My Accidental Cleanse (part deux)

The glory of this cleanse thingy has definitely worn off. In fact, in moments, I feel like I am fasting for Ramadan. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with fasting for Ramadan. In fact, I think it’s quite admirable. But I am not sure I have the strength to keep fasting. I suppose, however, if Elizabeth Warren persisted, then by-golly, I will too.

Another perspective that’s just as real and true is that I am feeling stronger and more radiant than under normal circumstances. I have moments wherein I catch myself in the mirror, and I am shocked to see the youthful glow and slightly sunken cheeks. Cutting out sugar of any kind, dairy, and gluten can do that for a girl (or someone of any gender).

But in the past few days, more often than not I have felt stripped down to bare rawness. My patience is running thin with everyone I love. My running practice is dragging in the mud. If cleansing is anything like a true fast, then the path to enlightenment is bitter-tasting.

Krista Bremer, a recent favorite of mine, writes about this in her award-winning essay, “My Accidental Jihad,” from The Sun magazine. (She scored a memoir that is loosely based on her essay, too, and it’s wonderful.) In the essay, Krista describes her Muslim husband’s annual fast during Ramadan and her own experiences during these time periods. One of the surprising facts she mentions is that Ramadan is not nearly as marvelous a time as she imagined it would be. Instead of coming home to her husband sitting in lotus pose with flowers tucked behind his ears and the house smelling of sweet incense, she comes home to a man who is at his wit’s end, to someone who has little patience and energy. To someone whose breath is so foul, she turns away from him in bed at night.

Enlightenment is anything but pretty or serene. The actual work is anything but. This holds true for any endeavor requiring endurance, whether it be running a marathon, writing an essay, planting a garden, building a career or a marriage….. In fact, the path seems to require the dirtiest work imaginable. It requires bareness, rawness, and perhaps weeks of bad breath. It sometimes requires going without sugar in your coffee and cheese on your burger, too.

I promise to expand upon this post another time this week, but for now, the following quote by Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet, seems a fitting way to end: “The same lute that soothes your spirit was hollowed by knives.”

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It took me a long while to consider the title for this blog. I wanted something that defined me both as a person and a writer. A name that would also perhaps speak to a particular audience. Why “The Astronaut Wife?” Since my early days of blogging, I have leaned toward more of a confessional style of writing, to some degree. I write as much truth as I can muster at each phase of life. In addition, I also come from a conservative Southern family, and I have grown very far from those roots. You could say I have rocketed to the moon in terms of my upbringing. I have rocketed away from debilitating family dynamics, from worldviews that held me beneath a rock. In my thirties, and now my early to mid-forties, I have learned to live more comfortably with both sides of the moon and write just as much about the raw, dark places as the light ones. Don’t quote me on that, though. It’s quite likely I will lean more heavily toward one or the other depending on which way the wind is blowing. Then, we get to the wife part, and quite frankly, this is where the feminist in me bucked and brayed. Identifying myself as “wife” has felt simply stymieing, particularly since becoming a mother six and a half years ago. But if the truth is going to be told, being a wife to my particular husband has altered my entire shape and has given voice to much of the inner deep. So in fact, becoming a wife was the singular most life-changing moment for me in my journey to the moon and back. Fellow travelers, you can feel safe and comfortable here. What matters more than what you might “get” about me is what you might take for yourself.

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