I’m getting ready to break my 11th annual “fast” tomorrow.

Every year from April 22nd to Mother’s Day, I say:

NO MEAT
NO DAIRY
NO ALCOHOL
NO CAFFEINE
NO ADDED SUGARS

Every year is different. I’m in a different place or my body responds differently. Some years it doesn’t appear to respond at all. Other years I remember all my dreams. Some years an intuitive tells me I shouldn’t do this because I need meat. Others, I intentionally cheat— I still remember a scone I purchased six years ago at a coffeeshop in Cambridge, MA. I’ve unintentinally cheated¬— one year, somebody handed me a piece of candy and without thinking I unwrapped it and ate it. Seconds later, I was like wtf did I just do? This year I grilled ribs and chicken wings for guests and never took a bite. I soberly mourned the passing of a childhood friend while everyone else got blissfully drunk.

This year’s has been one of the longest. 22 days. The first year, 2006, was the same.

I am elated to have my freedom back tomorrow. The structure of the last 22 days will be missed though. It is a dance, between the freedom to eat whatever I want and the willingness to forego choices.

I’m going to break my fast tomorrow with Ning Ning, Uncle Richard and Meemaw.

This is how I will do it¬—

I will break my caffeine restriction first, with a single cup of black coffee at my home. At noon I will welcome dairy and meat back into my life at Café LuMar. They make the best goddamned polish sausages. Sometime tomorrow afternoon, I will eat a piece of Ning Ning’s homemade cheesecake. Hello, added sugar. And finally, tomorrow evening I will crack open an ice cold Tiny Bomb that I carried back from Memphis with me just for this occasion.

Perhaps I should say how my Mother died. She had cancer and ephyzema. She smoked her entire life. For the last 7 years of her life she struggled with alcohol as well. She rarely, if ever, exercised. For the last few years of her life, she was not in good health. For the previous 15 years I heard that she would quit smoking. It took her getting cancer to admit that it was never going to happen. She asked me to roll her downstairs in a wheelchair so she could have a cigarette. She was desperate. And sick. And I was angry for too much of that time.

This “fast” always feel private and public at the same time. Private because it’s for my Mother and because I’m the only one who really cares if I adhere to it. Public because I’m constantly explaining it to people while I’m on it. I explain to them, my mother died on April 22, 2005. The next year, I began this “fast” from her death date to Mother’s Day so I could stay connected to her life and her struggle to take care of herself.

I’m not going to write a lot about my mother here, but sometimes I still dream of her and she was one of the sweetest women I’ve ever known. She just wasn’t ready for all the things life threw at her. I can relate.

Her diet was never what you would call… healthy. She was a single working mom. She rarely cooked. If she did it was a hamburger or spaghetti. More often we had fast food for dinner. This was all throughout high school. Dairy Queen. Taco Bell. Wendy’s. I’m serious. All that shit. She would call me from work and ask me what I wanted her to bring home. I would tell her. It never occurred to me there was anything wrong with it.

I rarely eat fast food these days. Well, compared to “high school me.” I have In ‘n’ Out or Wendy’s twice a month. Once on this “fast” I went to Veggie Grill. It’s probably still too much for some, but for me, it feels like quite an accomplishment. Ning Ning and I may eat out four or five times a month. The rest of the time we cook or eat pre-prepared stuff brought home from the grocery store.

When I think about it like this, the fact that I cook at all is miracle. Malai Kofta, Johnny Cakes, Loaded Tostadas, Chana Masala… all stuff I prepared on this year’s “fast”.

I want these 2-3 weeks to encourage me to think about what I’m eating year ‘round, who I trust to serve me food and to purchase and prepare food with intention. I want to say YES to health, not just NO to sickness.

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