle aged body, I am not willing to wander away from celebrating the moments of my life with that creme brulee fake creamer.
I did try to use the healthy substitutes. I did. Whole Foods tried to tell me it’d be JUST like the fake stuff. My healthy friends tried to convince me that a spoonful of coconut oil is JUST as good. But all I got was heartburn and greasy lips.
We begin the Dormition Fast on August 1st in the Orthodox church. If you’ve read me in the past here you’ll remember that fasting has been a particularly whacky adjustment for me. I won’t link every relevant article in the post but if you have not read me just click on that “fasting” tag and you’ll see a wide array of ranty, angsty, whiny posts on this subject.
When I click on that tag and read the previous posts I come to two very quick conclusions.
1)I don’t think it’s ever going to get easier
2)That’s probably a good thing.
This two week fast for the Theotokos, like all of the strict fasts in the Orthodox tradition, leads up to a feast. The Dormition (meaning “falling asleep”) fast, like all the fasts, is a kind of preparation, a setting aside of the ordinary, the every day, the habitual sleepwalking through life we tend to fall into over time. We’re getting ready for the Feast. We have to make this distinction really to be able to recognize the real gift in the Feast these days, especially now, in this country where we are surrounded by feasting of all kinds.
I always have this very slight sense of excitement going into a new fast. It lingers there in the back of my mind, most often making itself known when I’m faced with making dinner or grocery shopping. It’s the “good intention” I start with, knowing that I ought to be eating more vegetables anyway, I ought to be working out more, I ought to be praying more often, I ought to be kinder and gentler and more willing to use coconut oil in my coffee instead of the non dairy type that will probably kill me slowly but look, it comes in “Thin Mint” flavor now! How can I turn away from “Thin Mint” flavor??
All I get from coconut oil is greasy lips and who wants that?
And that’s the crux of my struggle with the fasts. I want what I want and no one is going to tell me otherwise. I know that there’s a better way, a healthier way, a path to wellness I am not taking. I know that- not in the back of my mind but way out in front. I know it. Yet I still choose the other paths, the ones that lead down the worst aisle in the grocery store. Even the dangling organic carrot of the Feast is often not enough to keep me going on the straight and narrow. I still, too often, choose the immediate sense of gratification, the satisfaction of an illusion of thin mints on my tongue. I confess that it’s likely I will choose poorly for a very long time, maybe even forever and maybe that’s the point of the many fasts in the tradition.
We fall down. We get back up. We have another chance to make the better choice, even if it’s just the one day, this one week, this one cup of coffee on the long road that leads to the Feast.