Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Reflections on Being Deprived of The Fast

We are right in the middle of the Baha'i fast. This is the time every year when Baha'is between the ages of 15 and 70 abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.

Our breakfast
Everyone who's healthy, that is.

Baha'u'llah, in His infinite wisdom, did not require those suffering from illness to fast, nor did He require women to fast if they are pregnant, nursing or menstruating. This time last year I remember joking with my husband that it would be the last year I'd be fasting with him for quite some time since we were having thoughts about starting a family. His response was to joke that he would hold off getting me pregnant just so I'd have to join him for another year. As the months went by and this year's fast started to approach, the joke no longer seemed funny. Ayyam-i-Ha came and went with no sign of conception and I realized it was my husband's prediction that had inadvertently come true instead of mine.

I normally look forward to fasting. It was something I couldn't imagine as a child but as an adult discovered it was not nearly as difficult as I'd thought. I enjoy the discipline and the challenge of it. I also find that when fasting is shared with other Baha'is there is a bond and camaraderie that is formed. That was something I discovered while spending time with Baha'i youth on my year of service, then experienced with my father after returning to Canada and experienced again with my husband over the last few of years. The prospect of fasting would normally be welcome but this time I felt like I was getting a harsh reminder of how quickly time had gone by and how badly we were failing. I felt strong disappointment.

Then we started fasting. We lasted through the first day but by sunset I was starting to cough and sniff. I knew that night I wouldn't be able to fast the next day but wasn't sure if I could manage a partial fast with just liquids or if I'd need to give the whole thing up. I find it's worse when you have to break it off after starting then resume it again later. Things go more smoothly when you can just plough through for all 19 days. As it turned out I think I was too miserable to take anything but liquids anyway. I also had to work as we were running a display at a convention that weekend.

It was less than ideal but I figured it was a bump in the road that would be over in a few days. It wasn't. I mean, I'm sure in the bigger picture it is but here I am on day 11 of 19 and I can barely get out of bed. It seems that this is the time my body has chosen to send the clear and firm message that I have abused it too hard. I have been working too many 12 hour days and only taking time off for illness. It was only a few weeks ago that I was sick before this and there were a series of migraines in between. I was already worn down and now what should be a short cold has completely knocked me down and will not let me up.

This seems to be the worst of both worlds. I am neither pregnant nor fasting. Even though there are likely practical reasons for both (perhaps they are even connected) I am starting to feel like I'm being called to examine my spiritual health. It seems a rather strong coincidence to become so sick at exactly the time of year when we are supposed to turn our attention to God. There is some irony at finding myself being forced to focus on the spirit by being deprived of the fast that is supposed to be the focal point for the rest of the world but it is unlikely I would have paused for reflection otherwise. I don't quite know what I should do other than lay here and recite prayers. There is little other choice though so that's as good a place to start as any.

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