By Kristen MacKenzie
© 2015 Diversity Rules Magazine and Kristen MacKenzie. All rights reserved.
Kristen MacKenzie lives on Vashon Island in a quiet cabin where the shelves are filled with herbs for medicine-making, the floor is open for dancing, and the table faces the ocean, waiting for a writer to pick up the pen. Her work has appeared in Brevity, Rawboned Journal, GALA Magazine and Extract(s) Daily Dose of Lit.
When my emotions seem to change the shape of me, and I can’t fit back into my body or my space, the sound of my daughter’s voice pulls me back. I can only be her mother in those moments, and it puts a point down on the map of my consciousness, guiding me back to who I want to be: I am strong, I am capable, I am here.
There are times when anger makes my mind a dangerous place to live, and only strong physical action will bring me back to alignment. Pushing heavy things, moving fast, striking out decisively gives me the sense of control and power. The greatest rage seems always to stem from the feeling of impotence. Feeling the muscles shift and the breath move, I am not weak or incapable; I am in motion and I will not lie down to circumstance.
In the worst of times, if my thoughts persist in circles and I can’t bully myself to move my body, I narrow the focus until all there’s room for is the recognition of basic needs. Fasting for brief periods of time provides me with absolute reassurance of the one thing only I control.
People have fasted for millennia across cultures and continents, for reasons as diverse as the practitioners themselves. In protest, as petition, in grief, or for clarity, the most basic animal need is denied. I don’t stop eating to be part of something. I do it feeling alone. I do it because it feels like the one thing I have any control of in that moment. When my blood sugar drops and my muscles go into spasm, I hold the sensations and claim each part. By the time I feel too light-headed to bend over without seeing stars on the return to standing, my mind is a glass bowl emptied out, filling up drop by drop with only the essence of physical reality: can I move? Can I breathe? Yes.
What was on the outside of survival stayed on the outside. Like a question asked before sleep that dreams may answer, the thoughts that circle like snakes with their tails between their fangs unwind themselves. When I choose to end my fast, there are new thoughts, new solutions, new perspectives. There are questions without teeth. There are problems that have nothing to do with survival and as such are not felt as heavily as they had before. Perspective is restored and with it, sanity.
To look up at a clear night sky and see constellations that are ancient beyond any measure dissolves the boundaries of the present moment and whatever I’ve brought to it. The light above me is limitless; what is possible is larger than the sky, larger than my fear. I share a portion of it with each point above me and go inside lighter.
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