Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ani DiFranco and fasting (C.I. guesting for Kat)

C.I. here doing my second post. Ideally, I'd like to do at least three while Kat's on vacation but there's "ideally" and there's "reality" -- rarely do the two meet. However, since I had time this morning, I thought I'd grab it.

I'm doing the CODEPINK action, TROOPS HOME FAST!, and there have been some questions on that. (Don't worry, we'll get musical in a moment.) If someone wants to take part in the fast (for one day or more), they can find out information using the links. I have been on it since the Fourth of July and didn't intend to be on it that long. We all (all who do sites in the community) took part on the Fourth for one day. I don't remember why I decided to extend it but at some point, there were three members who were still on it (two still are) and they'd e-mailed that if I'd stay on it, they would as well. Today's the twentieth and I decided to just finish out the month since I'd made it this far.

"It's not going to accomplish anything" has been a frequent comment in visitors' e-mails at The Common Ills. My reasons for taking part, and I believe this is true of everyone in the community who does a site but check with them, was to show support for CODEPINK which always find novel ways to take a stand and is always active. Then hearing that Diane Wilson had prepared a will before she started the fast and how long she intends to stay on it, it just seemed like I could do a little more in the face of all that she was doing. (And all that others were doing as well. But hearing that Wilson had prepared a will made my jaw drop. She's very serious about this.)

Diane Wilson thinks that the troops will be home. I'm less positive but, out of respect for her actions, I'll table my negativity. I will, however, offer some reasons for doing the fast if anyone's thinking about it.

As Mike has noted, the war is treated as an after thought. An illegal war is still being raged in Iraq. We still have around 130,000 troops over there. If the war was over, the troops would be home. It's not over. The illegal occupation continues, breeding hatred in those occupied (as would be true of any occupied people). We've all got (myself included) our, by comparison, comfortable lives. (Some more comfortable than others, which includes me.) And does the war register?

It is discussed, outside the media, it is discussed and the nation's turned against the war (and isn't going to be cheerleading it again -- the shift is too pronounced and the sentiment is too hard -- all the yackers going on about this poll or that poll seem to miss the point that one poll is meaningless, its only validity comes from whether or not you see a consistent trend emerging and that has been the case for some time now with regards to sentiment on the war). Ann Wright referred to the fast as a way of upping the ante and that is so needed.

If we're not raising the stakes, we're being complacent and allowing the illegal war to continue without protest, without objection.

So it's a way to protest. It does have an impact. Friends ask, "Why aren't you eating? Aren't you hungry?" They learn of the fast. Then it becomes a curious factor, "You're still on the fast?" It registers, even if in a small way. And when they hear of the continued cycle of violence and chaos in Iraq, it registers a little more.

Iraq is "far off" and the fast is one way to bring it closer, to bring it home.

If you've never fasted and are considering it, especially if you have a known health condition, you should check with a doctor first. Kayla, who is breast feeding, has done three one-day stints and she checked with her doctor first to make sure there would be no harm to her son (or her own system since she was nursing). If you're relatively healthy and you're interested in the fast, you should probably consider it doing it for a day.

E-mails, phone calls, faxes and letters to your Congressional reps are all well and good but this is a more direct action and you'll find that people who don't usually talk with you about Iraq will show more interest in the topic. "Okay, explain it to me, why are you fasting?" is a question I heard repeatedly on the second week. These aren't people who aren't concerned about the illegal war but, again, there is a "far off" factor.

If you're considering a long term fast (I don't recommend or urge that, if you're interested in it, you need to be interested in it, you don't need someone telling you to do it -- I will urge a one day fast for those who are able to participate) and are wondering about what it's like, the hunger pains in the stomach, for me, left after day eight. The big thing these days is headaches. Mainly in the morning. (I do take Excedrin Tension Headache for that.) I don't know that I'm more tired now, I'm pretty much tired period. Between the heat and everything that has to be done, tired's become a consistent. Other than that, I'm not really noticing much difficulty at this point. (Each day gets a little easier.)

You need to drink a lot of fluids. That's not been difficult for me because I drink a minimum of 72 ounces of water a day. (That's before the fast.) I do make a point to drink more than iced tea and grab some fruit jucies (V8 and tomato juice are my own personal favorites). I have a friend who's dong the long term fast and drinking sports drink in addition to water. That's probably much healthier for you to replace things lost in sweating in the summer heat (plus not getting them from eating) but I really don't like the taste of sports drinks so I've avoided them.

Because it's a long term fast, I'll have a slice of banana or a slice of avacado every four hours. That's my schedule, if you did a long term fast (or are on one), use your own judgement (or your doctor's). There are a number of other ways you could do a fast (one day or long term). You could do strictly liquids and that would allow for tomato soup or other soups (or smoothies). I went with this because it was the most basic and the easiest for me to follow. (I didn't have time to hunt down information. Others would be smarter to do so ahead of time. I never claimed "smarts.")

At night, I dream of chocolate. Always a weakness for me. I dream of chocolate chip cookies, candy, etc. Last night, I dreamed of drinking Hershey Chocolate Syrup which, confession, I have done before. When Rebecca, Elaine and I lived together in college, they knew not to leave chocolate anywhere I would find it. Rebecca had a can of chocolate syrup in the cabinet and I opened it with a can opener and drank the whole thing one stressful day. That's the most extreme moment of my chocolate addicition but it did happen once. But they knew that was my weakness and if they had some, they'd better hide it. (I could and still can go through an entire thing of M&Ms -- I mean the pound bag. I'm not someone who will eat a few and say, "Thank you." Never have been.) I don't keep chocolate in the house for that reason.

