Most religions have some form of fasting, some ritualized giving up for a period of time. I grew up in one such religion, and that period of time — dreaded by many of my friends — was my favorite time of the year. In fact, I was often so changed by my fast that I kept it going long beyond the appointed end time. That’s how I became a vegetarian for sixteen years, for example.
What I learned after years of fasting was that it wasn’t about deprivation. Certainly, something was always given up, but something better always filled that space. Maybe I liked lazing around reading books on Saturday mornings and decided to give that up so I could feed the homeless on Saturday mornings instead. Maybe I was being too critical of others and had to focus on forgiveness and others’ positive qualities.
My current plastic fast is not at all religious, but I am approaching it with the same zeal and finding similarly rewarding results. Yes, there are things I may never enjoy again. Lays Stax, for example. I liked Pringles and ate them occasionally (maybe once or twice a year?), but then I found out I had Celiac disease. No more Pringles for me! Then I found out that Lays Stax, a Pringles wanna-be, is gluten-free. The first few times I tried them I didn’t even notice they came in a truly horrendously wasteful thick plastic tube. I mean, the tube had the recycle number (which doesn’t mean it’s recyclable, I later found out, and doesn’t guarantee it will be recycled even if it is) on the bottom, so it was fine. I enjoyed those delicious chips about four times before I was awakened to plastic waste. Then I had one of my semi-annual cravings for salty dehydrated potatoes and fillers. I told myself no and went to Winco for dog treat ingredients, and there they were: an endcap of Lays Stax with a sale sign that I swear read, “Mezzie, one tube of plastic won’t matter.”
I actually reached out for a tube before holding to the standards I’d set for myself. I got home, made the dog treats, enjoyed watching the dogs beg for more, and settled into my normal, chip-free routine. And what had I actually been deprived of? Hypertension? A few thousand extra calories? A stomach too full to eat a healthy dinner? Energy? Bloating? A plastic tube that had had a very short reason to exist before uselessly and dangerously existing forever?
There are certainly things I’m going to miss on this journey — convenience, that most common villain of our societal plagues, chief among them — but I choose instead to focus on what I’m gaining: the joy of something homemade, the absence of guilt, the meditative time in the kitchen, the absence of toxins, the knowledge I can share.
That doesn’t sound like depravation at all.