Oh, what an adventure this last week has been. When last I wrote, I was serenely mulling over in my head which day of the week I should make my fast day. Tuesday, perhaps? Wednesday? Thursday?
As it turns out, my fast took place on Thursday, and I had absolutely no say in the matter.
It happened this way: Saturday, while doing the “Hokey Pokey” at a school roller skating party with my children, I fell and broke my left ankle in two places. I spent Saturday night in the emergency room and Tuesday morning in the orthopedic surgeon’s office, where the good Dr. Pack informed me that he would be doing plate-and-screw surgery Thursday afternoon to stabilize the wobblier of my two fractures.
“Be sure to keep that ankle elevated and iced as much as possible,” he said. “We’ve got to get the swelling under control before we operate.
“Oh — and don’t forget: no solid food after midnight the night before the surgery, and no clear liquids after 8:30 the morning of.”
So it was settled: my fast would be on Thursday.
Wednesday night, Mom made me a last meal (a ham and cheese sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and pickles) at 10:30 p.m. I woke up early on Thursday to have one last glass of water and a cup of black tea. (Who would have thought it? Coffee with cream is considered by medical professionals to be “solid food”!) Then I began my fast.
By the middle of the morning, I began to get thirsty. Normally, I drink a substantial amount of water throughout each day, and it didn’t take long for my throat to start noticing its relative dryness. I also found myself longing for my ritual morning cuppa. (And by this I don’t mean black tea!)
Around 9:30, Ken announced that he was running to McDonald’s for coffee and a snack — and did I want anything? I gave him a look. He said, “Oh . . . right. Sorry.”
In fact, though, the hunger pangs didn’t really hit me until I was at the hospital waiting for the surgeon to arrive — but when they did hit, they hit hard. I was passing the time leafing through a Martha Stewart Living magazine, when it suddenly seemed to me that nearly every page featured full-color pictures of delicious, gourmet FOOD.
“Ooh. An avocado and sliced radish open-faced sandwich . . . doesn’t that sound delicious?” I asked Ken, my tummy rumbling.
“Ew. Not really,” he said.
“What about this butter-mint asparagus? Yum, no?”
“Um, no,” he said, helpfully replacing the glossy magazine with a broadsheet of comics from the local newspaper. Not long after that, the surgeon arrived, and I was wheeled into the operating room and anesthetized for surgery. The rest of my twenty-four hour fast is a little hazy, to tell the truth.
What I do remember, though, is possessing a certain clearheadedness — a crispness of mind — in the hours leading up to my surgery. It doesn’t surprise me at all, when I think back to this mental clarity, to know that so many religious people around the world find fasting such an aid to spiritual focus and devotion.
Now, four days later, I’m back to eating three square meals a day (thanks, Mom!), but I find that my ankle-driven fasting is still going on — and that it will continue to go on in oh-so-many other ways for the next eight weeks or more.
I’m still fasting from walking, running, dancing, and putting any weight at all on my left ankle.
I’m fasting from cleaning up after myself and my family, from doing my own laundry, and from preparing my own food.
I’m fasting from driving a car and from climbing stairs without fear.
I’m fasting from wearing anything on my feet fancier than a single sturdy sneaker.
I’m fasting from sleeping on my side or my stomach (at least until one side or the other side of my broken ankle starts to heal).
I’m fasting from dressing myself and from showering without a plastic bag, a roll of duct tape, and a chaperone handy.
I’m fasting from caring for my own children unless I have another, properly competent adult present. (This last one is really, really hard.)
It is only that little word, “fast,” that turns this list from a simple “woe is me” pity party into something more. It is fasting — intentionally dedicating a time of temporary discomfort to God — that sanctifies the scratchy sackcloth and dirty ashes and turns the wearing of them into a source of blessing and growth.
So I dedicate this awful, unplanned Lenten fast to God — and I pray that He will bless me by it and use it to make me a better person. For my part, I hope to use the time off my feet to do a lot of praying, a lot of thinking, and a lot of writing. And I dearly hope not to use the time as I have mostly used it so far: to watch mediocre DVDs and to stalk everyone I know on Facebook. (Really: ya’ll’s online lives aren’t nearly interesting enough to justify my checking in there ten times an hour just to see “what’s new.”)
Pray for me. The adventure continues.