I lie in bed a few still minutes without moving. One of the underemphasized virtues of waking up early—easier to sustain this month than usual—is the temperature anomaly. An otherwise hot, stiflingly humid day can feel refreshingly cooler in the morning. An afternoon rain prospectively announces itself through a sunrise preamble of grayness, the ambiguous and mercurial mold lending a weirdly positive perspective to the day. I like to lie there and let the tentacles of the weather work their way through the window screen and into my skin in organic, vital contact.
Working out of a café whose owner knows me, and understands I can’t order food or coffee because of the fast. I will probably not do this again, but for today, it feels generous and supportive. I patronize this place frequently, and have never sat at an eatery without ordering anything, ever, so it takes some getting used to. I gently goad the parts of my body that feel the anxiety (even shame?) of not ordering food to just let go. It can be hard to ask for help, let alone in places or situations regulated by transaction, but there are a lot of people who want to help. The owner makes small talk and even walks by the table to make sure “you have everything you need.” It is sensitive and kind and I make a mental note to come back next week flush with food and drink orders.
I watch the place swell with people, picking up bagels and egg-salad sandwiches, cold Americano coffees and hot ginger teas. I don’t access the feeling of hunger or scarcity as such, but do feel an insider-outsiderness, like I’m standing inside a room but looking through a glass pane at its inhabitants.
I’m a few minutes late to a yoga class but the teacher is late also. This is the class whose platitudes and catchphrases I don’t much enjoy, but whose midday “work stoppage” point I wield as a favorable practice to capoeira later tonight. Yoga, true to its name, just yolks everything together. Today the teacher’s words about “creative destruction” don’t feel hollow or corny. Events in my recent life have primed me to be ready to hear this input. Yes, creative destruction. A constructive fire. Torch it down so something better and stronger gets built in the aftershock.
I land on the Discover tab of Instagram. The algorithm cyclically shifts based on who it thinks I am. Right now I am its targeted audience for work-mode motivational posters. There’s a persistent subculture of a millennial “success” narrative, catapulted by individual achievement, hustler ethos, and teeth-gritting hard work. In these square vignettes, social and financial capital regurgitate the American dream to an audience captive to student loan debt and the promise of economic uplift. To the victors (millionaires, and sometimes the lone billionaire) go the spoils. The minimum-wage earners racing to the bottom are cast as the losers. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong about these memes, as they reflect the anxieties of an entire culture, generation, or even historical wave back to itself. But in the age of self-enlightenment I have never seen a greater fear of the working class, a betrayal of the commons, and retreat into the nuclear-family contract than I do on social media.
Meanwhile, incorporated everything, managerial motivations, competition, systemic neglect, disengagement, and functional depression rule the work lives around me.
The food cravings of earlier days in the month are fully gone. It has definitely got easier, but it’s only a 30-day commitment. I struggle to shut off the part of my brain that wants to strive for more: how would I do with 100 days? 300?
Still, I love the sustainability of this routine and will miss it. Not having to think too deeply about all the quotidian activities fixated around food frees up a lot of time.
I get an email that I’m a finalist for an art residency. There’s going to be an interview, and silently I calculate which day of the month it will be, and what it will be like to do high-level communication work during a 20-22 hour fast. Not all days are created equal: there’s also the hormonal cycle that swings progesterone higher and higher as the month passes, making hangriness a possible, even probable, likelihood. I write back and accept the interview date, still uncertain what I’ll feel that day. Sometimes you just have to trust your body to do what it does. If fasting has become a form of self-research, I’ll have to trust that fasting as research is going to yield unpredictable results at least some of the time.
I’m late for a group dinner at a Persian restaurant. I’m happy to be among these people, most of whom I don’t know and a few I know intimately well, but eating out in Irooni places has never been my thing. The homemade versions of everything are better, the tahdig is never as good in restaurants, and the vegan-friendly options usually end up being vegetables blandly and inattentively grilled on skewers. Even though our cuisine is incredibly plant-based, people usually want to dine out for cooked animal parts. OK. I eat appetizers. And anyway, my body picks up quickly on the environmental cues, as it has done since I was a child, shutting off appetite centers as it is surrounded by gregarious, socially expressive people.