As some of you may know, last Wednesday marked the beginning of the season of Lent. If you grew up observing this extended holiday (or another, similar tradition), you probably also remember the childhood feelings of chagrin that always accompany this time of year. When I was young, at least, I remember being so miffed that, on top of the usual post-February break malaise, I was now being asked to give something up for forty days. Most years, I coped out by either swearing off something I rarely had anyway, like soda, or else by pretending to give up chocolate only to cave within a few weeks. Even so, however, the punishing sensation of removing something enjoyable from my life gnawed at me in a way that even dreams of my Easter basket failed to remedy.
Fast-forward about a decade. I haven’t actually given up a material good for Lent in a few year. Instead, for the past several Ash Wednesdays I’ve resolved to quote “be a better person.” That vague suggestion, as I’m sure you all know, shimmies into the same death trap that often overwhelms even the best intentions. As a result, each successive Lenten season has drifted past me without so much as as an “amen.” This year, however, something shifted. Call it a consequence of senior nostalgia, but over the past few weeks I found myself reflecting Charles Dickens-style on Lents past, present, and future. Sitting at my kitchen table with a hearty serving of my mom’s jambalaya, I realized that my “better person” resolution had legs- what it needed was more aim. Likewise, I was drawn to the idea of fulfillment versus deprivation, and embracing a spirit of abundance in what is typically a dreary time of year.
The above reflection plus some journal time led me to my Lenten promise/March manifestation. This Lent (T-37 days!) I’m taking a two-fold approach by 1) giving up comparing myself to others and 2) inviting more of what fulfills me. Choosing to vanquish the former was a bit of a no-brainer. Real talk: I think that I could take up chain smoking and still wouldn’t feel as bad as I do after a round of measuring myself against those around me. It’s a destructive habit, and one I want to work on ASAP. My second promise, on the other hand, is a little more fun: Over the next several weeks, I’m looking to get more sleep, more yoga, more writing, and other things that me feel and act like the girl I want to be. This sounds like it should be easy, but it’s not. As I’ve realized over the past several months, even our most intrinsic inclinations can be squashed by negative forces both internal and external. I’m determined, though, to see this Lent through, for no other reason that, by relinquishing what does not serve me and embracing what does, I believe I am track to“be a better person”- Easter basket or not.*
What are your upcoming goals? Do you have any special plans to embrace this time of year?
*Disclaimer: This is a joke. I still expect an Easter basket.