Over the years, I’ve been hearing more and more about people unable to do “service” on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day do a daylight fast to honor the discipline, willpower, and sacrifice that MLK had to endure in his mission to bring forth civil rights in America. Service to my community is part of my everyday life, and given that I was flying the solo parent flight this holiday, I was looking to observe the day more personally and spiritually. Fasting was my avenue.
I had only liquids – water, mostly. But I did have some tea and coffee, too. You can’t be the mother of three teens still in the house and not have caffeine. I didn’t want my exercise in honor of MLK to potentially negatively affect my children. I wanted to be an example to them. I wanted the exercise to mean something. I love food. Therefore, a day without eating, felt like a difficult task for me, to mirror, in a small way, what MLK did every day. Not just one day a year.
I think I did pretty well. The children were all eating leftover pizza at the point in the day when I felt the hunger pangs the most ridiculously – my stomach rumbled like an earthquake was going to erupt down my abdomen. The smell of the crispy, greasy a pepperoni and melted cheese – oh! It was so easy to almost chow down. But, the kids also supported my fast and hurriedly ate and cleaned up their mess.
Then there was the moments of daily life stress that because I was hungry made me feel less capable to deal with the barrage of problems I typically slay quickly in my life: hitting my head on the garage door, a string of bad drivers as I taxied my children around, the chickens deciding my calf looked like lunch, or when the line at the local café where I was meeting a client seemed to take forever and I was forced to stand in front of the pastry case for seven long minutes (it felt like seven years).
But I kept thinking about King. What he did when the government treated him as an enemy of the state, how he behaved even though what he was doing was the right thing, not the easy thing, how the legacy of his work still needs more work. I would breathe deep (pulling in those yoga sessions into everyday life), concentrate on my feet on the ground and move forward.
I did look at the weather app on my phone several times to make sure than when sunset was coming wasn’t changing on me. But then, Dr. King’s words would echo in my head, “Keep moving forward.”
I also spent time reading about King and learning just how awful the government, the white patriarchy, and even some within his own community disavowed him, berated him, persecuted, and even asked him to kill himself! The entire exercise was for me to feel the primal urges that perhaps King felt when he was maltreated and victimized by the opponents of what he stood for: justice through peace. How hard did King have to work to move past the animalistic emotion for vengeance and into the spiritual nature that he was so remembered for? “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear,” he said.
Looking back at his life, my own accomplishments and battles seem paltry. But we all can’t be MLK. It does mean we may live our lives so that his life and work lives on (wow that’s a lot of lives and lives). It means I can’t give up on the battles I have to fight: #LifewithAutism, surviving three teenagers in the house, and the ever elusive publishing contract, as well as the continued work in civil rights.
At sundown, I could eat; but, I took an extra ten minutes to relish the peace of knowing that humanity is capable of producing great leaders like King, ones whom in the face of unending antagonism, he never faltered. Considering all the good that has been wrought since his assassination, even given that there is more work to do (#blacklivesmatter), we shall all be thankful, and I was. I ended the day in an attitude of gratitude. It produced a dinner made mostly by my son’s insistence and assistance. It wasn’t the healthiest way to break the fast, but I was feeling my blessings and counting them, too.
Thank you, Dr. King.