A Season of Fasting
On January 1st, D and I began a season of fasting. In order, we'll be fasting from money, meat, TV, sweets, internet, and alcohol. Each fast will last for six weeks so the first fast (money/personal spending) finishes soon and the next fast (meat) will start on the 15th. While D and I have slightly different reasons for doing these fasts, we both agree that we needed to asses our lives right now, as perfect and full as they are.
For me, I want to winnow out what really matters, to challenge myself in the every day, to break out of bad patterns, to discover and encourage new good habits, to help me lead a more considered and thoughtful life.
D initiated this fasting season and wanted to do it "to just shake up my personal perceptions of the world. Get out of the comfortable little routine. It's fine to go back to it, but once you've been without, you can judge what you really need. "
D's thoughts on his personal spending fast: The financial hits from Water's adoption (and the vacation we took with it), Christmas, and then Sky and Fire's citizenship trip left me reeling from the outflow of money. The final straw was I was still making expensive hobby choices when my only DSLR lens broke. (Pictures are one of the few "things" I'd consider priceless, and I did make a point to restrict myself in a ridiculously expensive arena to about 40% the price point I could be coming in at. [I locked myself into aps-c for those in the know.]) All those left me about three times my per paycheck spending allowance in the hole and facing the thought of being back in a place in my life where I pay interest. (I hate paying for things I already have...especially once they're not as new and exciting.)
Through this fast, I found that you can save a lot of money using creative solutions, taking time to research and not "mis-step," and just not buying impetuously. As an engineer, I see the real world advantages (and advertising gimmicks) of the more expensive things and I do appreciate the advantages and amount of work that goes into making finer things, but one should be careful when buying premium items. If you buy only the best all of the time, you will go broke. It is more cost effective to buy cheaply, give it a day in court, and then if that thing is something that comes to matter a lot to you, you can later upgrade. You may end up spending more money buying in at both the cheap and expensive level on that one thing, but it's more than made up for the fact you didn't buy in expensive on two other things. In addition, you have to have experience with the cheap stuff to appreciate the advantages of the good stuff.Another thing I learned, but not only from this experiment, is that there are so many things you can spend money on. We tend to want (be advertised into wanting) the big house and fast nice car, but one should really spend some time asking "how happy is this going to make me" vs how much does it cost. A nice, fast car "feels" cool to drive and you accelerate faster or tip up to some higher speeds on occasion but really, due to speed limits, you're driving the same as everyone else. Is it really worth that extra $25k? The brain is conditioned to become accustom to it's surroundings, and even tune them out. If you buy a nice house, you will marvel at it for awhile, but just like every living condition, your brain will pull it down into the category of "my house" where it's pretty much all the same as any other "my house." On the other hand, if you buy cheap and make continuous improvements...something is always new and appreciated.
Unfortunately the trip to HI interfered with my plans to make this fast a financial reset. While I made sure not to spend too much unnecessary money on myself, I have very little opportunity to get tattooed and wouldn't let that pass due to timing. Further, this fast is not the one where we'll be abstaining from alcohol and as a beer brewer I "needed to research" the varied (and expensive) styles of microbrew while I had that chance. All in all, I spent about half of what I was trying to make up for. After much thought, I decided the best thing is to continue the money fast for 6 more weeks at half the rate. Therefore I will have some, but not as much as I'm used to. I'll meet the original goal (albeit 6 weeks late) and the experiment will taper off and hopefully have more of a lasting impression then just going back whole-hog. t
My thoughts on the personal spending fast: I didn't really struggle with this one like D did and mainly that's because I don't spend that much money on myself. If I spend money at all, I usually buy things for the kids or for the house, although I tried to curtail that as much as possible too for this fast. I broke the fast several times as well (not counting the much-needed shopping done in Honolulu- just clothes, no tattoos or beer for me): twice to go to bingo with friends ($30 each time), once for ice cream on Ebeye ($1), once for a six-pack of Mike's Hard Lemonade and a bottle of wine ($15), and once for a nice chocolate bar to have with my tea before bed ($4). In total, I spent $80 dollars on myself over a six- week period and didn't really feel taxed by not being able to spend more. If anything, the things that I broke it for point to how hard later fasts are going to be (I'm talking about you, sweets and alcohol!).
Are you familiar with the prayer of Sir Francis Drake? Disturb us, O Lord... I have this prayer on my pantry door so I see it every day. It's my hope that this series of fasts will continue to disturb us, to make us question the easy parts of our lives and to help us discern what we really need.
Have you fasted like this before? If so, what did you fast from and how did it go? What did you learn from your fast? Lent is approaching- are any of you fasting for that? I would love to hear about your experiences with this so please leave a comment below.