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Publisher’s letter: Paying for indulgences

The lights went up after the band’s last song. And the refuse that can only be created by 1,500 revelers littered the floor. Like the rest of the guests who stayed to the bitter end, I took my cue from the glaring overhead lights of the River Center and gingerly made my way back to the table among discarded cups and cans to gather my goods. Party was over. But as I approached my section, I noticed a friend in a hot pink strapless gown, blond hair still piled neatly atop her head, sitting down for a late-night snack.

“I haven’t eaten all evening,” she confessed as she munched on dessert straight out of the box. “And this Nannette Mayhall king cake is incredible.”

Ashley Sexton Gordon. Photo by Jeannie Frey Rhodes.

Now, if you ever had the opportunity to eat a cake by local baker Nannette Mayhall, you will not judge this midnight indulgence. Melt-in-your-mouth goodness that is devil-made-me-do-it delightful. So after a week of exercising and clean eating in anticipation of the ball, I sat down next to her and served myself a raspberry-filled piece of the pleasure.

I’ll pay for this indulgence later.

No, this payment for my sins is not the same attempt at reconciliation that infuriated Martin Luther and sent him to the church steps with his 95 Theses and a hammer and nail. No, if only I could buy my way out of my poor choices. Instead, my payment takes the form of snug-fitting jeans (did they shrink in the wash?), bruised feet from wearing too-high heels, or fog head the day after staying up too late. It’s being rushed on a project because I lollygagged my time away. It’s getting bogged down on the minors when I need to be focused on the majors. It’s too much and the consequences are too high.

Too much of a good thing is often a bad thing.

This truth really irks in south Louisiana where indulgences, especially food and drink, are celebrated. Everything in moderation? Meh, no fun. Sure, we give up chocolate for Lent, but to truly deprive ourselves is something completely alien to most of us. We just don’t know how it’s done.

That’s why, recently, I decided to embark on a three-day water fast. I know, I know. It sounds wackadoodle. But I considered it for its health and spiritual benefits, and I took the plunge. For three days, I drank nothing but water and hot tea. I slowed down. I meditated. And I prayed. Boy Howdy, did I pray.

But on the third day, after two days of struggle, clarity and calmness washed over me. I understood then why fasting has been practiced around the world since the beginning of civilization. It’s a time to recharge and regroup and restore. It’s a time to better focus on your focus. It’s a cleanse for both body and soul.

Of course, man cannot live on water alone, so I had to return to the mainland and have a meal or two. But there have been many interesting take-aways from those three days of deprivation. Mainly, I realized that I deprive myself of very little. And I will survive without a mid-morning snack. And clarity comes when you remove the distractions. And, really, it’s all distractions.

I would do it again.

But in the meantime, I said a prayer of thanksgiving that my three days of deprivation were well over by the time the lights went up at that Mardi Gras ball. Because the Nannette Mayhall king cake was worth the indulgence. It could make even the most well-intentioned among us break a fast.