Compulsion of desire
When I was a little girl, my sister and I used to take dance lessons at the Limelight Dance Boutique on Saturday mornings. On the way home from lessons (we walked, believe it or not), we would pass a bakery that always had my favorite treat on display in the front window: the black and white cookie. If I remember correctly, they cost a dime. (Well, it was 1969.) Some Saturdays, I would push open the front door of that bakery, the little bell would jingle, and I would be instantly transported from the fantasy of a black and white, to a reality in which I was overcome by the warm sweetness of the bakery air, my whole being surrendering to the delight, my mouth watering in anticipation of that first delectable lick of luscious, creamy frosting. (You never bite into a black and white without licking it first.) The only thing keeping me from stopping every Saturday was that I didn't usually have a dime. But if I did, buying a black and white was a foregone conclusion. There was no choice about it; I was compelled by my desire.
The first few days of this fast, it was difficult to keep it under wraps because I was overcome by my desires. Despite my best efforts, I had my nose pushed up against the window of life's gustatory pleasures, fogging it up with hungry panting.
Compulsion of the crowd
Keeping my fast private is also challenging because, well, people just don't like it when you don't eat. They want to give you food, and when they eat, they want you to eat, too. They can't understand it when you don't. So they tempt you with it. They wave cookies under your nose and urge you to have "just one." They offer to brew you up a cup of Dunkin' Donuts on their Keurig as is sputters out a hot, fresh, fragrant mugful, pushing you past the jingling bell and into the sights and smells of the bakery.
This makes me recognize how intrinsic food and eating and drinking are to our social structure. When a friend wants to catch up, they invite you for coffee, or lunch. When people celebrate, they do so with cake and wine. Even in business, the extra place at the conference table is often occupied by a plate of muffins or a bowl of candy.
So as I fast, I'm not just denying myself food. In a sense, I am also temporarily removing myself from the surrounding social structure. I'm a bit of an outsider, looking in. And from this position, once my cravings have been muted, I find that I am becoming better able to observe the treats in the window, without feeling deprived or tempted.
The end of compulsion
Having my nose pressed up against the glass means that I am wrestling with my desires, that I am longing yet being denied by some force over which I have no control. But for me, fasting has been a conscious decision to spend some time on this side of the glass, just observing instead of craving and wrestling with the diverse and unrelenting appetites of my body.
From here, on the outside looking in, I have lifted myself out of the constructs of my life so that I may become more aware of my genuine desires, my true motivations, and my best relationships. In this, I become empowered to let go of what's not important, because I can't change what I don't acknowledge and I can't acknowledge what is fogged up by life's seductions and distractions.