Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Love Fast

I was trying to think of something related to education to blog about. Instead, I’ve decided to wax poetic about love.

I finished reading the October issue of O Magazine, and was inspired by an article called “The Love Fast” by Rachel Howard ( Howard became a member of the Episcopalian church in her mid-twenties. She described church as her “ritual, a way to create the stability I still craved two decades after my father’s sudden death.” Still, she found the fasting that takes place during lent confusing. “In theory it seemed dark and serious – self denial, self-punishment – and in action, totally trivial…most churchgoers gave up something easy like chocolate or red wine, congratulated themselves for going without whatever they didn’t really need anyway, and then Easter came and they ate Godiva and drank Pinot and went on with their lives as before.”

Hunter had issues with this practice until a Bishop explained the history of fasting to her. “The idea was that by eating less, those fasting could give the extra food to other people who needed it more. Fasting could be about taking less – in order to give more.” Hunter applies this idea to love and her inability to be in a relationship without becoming needy and craving constant confirmation that she was loved. She found herself refusing to offer love to others because she was afraid it wouldn’t be returned. So she became extremely conscious of her behavior and focused on giving love to others instead of taking it. In the middle of her 40-day love fast, she became aware of the fact that she had all the love she needed to survive from her family, friends, and her memories. Although Hunter claims she is still tempted every day to need more love than she already has, her ability to remember to not let her fear of rejection suppress her ability to give love to others has opened her life to many new possibilities.

This article really got me thinking about how difficult it has always been for me to reach out to other people. How many relationships have I squandered, or failed to cultivate because I am selfishly concerned about protecting myself from rejection? Do I suffocate the people I do have relationships with by constantly needing an outward show of affection?

It isn’t that I don’t think about others. I am constantly thinking of those I love, and I find it easy to wish the people around me well - in my head. But if I never articulate it to them, does it make a difference? I’ve always hoped that my silent well-wishing was the equivalent to praying for someone. I’ve been taught that praying for others helps people even if they don’t know you’re doing it. I suppose it becomes exponentially more powerful when they know you are wishing them love. I am greedy for love, but far too stingy with doling it out. That needs to change.

My link to education: the satisfaction of knowing that I did try to articulate my love for my students to my students. It is so easy to show love and affection to children, and they find a million ways to give it right back to you. I think about my students every day, and I hope that silent well-wishing and praying has some positive effect on the person being prayed for, because at the moment that is the only way I can give love to Maurice, Tyrell, Jamesha, DaJuan, Tricia, Dorsetta, Michael, Clinton, and all the other children who fill me with this painful mixture of happiness and helplessness.

Right now I’d like to show love for O magazine. Each month it is filled with beautifully written essays and articles that make me really think about love, life, and the soul. I feel intelligent after reading it, instead of fat like I feel when I read other magazines geared to my age demographic. Sometimes I feel embarrassed buying it at the supermarket because I feel like it is marketed to married women in their forties looking for a self-esteem boost. Then I realize it is perfect for me because, I’ve always had an old-soul, I feel married after being in a committed relationship for over five years, and I’m the first to admit that my self-esteem isn’t always where it is supposed to be.

Okay, now that I’ve shown love for an inanimate magazine, it’s time to begin my own love fast. Neediness, prepare to be banished from my life!

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