Chocolate cake or pie isn't as tempting and I can make one of those or someone can bring one over and it's not going anywhere. But bring candy bars and there's a problem. (And with any other sweet, I have no problem. Lemon sours are a wonderful candy and if someone offers, I'll have one if I'm in the mood. So it's a chocolate addiction, not a generic candy addiction.)

So those are the nights, dreaming of chocolate. During the day, I'm too busy to think about eating most of the time. (Chocolate or otherwise.)

If you're going to do a one day fast (or longer) and are lucky enough to have a friend, co-worker, family member, etc. who's doing it as well, it will be helpful. If you do the one day fast, I think you'll end it feeling that you did something worth doing. For one day, you protested the war in a way that effected you. It doesn't begin to compare with what's going on for Iraqis but, for one day, you left your comfort zone and took a stand.

I did have chest pains at the end of the first week but they faded. If you take part in the fast and have chest pains, you should listen to your body and get to a doctor. I did consult with my doctor when I had chest pains. She had a list of what should be done and we whittled that down to what I was comfortable with. That's when I started doing the slices of banana and avocado and increasing the amount of V8 and grape juice I drank each day. Prior to that, I was doing strictly water and nothing else -- except the first day of the fast which, and I don't recommend this, included alcohol. I had the Fourth party planned, and invitiations sent out, six months prior. No food and drinking (alcohol) would have resulted in a very down mood for the party.

The fast is going to continue for many and some will be moving it to Crawford, TX (to coincide with the Bully Boy's vacation). I'll be going off on August 1st (though I may pick it up again). When you go off, the temptation (especially for me) will be to grab junk food. (Chocolate in my case.) Immediately. You can't do that. You have to introduce food back into your system slowly. (Again, I'm not urging that anyone go on a long term fast. If you want to, that has to be your call. But in case someone is on one or is considering going on one, you don't go off with a heavy meal. You have to ease food back in slowly over a period of days.)

August first, I'll be eating tomatoes, avocados and oranges. (Tomatoes are a favorite of mine. Second only to chocolate.) I'll keep it basic for the first three days (fruits and vegetables -- with no sauces).

So that's that, let's turn to music. One of the things that I've noticed during the fast is a heightened awareness. "Both Hands" is a beautiful song by Ani DiFranco. Kat loves it, everyone I know who has ever heard it loves it. But on day six or so (it's all a blur), I was having an especially difficult time (with stomach pains) and grabbed some headphones, laid down and put in Ani DiFranco's CD Like I Said (Songs 1990-91) intending to take a nap. I couldn't due to the stomach pains, but I found new levels to a song I thought I knew fairly well. ("Both Hands" is on several albums, Living In Clip also has a wonderful live version of the song.) I ended up listening to it over and over for the hour and, each time, it was like hearing the song for the first time.

If you know the excitement you have when you hear a great song for the first time, you probably know that it later becomes more of a "I love that song," sing along type thing. And you may miss that moment of initial excitement. I rediscovered that on the fast (for that song and many others) so that's been one side effect I hadn't counted on but have enjoyed. Notes stood out that I'd never noticed and the lyrics often went to another place. ("Delusion has set in," snort the skeptics.) There is a heightened awareness.

There's not been a heightened sense of compassion towards others which probably stems from my own personality. But my friend who's doing the fast has all the love in the world for everyone in the world. I wish I was that kind of person but I'm old enough to grasp that's never going to happen. I don't think it will "change" you, taking part in the fast. I do think it will "expand" you and will raise your awareness of others and events around you (as well as your own self-awareness).

Just now, I had a stomach pain. It was dull pain and that was one wave and then vanished. Which has nothing to do with what I was writing but I don't want to give any false impressions about the fast. When a stomach pain comes now, it's much more rare and it tends to quickly pass. (Earlier in the fast, it seemed like they lasted hours.)

I am going off August first. I've said I was going off before and then stayed on it. I admire Diane Wilson, Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan and others who intend to stay on it longterm. But I will be going off on the first of next month (and still admiring the dedication of those who stay on). I do think I will pick up a day or more in August and I kid myself that this is somehow helpful in the sense that it demonstrates that you can join the fast anytime. It does demonstrate that but let's be real, I'm going off on the first because that's about all the continued fasting I can take.

But you can join this fast at anytime. It's ongoing. If you want to do one day, pick a day. If you want to make Mondays or Saturdays you're thing and do it one day each week, you can. I am encouraging a one day fast for all that can participate. If you're thinking of a one day fast and trying to pick a day, I'd recommend a busy day. If you're around the house doing nothing (or less than you normally do), it's going to be harder. (Which might be a lesson in itself if you want to try it on one of those days.)

"Both Hands" is on now so I'll throw out a sample of the lyrics (lyrics and music written by Ani DiFranco):

I am watching your chest rise and fall
Like the tides of my life and the rest of it all
Your bones have been my bedframe
And your flesh has been my pillow
I've been waiting for the sleep
To offer up the deep
With both hands
In each other's shadow
We grew less and less tall
And eventually our theories
Couldn't explain it all
I'm recording our history
Now on the bedroom wall
And when we leave
The landlord will pave over it all
Both hands

By the way, Ani DiFranco has a new CD due out shortly, Kat has noted it here:

First things first. Ani DiFranco has a new studio album, Reprieve, ready and it will be released on August 8th. You can listen to "Hypnotized" here and you can see video for "Half-Assed" here.

That's it for my second guest-post. Again, I'll try to do a total of three (minimum).