My first Lenten post is here.
These are the indiscriminate observations from days one and two.
Often, I allow dailiness of life to flood in, the tyranny of the urgent family agenda turning me half brain-dead. Just do the next thing, if grumpily.
In The Sign of Jonas, Merton says:
“I ought to know, by now, that God uses everything that happens as means to lead me into solitude. Every creature that enters my life, every instant of my days, will be designed to wound me with the realization of the world’s insufficiency, until I become so detached that I will be able to find God alone in everything. Only then will all things bring me joy.”
1. I SAW MY SHRINK.
The last time I saw her, a month ago, I was so down that she expressed concern. Meanwhile, until late last week I couldn’t even pick up the phone to set up an appointment. Yesterday I was floating; my brain was uncluttered and clear. I was articulate and full of a strong sense of myself. I had a little extra energy and my spirits weren’t clouded by anxiety and depression. Is this a result of the medication change? I have no idea.
I often get an emotional bump from HOPE. I have seen this time and again over the years. There were so many incredible observations with my shrink. I left knowing that I wanted to write them down the got stuck in the snow filled parking lot at Pier 1. By the time I was out of that mess, I didn’t want to see if they had a round table-cloth and in a fit of anger huffily drove home.
2. THE MUNDANE.
My days at home are full of the mundane. Every keeper of a home knows that most things are never finished. The laundry is never done. Bathrooms always need cleaning. The kitchen needs sweeping or wet mopping. You wash the dishes so that you can have room to cook dinner and do it all over again. That’s why I love snow blowing or mowing depending on the season. Jobs that make me feel good—it is finished.
When I got home, I plowed out two driveways (we borrow from a neighbor and it was my turn). My car got stuck again, this time in an icy snow patch in the street in front of my house. I lost almost an hour trying to get myself out and then the generous city employer helped.
Sadly, I blew out my shoulders doing that, more stupid than sad. I’ve had weak shoulders for twenty years. If they get inflamed, they burn and ache all day long, with one special place that I have come to fondly call The Rod. I had to lie immobile or sit for the rest of the afternoon.
3. TIME COUNTS.
Rather than take advantage of the downtime, to read or study or write, I nosed about on Twitter and Instagram, alternating. I do read linked articles but reading on my phone gives me squinting, tired eyes. And my (self-diagnosed) ADD makes it so that I have eighty things open at once. I follow too many writers. I don’t finish things. I’m twittering away my life – pun intended.
Regular readers know that I appreciate the writer, international teacher and Benedictine nun Joan Chittister. She has written more than 30 books including The Liturgical Year. In chapter 17 titled Lent: A Symphony in Three Parts she says:
“Having conquered our impulses for the immediate, having tamed our desires for the physical, perhaps we will be able to bring ourselves to rise above the GREED that consumes us. Maybe we will be able to control the ANGER that is a veil between us and the face of God. Perhaps we will have a reason now to forswear the PRIDE that is a barrier to growth. Possibly we will learn to forswear the LUST that denies us the freeing grace of simplicity. Maybe we will even find the energy to fight the SLOTH that deters us from making spiritual progress, the GLUTTONY that ties us to our bellies, and the ENVY that makes it impossible for us to be joyful givers of the life we have been given.
Lent is the period in which, learning to abstain from adoring at the shrine of the self, we come to see beyond the divinity we have made of ourselves to the divine will for all the world.” (pp. 113)
5. RISE ABOVE.
“There is no way under the sun to make a man worthy of love except by loving him. As soon as he realizes himself loved–if he is not so weak that he can no longer bear to be loved–he will feel himself instantly becoming worthy of love. He will respond by drawing a mysterious spiritual value out of his own depths, a new identity called into being by the love that is addressed to him.” — from “The Power and Meaning of Love” Merton
I’m conscious today of how easily I resent people, especially social circles where I may be forgotten; as much as I am embarrassed by those “high school” type feelings, don’t we all simply want connection? Social media feeds that anger and pride and envy in me.
I’m not sure what kind of distinction I dream about for my writing, nothing specific. As I said my goals are unclear. There’s a chance that I’ll need to go to work outside the home. This came up late last week. And this shook me. I became frustratingly aware of what I had to lose. These twelve years of privilege, I do not have to work for money. I saw my writing life suddenly threatened and had to ask myself how badly I want this. Do I want it enough to get up early or stay up late for it; to sacrifice evenings or weekends to write if I had to work a 9-5 job? Right now my writing is very one offish. I respond to requests, take very little risks, never query, don’t have a writing group, don’t ask others to edit (except Tom.) Haven’t taken further classes to improve. How serious am I? I think I am but I haven’t been behaving that way. If I want to write for certain publications then I have to query and write and send. As if I’m going to be “discovered” sitting here in my den, in Wisconsin.
I am my own worst enemy. Recently, a writer who blogs on Patheos.com asked me if I’d like her to check into their interest in my writing for them. I’m the one that put the question out there but when she took the bait I got scared. I haven’t written her to say one way or another. I’m afraid.
“Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of which we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.” ― Parker J. Palmer
6. MY BODY.
Another Lenten awareness is that I’m eating an Orthodox fast for Lent, this is my first time. That means no meat (except fish), no dairy or things made of fat from animals. (Additionally no white sugar because why not? It’s a brain drain I learned yesterday.) I don’t eat gluten but I’ve cheated on that. I’m eager to return to the discipline of no wheat, to be honest gluten makes me depressed, foggy headed, and lethargic. At first, I was sure I’d feel deprived. So far I’m not that hungry. I’m aware of a cleansing of body and spirit. I look forward to other observations.
From Isaiah: “If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.”
7. MY SPIRIT.
I’m reading the four Gospels through over the forty days of lent. The Gospels tell the story of Jesus and that is what I want to know more about. I think my (lack of) prayer life would be changed by truly knowing Jesus. Prayer is communication in a relationship after all.
“Everyone was trying to touch him because the power came out of him that cured their ills.” Luke 6:19-26
I’ve got some ills that need curing.
8. SO FAR.
On this path of slowing down for Lent, so far I’ve seen I’m terrible at it. I’m self-consciously aware that I read my Twitter feed all day long. I dive quickly into FB and out again, because FB makes me feel bad. I post images on Instagram and wonder why I am not liked. I want to sort out why does social media like Facebook make me feel bad about myself? I need to sit with my discomfort. Face it. Own it. Get over it. Do I think I’m a worthwhile person? Do I think I’m a worthwhile writer or photographer? Why seek other’s validation?
The word AWARENESS is sticking with me, nudging and prodding in all the right places.
I read these words somewhere today and jotted them in the front of my prayer-book.
Desire God, make space for God, and remember God does all the work.
What about you? What practice are you taking on for Lent. What are you observing as you slow down your days? (One day thus far.) You don’t have to tell me here, just something to be thinking about.