A Bit of Real Life, New York, quickie

Losing It for Lent

I grew up Catholic. Decades later, I would find a new home in a Baptist church: being among more people of color, particularly younger ones, moved me in a different way. I had the bells, the sermons, the dance ministry, Communion…and Lent.

I have been trying to stick the landing for Lent since grade school. Give up something. Make a sacrifice that could never begin to match that of Jesus’s. Make it big, or make it small, but make it. I know two friends offhand who are scary good at making these commitments. They think on it, find something they freakin’ love—chocolate, liquor, sex, the Internet—and boom, it’s done. Gone till that fateful Sunday. They struggle, it’s not easy—it shouldn’t be—but every year they name something they’re celebrating with post-Lent.

pizzaThey’ve learned not to ask me about my sacrifice, even if I’ve loudly proclaimed it to keep myself honest. This is so, so kind of them, because as with New Year’s resolutions, I usually clock in about 72 hours before I bail out HARD, feasting on whatever will get me through. One year I “gave up” ice cream… I could hear Häagen-Dazs laughing at me within two days. Another year I gave up chocolate… because I don’t like chocolate. I’m pretty ridiculous.

With this in mind, I decided to try a different approach this year. Although not a sacrifice per se, believe me when I say I’m depriving myself of something that I’m used to getting daily, possibly hourly. Something that deeply feeds me. How I wish it were chocolate… Alas…

For Lent, I’ll be silencing my inner critic. All the way—help me, Lord—through Easter. It’s just the Friday after Ash Wednesday but so far, so good. Good, but hard. Harder than ice cream. Harder than Facebook (no really), harder than DVR. Harder than sex by a mile (shut up!).

Now, I know we all have moments of doubt, or have sh*tty days, are maybe having a quarter-life crisis where we’re contemplating saying eff it & joining the Peace Corps. My critic? Is a BEAST. A monster, in the most unchill sense of the word. Like last week: spur of the moment, I experimented and decided for one full day I would “think positively” (which my inner critic noted with supreme sarcasm; what kinda hippie was I trying to be?).

The result was pretty gruesome. I woke up and thought it was too early to be up & I needed a few more hours. Not a snooze button: I needed hours. Damn, did I have to go out? The weather was a mess (if I’m honest, I can find cracks in the weather index at the height of spring). My shower takes too long to heat up. I hate the painting on my wall; it’s cheap and looks cheaper. Was I hungry? Why wasn’t I hungry? I can never find my shoes and this is somehow symptomatic of my life to date. And on. I better not slip on these stairs; everyone knows how klutzy I am. Ugh, this dude on the corner is a disaster. Is his life as awful as mine? Let me do a visual inventory to compare. Nope, he’s talking to a girlfriend; points off for me, single on Valentine’s.

matrixBy the end of the day I was exhausted. I was doing mental kung fu against myself all day: blocking, redirecting, throwing elbows and knees like Neo. Although I never lost composure physically, inside I was certainly not at ease. These weren’t thoughts I could attribute to a breakup, an argument, an awful boss, or cramps, FFS. This was a sampling of my general, every day strategy in dealing with the world.

Now, in my brain’s defense (it’s served me extremely well on many levels over the years—well done up there!), I live in one of life’s biggest pressure cookers. Life moves very fast here. If you think I’m joking, try pausing on New York subway steps during rush hour to fiddle around with your bag or worse, your phone. (You may be cannibalized and frankly, you deserve your fate.) But back to my point. I’m processing my surroundings quickly, even when I don’t realize it, and not in a particularly useful way. And I wasn’t aware of this consciously, because it had become a part of my mental fabric. A stain on it, really, and I’d let it set nice and hard.

Thus the challenge. It’s clear that the filters I’ve been using to view the world through are a lot more distortion effect and mono than I’d prefer. So what to do as I sit here on a Friday night? I have a cough (allergies or cold? Who knows? I’ll wait till Monday and not panic); too many obligations (break out that spreadsheet & split up that time, chick); a half-housebroken cat (as I view my deeply scratched hands…no comment on that one); and bills out the wazoo (always will, I’m guessing, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and my credit won’t be rebuilt in one either). Also, I’ve got a laptop with deteriorating keys (OK, that ish pisses me off, but in a rational, it’s 2015 & this is BS sorta way). Further, it’s your-coffee-will-freeze cold outside.

And whadya know, I’ve been able stick to the plan—even when it bums me out how often I’m checking myself. I can’t—nope. This’ll suck—you don’t know that. Literally everyone I know is better off—girl, that is straight irrational and you better pull up some YouTube videos to get a laughter boost. I’ve been more productive in the past three days than I’ve been in the past two weeks. Yes! Hold on to this. This is real and I’m guessing, not a coincidence. Not with God.

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9 thoughts on “Losing It for Lent”

  1. Thank you I needed this! As a “I was RAISED Catholic” myself, I struggled yesterday (Friday) between the short ribs sliders and the fish tacos. But who cares? It’s so much more important during Lent (and, really, all throughout the year) that I treat myself with more love and kindness. My inner critic must be BFFs with yours because she is in my face constantly. I’ll be shutting her down more regularly for sure.

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    1. I am so glad you approve, as you were one of the people I most admire when it comes to the Lenten season! That critic can really do a number on you, right? Oh you can do is push it back every day. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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    2. This is the way to go–and I find, in my old age, I try to balance out taking on something, letting go this way, AND some traditional prayer forms (even fasting and abstaining), looking at all as ways of both stopping in and checking my soul and of getting outside myself (for me, fasting reminds me of those who are truly hungry, of those who cannot get what they need; abstinence from meat is just a reminder to me of my gratefulness for what i do have and of my dependence on God in bigger ways–they are signs of something deeper). STILL, what you are doing is the greater spiritual practice. This year I have decided on something similar: I’m going to work hard to stop nagging and yelling at Isabella when she goes off the rails, to develop extreme patience as she grows to practice what it means to become human (even as she really does not know in some practical ways)–to not foist on her too many of my expectations, too high expectations, even at the cost of my time and efforts….and therefore to develop my patience. At least I hope. It seems to be working already, though!

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      1. Wonderful points! I’m so pleased to have you add to this dialogue; I deeply appreciate your blog on faith. I need those reminders of gratefulness, and next year I may add something traditional (there are so many things to choose from, I should start thinking on it now). I have no doubt you & Isabella will thrive, my love.

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  2. Good read. And even better motivation. Come down to Philly anytime you need to let the steam out. For Lent, I was doing a water as my only beverage. Now you got me thinking abt a personality something I can check off…hmmm…so many options, where do I begin…

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  3. Honestly, I like the idea of giving up the “inner critic” for Lent. I think that often we find ourselves in a judgemental state, which does no good for ourselves or others. While being difficult for you, in turn you were doing good. Which I think in the end is what Jesus’ trek into the wilderness was all about (in a sort of abstract way).

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