After a two-day whirligig tromp through downtown LA, including a stay at the Omni California Plaza, a trek through Grand Park, an afternoon visit to MOCA, The Last Bookstore, drinks at Perch, the best meal I have ever had in my life at 71Up, and a three-hour plus production, The Lehman Trilogy, at The Ahmanson Theater, it occurred to me that my leaving the house was an exasperated and exhilarating escape from over two years of Covid isolation.
I was amazed to see so many people out there in the world, eating, drinking, dressing up, talking lively and loud, and looking good. What a relief. How good. How wonderful. And what a City of Angels!
So, why, in returning to the Valley, did I then feel so low? So out of focus?
All of the existential questions landed on me. I sat like a puddle, after a deluge. Muddy and dense, I couldn't gather my thoughts. It became clear to me that my existence, and that what I do, as a musician, a writer, a teacher, isn't what is making the earth turn. I was again home alone, isolated, and faced with a need to re-find my purpose.
For a couple of days, I had pretended I was a millionaire, with no need to do more than enjoy myself.
What would it be like, to live, only to consume, and always the best?
That thought horrified me, for some reason.
And then I remembered. Coming up: Lent.
Even as a child, I would fast. I loved to believe that fasting would lead me to visions. And I sought them, looking up at streetlights at night, hoping to see Joan of Arc, or one of the disciples, maybe even Jesus himself. I drank water all day long, but allowed myself a milkshake in the afternoon. I haunted chapels , lit candles and sat quietly in pews. I wondered if my destiny were to be a nun, or at least to join The Catholic Workers. Renouncing, oddly enough, felt sexier than sex.
And so I decided, last Sunday to fast for Holy Week. I would check in on Facebook and let my friends know what I was doing, but not go in to too much detail. I would buy a big water bottle and sip lemon water all day. But I would allow myself one meal, between 6 and 7:30pm.
Now, writing about food or the lack of it, might be one of those boring subjects. Kind of like hearing someone tell you their dreams. So, I'll try to compact the realizations I have had this week, as today marks the 6th day of my Lenten Fast.
Firstly, doing something because you want to, rather than because you have to, made the fasting decision fun. I felt I was betting on myself, challenging myself. Going without felt like a fun game, an exercise, an experiment.
Secondly, hearing from friends on FB who have also fasted, and continue to, bolstered my faith in the idea. It can be done. It is no big deal. Other people do this successfully.
I have had headaches, and even cravings, particularly for meat, which surprised me. But I have not stopped walking, jogging, lifting weights, working on music projects. And what surprised me most was that the fog I had experienced after a couple days of eating and drinking and living it up, that dullness, went away.
This has lead me to think a lot about consumption and craving. The escapes I have desired. The ways in which I satisfy a need for pleasure. Removing what I thought were the greatest rewards took me to places where I felt even more satisfied. Kind of like hiking up a mountain. The switchbacks are murder, and you huff and puff and curse the course, until you reach the Summit. Then, suddenly, it was all worth it.
I realized again that I am not alone. I thought of all of the people who go hungry, not voluntarily. Giving up things brings me closer to others. I realize how much energy I put into myself that I could put into other things. Like listening to other people's music. Like practicing and again practicing my instruments. Like organizing my songs, actually putting my songs down with lyrics and chords and charts so that other people can play them with me.
I will finish my fast on Easter Sunday. But I can say that these six days have given me a new perspective. N
ot so fast, to think that despair is my only option, ever. Overwhelm is not a natural state of mind. Taking in a bit less, I see so much more.
I see that the limitations are usually due to a compromised perspective. Humility is chill. More fun. I am going to keep on heading in that direction, climb that it might be. I may never reach my top, but I will find friends along the way. I'll never really be alone, and I'll never need as much I think I do.
Enough is more than enough.
Happy Passover. Happy Easter. Happy Ramadan. And Happy Spring.