Sunday, February 17, 2013

What I'm Doing for Lent

On Monday, I painted my toenails purple, yellow, and green.

Another teacher and I were talking about what we were doing for Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday and I had the brilliant idea to show my colorful nails to the kids we work with. Of course, then they all started taking off their own shoes. Not the best plan.

On Tuesday, I ate pancakes at my church, surrounded by Mardi Gras masks and balloon centerpieces.

We didn't have any King Cake which I was sad about at first because I've been craving it for ages. But then I got Valentine's candy and cookies and even ice cream sandwiches from work and now I'm really sick of sugar.

On Wednesday, I had ashes smudged on my forehead and sang with a sore throat.

Spiritually, I think Lent and Easter are my favorite times of year. They're a lot quieter and less commercial than Christmas, which I really appreciate. Mardi Gras pancakes and Easter egg hunts are certainly a lot more low-key than standing in long lines buying last-minute gifts.

And so begin the 40 days of waiting for the party of Easter.

Easter is my favorite holiday, I think mostly because that means I get to sing the Hallelujah Chorus with the full orchestration and all that. I also really like the waiting [after all, that's when the Hallelujah Chorus gets practiced!]. You can imagine that the world's moving a little slower, that time is pushing Easter just a little farther away and then it arrives with a bang! Or maybe I'm just overtired and a little crazy. But I do love the idea of giving things up for Lent, the idea that Lent is different and simpler than the rest of the year.

Even when I do remember to make them, I seem to only inadvertently keep my New Year's resolutions. I don't know if it's because I can't handle the year-long commitment or because I have too many goals. But Lent, I have always been able to follow through on.

This year, though, I had a really hard time thinking of anything meaningful to give up. I have been trying very hard over the past couple of years to cut out all of the mindless excesses that I would normally pick to go without for forty days. I could always give up something like chocolate, that I enjoy but don't overindulge in, but it wouldn't be the same as the year I gave up reading celebrity gossip. And I feel uncomfortable with the idea of giving something up just because.

So instead, I'm doing the opposite. I've made a list of things to take on for Lent, some of which will replace the time I spend meandering thoughtlessly around the Internet. I'll probably be adding things to it even through Holy Week, but for now, it's got things like exercising and practicing Spanish and cleaning my room. I'm going to make sure I do at least one of them every day; hopefully, this will help me get back into some habits that I lost after graduating from the structure of college.

The biggest thing I want to get done is decluttering. While I was in PerĂº, I was struck by how little stuff I really wanted with me. For six weeks, I didn't miss much of anything. I have always been a collector, so there are a lot of things in my room, and I realized for the first time just how much I didn't need most of this junk. So those things - plenty of which live in our messy gameroom because I ran out of room a long time ago - are going to get sorted and passed down and donated and thrown away and recycled.

Everything I brought with me fit into that dresser and a nightstand.
I am so looking forward to not feeling so crowded in my own space. After spending the past six months surrounded by ALL my stuff in one place - for the first time in 3 years, really - I feel like it's drowning me, just crashing away in my skull and not leaving me any room to breathe. I used to collect all these things [trinkets, coins, dreamcatchers] because I needed the noise around me, but now I think I'm ready to let my self back out, to tone down all the other distractions and figure out how to be an adult and how to survive living in a culture that thrives on excess. To figure out how to start being alive now instead of waiting to do that when my next goal, or the next one, is reached.

So that's what I have in store for myself for Lent, both physically and mentally. In a way, it seems like a lot to do. But when I compare my "crisis of self" [for lack of a better term] to the "real" crises faced by people all over the world, every day, I realize again how privileged I am to be doing any of this at all.