This morning, my alarm went off at 5:45, jarring me out of a sound sleep in the pre-dawn blackness. Wrapped in my coziest sweats, I shuffled downstairs, glancing at the cut daffodils and iris I picked up yesterday. A few have just started to explode in deep blue and lemon yellow. The rest will bloom overnight in the next few days and reward me with something beautiful and bright before the sun comes up.
Today is the first day of the 19-Day Fast and the last month of the Bahá'í year, when breakfast is done before sunrise each day and dinner doesn't happen until after sunset, and we don't eat or drink between the two. Well, okay, so people between the ages of 15 and 70. Who aren't sick or pregnant or facing other health issues that make fasting a bad idea. And who aren't doing heavy manual labor. And who aren't traveling for long periods of time. The point isn't to make ourselves sick. It's to make ourselves think, and feel, and focus on our spiritual life and spiritual health as much as we often focus on things like what to have for lunch and where to meet our friends for coffee.
Everyone has their own little quirks around the Fast. Some of my friends swear by just a few dates and some water in the morning. Others insist upon a full breakfast to rival the best Denny's has to offer. Some plan dinners in advance so they know exactly what they're having. And others stock up on whatever looks good and cook gourmet meals to celebrate the end of each day.
In my case, in the couple of weeks before the Fast starts, I may perhaps hoard desserts in individually wrapped packages, like candy bars and maple blondies from Trader Joe's, and a collection of filled chocolate bunnies and eggs. As if nuclear winter might set in and deprive me of the ability to acquire dessert in the next three weeks. By halfway through the Fast, I don't care about dessert anyway, and then it takes a month to consume the stash.
In reality, I've honed my Fast food plan over the last 24 years. It's pretty simple. I pay attention to eating more balanced meals each day. I give in if I have an irrational desire for something different than I have planned for dinner. Like barbacoa tacos at Chipotle, or a meal from Five Guys. That happens two or three times, maybe. And I am super strict about breakfast. About half my day's water intake, yogurt, applesauce or whatever easy-to-eat fruit is available at the store, a spoonful of almond butter, and some kind of carbohydrate-rich thing. This morning it was the last of the pumpkin chocolate chip bread from the weekend. Tomorrow, it might be instant oatmeal. Or it could be leftover pizza from last night.
Above all, this is a time for prayer, reflection, and resetting before the new year begins. So as the sun comes up, I take a few minutes in the silence to remind myself about what's important. Throughout the day, I'm reminded of that again and again. At my normal lunchtime, I remember to say my daily obligatory prayer. I'm happy that I can take a walk or get a little exercise in the hour before the sun dips behind the horizon and reward myself with glass of cold water at sunset. In the evening, I appreciate the nuanced shades of orange, red, pink, and purple that stand out behind the pine trees across the street from my house.
Today, after a couple of rough weeks, I took a few deep breaths and gave myself a short chance to relax and regroup. Because this Fast overlaps with the last three weeks of my first grad school year. This final big effort, at least until August, requires the drafting of two more chapters and a marketing assignment. My "summer" will undoubtedly include preparation for next year and plenty of work on the book, but I'll be on my own schedule for a little while. Today, though, my goals are all about the next three weeks.