Sunday, February 3, 2013

praying. fasting. anxiety.

photo by Matt Clingan

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

~ Mary Oliver ~
Last week I read about praying.
This week I read about fasting. 
Studying fasting was a bit of a struggle for me.  First of all, I have never fasted, at least from food. 
I thought about fasting from food this week.
I mulled the idea over.
I obsessed a tiny bit.
I panicked a tiny, tiny bit.
The idea of fasting, I will confess, makes me sweat a bit. 
At first, I chided myself for the panic.  It isn't that big of a deal to go without a meal, or two meals, or even three.
But then I poked down a little deeper into my psyche, and I realized that fasting is a big deal for me, and I don't think it's a good idea for me to fast--from food, anyway.
You see, I was tortured by an eating disorder in college. 
For a long time I counted calories, and I allowed myself no more than 500 precious, meticulously counted calories a day. 
Later, I gorged on hundreds, perhaps thousands, of calories at a time, and then I locked myself in the bathroom, tied my hair back, bent over my porcelain god, and purged.  (Last year I wrote a semi-autobiographical story about my experience.  If you would like, you can read the story here.)
Thankfully, I am finally at a point where I relish food.  But still.  But still. 
I worry about what I eat a little too much. 
I try to avoid looking at my body.  (I would love to do this for Matt, for example.  Isn't that absolutely amazing and beautiful...for every other body but mine?)
I fight against labeling foods "good" or "bad." 
I remember all too well the rush, the high, of hunger.  
I still have issues. 
I don't want to exacerbate them. 
So, I won't fast from food. 
The most striking sentence to me in the chapter I read in Foster's Celebration of Discipline was this:
More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us (55).
What controls me? 

I am not sure.  Perhaps that is why one fasts from food, because if I were empty inside, I would probably see through the emptiness the contours of what controls me. 

I didn't know what to do.
I gave up Facebook on Friday. 
I actually didn't miss it.
Of course, Friday was one of those days when I had to pee for at least 45 minutes before I actually made it to the bathroom.  But still.  I didn't miss it.
So, then, what controls me?

Actually, I know what controls me. 
I know what eats me.
I know what chokes me as I swallow it whole. 

I am often devoured from the inside with anxiety. 
I am not my anxiety.
Yet I am my anxiety.
It eats me up in ways not dissimilar to the food that I used to eat and purge. 
How do I purge myself of anxiety?
How do I fast from anxiety? 
I wish I knew.

Matthew 6:25-34
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


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