I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes this week.
So, I love being Catholic, but Lent has always been a struggle for me. It calls to mind self-hatred, down-in-the-dumps, funeral dirges that seem to be a faith I don't want. I don't think that's really Lent, at least not a true Catholic Lent. We didn't celebrate Lent growing up as a Calvinist pastor's kid. That was way too liturgical and "Catholic." However, we seemed to have the self-hatred, down-in-the-dumps feelings year-round. I think I have confused holiness, humility, and spiritual discipline with this self-loathing. Repentance and conversion are possible. God's grace is real. Lent doesn't have to be 40 days of torture. When I set myself up to change everything and fast from everything, I end up failing. So, this year, I'm really attempting to do Lent differently. Like, really this time. I'm writing down the resolutions so that I'll actually remember and stay accountable. But, I'm easing into it. I'm taking some things already in progress, listening to my heart, and I'm going to finish up and follow through with these things already in progress.
This Lent, I am going to try to streamline my schedule and my surroundings to what matters, what can be accomplished, what needs to get done. If you knew me well, this might crack you up because some people find me to be a minimalist as it is. I go through phases of purging in which I get rid of tons of material possessions (my husband calls this the "Franciscan phase") - clothes, movies, decor, etc. But, I'm taking this simplify idea to be over-arching. Is it necessary? (this possession, this commitment, this technique of doing things) I will take the simplest approach when I can. I will stick to a schedule of doing laundry on Tuesdays, cooking on Sundays, etc. in order to simplify and give myself some free time. When in doubt, simplify.
Similar to #2, I am going to downsize. We just got married, haven't even been in our house a year, and we are still combining stuff. However, I want to downsize. What clothes do I keep, but never wear? What jewelry do I need/wear? With this new house, what decor just doesn't fit anymore? Of our wonderful wedding gifts we received, what don't we need? What things are a duplicate? Who could use this more than I could? I've been driving around for at least 2 months now with clothes in my trunk. Clothes I was going to get rid of. I didn't actually get rid of them yet because I was going to go through my closet again. By the end of Lent, I will be rid of the stuff. Closets, dressers, car trunks, etc. will be streamlined, simplified, and down-sized to what is useful, necessary, and used. No, we aren't moving to a smaller home, but we are downsizing the stuff within our home.
Okay, a theme is really developing here. The first two points really have to do with stuff like clothing, decor, kitchen items. This really calls to mind our study. There is unopened mail, including bills and important stuff. There are boxes of wedding invitations that I'm keeping for "the scrapbook." I will only need a few, but I haven't decided how many. I have tried to switch to online bill-pay whenever possible, yet, I still receive some paper bills. I have a "to do" and a "to file" inbox. Both are over-flowing. My goal by the end of Lent is to go through all this junk. To make small and reasonable goals for dealing with the wedding paraphernalia, to file all bills, shred/recycle the paperwork I don't need, to truly go all online when possible for bills, to make the "to do" inbox something actionable.
Jenny over at Mama Needs Coffee really hit on this earlier this week in her post, "Margin for Error." I am in the same boat. I wouldn't be so cranky over breakfast with my husband or get road rage at perfect strangers who take their sweet time if I didn't push snooze 3000 times each morning, leave for work at the last possible minute to make it in time, and not go to bed until after bedtime on weeknights. I would love this Lent to leave myself room to breathe in all areas of my life, mostly my time. Leave early for something, for a change. Go to bed before it's painfully late. Wake up with time to spare. Refill the gas tank before I'm on fumes and praying I'll make it to the gas station. Follow my budget so that the balance by the end of the month doesn't cause me panic and buyer's remorse. There has GOT to be a better way to live. I can blame it on traffic, work, everything I want to, but the truth is, I am not doing all I can to make the most of my moments. I don't mean that in the over-achiever, cram everything possible into the schedule way. I mean, I need to say no - to myself, to obligations, to others - when necessary. I need to refuse the guilt when I take a day off, when I relax, when I rest and recharge. I need to refuse laziness when it really is time to get out of bed, get laundry or dishes done, leave in plenty of time for something. I think in this area, I am both too hard on myself and not hard enough on myself. I tend to beat myself and spiral into self-hatred and false guilt when I fail. On the other hand, I tend to make excuses for myself, procrastinate to the last possible second, and rationalize/justify bad decisions. This reeks of the flesh, doesn't it? Room for error, margins, breathing space. That's what I want this Lent.
So, my body is very sensitive to sugar and caffeine. I know this, or at least the sugar part, I have known for about 10 years now. In preparation for the wedding, I was really good about avoiding extra sugar, carbs (which when they aren't burned, turn into sugar), and taking some awesome vitamins. Well...I have fallen off the wagon a bit. Since the wedding, I no longer have the pressure of a looming public appearance in a white dress and pictures for posterity. Not only that, but with the constant UTIs since we got married, I have not been able to exercise as much. (Not just generally feeling cruddy, getting sick, or getting over a sickness, but one of the antibiotics I was on made you susceptible to tendonitis, and exercise was discouraged.) I also haven't been able to take one of my amazing multi-vitamins because it interfered with antibiotics. That really helped regulate my appetite and energy, and its absence has been sorely missed. All that to say that I have GOT to get back on the low/no sugar diet. It helps my sanity, my energy, my weight, everything. There's no excuse now. I've been UTI free for the longest time since we got married (almost 4 weeks), so I can start taking the multi-vitamin again, and exercising even more. I just have to remember how great I feel when I eat less sugar. Lent is the perfect time to get back on the wagon.
Yes, similar to #6, my body is very sensitive to coffee and caffeine. I managed to make it through college without a coffee addiction (this was before Starbucks was all the rage). I made it 2/3 of the way through graduate school before coffee became a daily necessity. I quit in 2007 due to a kidney stone, then went right back to it. I quit again in 2013 because I just felt an urge in my spirit that I needed to. I felt wonderful. Well...this has also creeped back into my life. I had this weird notion that since I was failing in other areas (sugar, for example), then to heck with it, why not fail in this area too. Also, even though caffeine and alcohol can exacerbate a UTI, I figured, "I'm taking an antibiotic right this second...what more could happen?" So, I would have a cup of coffee here and there at work. Well, that turned into every day. Then, it turned into twice a day. Then, it turned into adding creamer and sugar in the coffee. And this week, I found myself cranky, shaking, and ANGRY because I NEEDED my coffee. It tastes so good. For the first few weeks, it gave me a much-needed boost. Then, the crashes and lows started coming. Now, I'm fully addicted again, but without the highs. I love the taste, I love the heat and warmth. I do not love the anxiety, panic attacks, shaking, and headaches that inevitably come later. I just really am not a person who needs to drink coffee or consume sugar...much less do BOTH in one fell swoop. I am quitting coffee again. For real. For good this time. I just need to remember how I feel a few hours after coffee in order to resist. Lent is a great time to get back on track and reset.
In all of these resolutions, I am reminded of what our priest says, "Don't give up something stupid for Lent." God wants our hearts, our minds, our wills, our bodies, our time, our talents, our treasure. He wants a relationship with us. How are we best building that? How are we living out our vocations? How do we order our lives to be reminded that "we are dust, and to dust we shall return"? This Lent, I hope to simplify, downsize, de clutter, leave room for error, and get healthier by reducing the sugar and coffee. In all of that, however, I hope to get back to the basics, the truth, the fundamental meaning, purpose, and reason of this life: to love God and to love my neighbor. I can be a better steward of my time, my body, and my stuff. Here we go!