The time has come for my summer fast, a ritual I began about eight years ago. Though I didn't know what to expect or how I would do it, I believed I could be successful, provided I became willing to make certain sacrifices. As a native Chi-town brotha raised on grease, sugar, pork & chocolate, the idea of going without certain foods for an extended peiord of time initially created anxiety & worry. Still, I was determined to enhance the quality of my emotional, physical & spiritual well-being by simply trying something different.
I remember the first time I tried to fast. My, then, therapist, a spiritual heterosexual woman I respected immensely, suggested fasting for three days. I took her suggestion & proceeded to drink only water, apple juice, orange juice, tomato juice, vegetable juice & lemonade. I ate no solid foods at all, but I snacked on apples, bananas, oranghes & raisins. I experienced headaches, disorientation, fatigue & nausea. After the third day was complete, in a mad rush to reward myself, I went straight to Popeye's Chicken & ordered some chicken, fries & biscuits.
What the hell was I thinking? I immediately threw up the food & had diarrhea. I was in the bathroom, on the floor, calling Ralph, again. Not a pretty picture. Clearly, this was not part of the plan, but I've always been a self-motivated, prideful brotha given to extremes. Looking back, I can only laugh at my mistakes, but I've since learned to do quality research, talk to experienced folks & get help for my personal dietary concerns, goals & needs.
One particular summer I was shopping in my favorite market on 110th & Broadway - which has moved to the upper west side - for cantaloupe. Spirit instructed me to ask the woman in front of me for some guidance. Seems she was also fasting. God is everywhere! She talked to me about preparing for the fast at least one to two weeks in advance, as well as breaking the fast slowly, ideally with salads & steamed vegetables. This patient & pleasant woman was definitely an angel.
As I learned to strive for progress, not perfection, I began to fast for three days, seven days, ten days & even (just once) 14 days. It was suggested not to tak about the fast (with everyone I know), but did I take heed? No. I have a magnanimous ego & wanted everybody to know what I was doing. Sometimes my image is more important than my integrity. Fasting is essentially about caring, discipline, humility, love & self-respect. My body is a temple. I have the personal responsibility of treating my body with compassion.
But how often should I fast? What time of the year would be prudent? What are the real, tangible benefits of fasting? I talked with a friend who says she fasts four times a year. I'm competitive & felt compelled to do what she was doing. However, in order to keep things simple, I ultimately decided to fast twice a year, once in the summer & the other time during the Kwanzaa season, which affirms me culturally.
This summer was no exception - today is day five - but I've developed a nasty cough & sore throat along the way. I went to the health food store in my neighborhood & consulted the clerk, a young Mexican guy, who has been useful to me before. I told him I was snacking (don't ask why) on organic popcorn & he suggested my cough could be traced to the oil in the popcorn. He said I probably have something stuck in my throat, which I experienced with much discomfort yesterday afternoon (!). God is awesome. I bought some organic cough syrup, along with organic cough drops, in addition to a bag of dates, which I've never tried, but he told me about a customer who successfully fasts for ten days on juice & dates.
When I get sick, I'm not a pleasant person. I tend to be irritable, rebellious & sarcastic. Also, I hate the sound of the phone ringing because I resent people who insist on trying to engage me in conversation, or go on & on with their psycho-drama, after I tell them I'm not feeling well. Why do people do that? My mother rasied me to be kind, polite & courteous, so I also tend to let people go on a bit. I've learned to look the world in the eye with neither aggressiveness nor fear. I can still get my spiritual needs met, no matter how I'm feeling or what is going in my life.
I was concerned about eating chicken noodle soup in the middle of my fast, worried I'd throw up again like I did with the Popeye's Chicken many years ago. The attentive young clerk suggested not to eat the soup. Spirit said, get a second opinion. And I did. I called the nurse at my hospital & she said it was ok. I felt relief simply by asking for help. She also suggested drinking some broth, which I already have. I know God is with me while I'm challenged at this moment. I will persevere.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.