It is Lent, Again.

And I’ve been thinking, again, about the practice of fasting, and of “giving something up”s identical cousin “taking something on”. And what value they are intended to bring into my life, besides the extra guilt that comes of being hungry, or tired, or absent-minded.

And I’ve been thinking, too, of Rob Voyle’s really helpful stuff around Appreciative Inquiry- particulary the idea that we can’t really concieve of, or work towards, less. We can only work on more. So the significant question isn’t “what do I want to give up?” But rather “what would I rather fill my life with than this”.

I started seeing a Psychodynamic Therapist this year. I said it was because I wanted to be less angry. I wanted to yell at my kids less. But, I can’t really work on “less”. Slowly, we’ve been figuring out what I need more of, to leave less room for anger, and yelling.

Turns out, a big part of the answer is sleep. Most of my adult life I have resisted going to bed. Because I don’t like being told what to do? Because I’m not tired? Because TV is interesting (sometimes) and I’m always just a few minutes away from being able to advance something in whatever video games has me hooked for the moment. Because I know that I “should”, and I hate being told what to do. Even by myself. But something in me is changing, or letting go a little bit. And I’m regaining the ability to look at the clock and say “time for bed”. I would like to get to where I leave the clock out of it. But I’m not there yet. “I feel tired, and I am going to bed”. I think I may have said that, like 3 times in my entire adult life. (All when I was pregnant).

Which is all a long way around to saying- I’m thinking about the ways in which I finish these sentences:
After a really long day I really want a …
Before I face a difficult experience, I prepare myself with a …
I don’t know what I’d do without my …

Those are the things I want to think about, this Lent. But not in a cold-turkey, give them up sort of way. Because lets assume that everything named above is, in and of itself, a good thing. A glass of wine, a cup of coffee, chocolate, games, stories… all, in the right circumstances, harmless indulgences. Simple pleasures. Permissable joys.

It is only when they are the support I turn to when I am hurting, or despairing, or lonely, or fearful that they become something else. It isn’t the thing itself, but my use of it as a crutch, that turns chocolate into something other than a pleasure and a joy.

So- how would I rather end those sentences? Right now? Well, there’s the golden question. What would I rather take on. Not as an extra obligation or demand or duty. But what would be a more life-giving thing to reach for, when I am hurting, or despairing, or lonely, or fearful?

A good book? A solid night’s sleep? A journal and pen? Cooking for my family? Loving gesture to my husband? Prayer? Meditation? Silence? A brisk walk? A slow walk? Cuddle time with a borrowed puppy/baby/kitten?

What will bring more abundant life? What will let me deal with my hurt or my fear with courage and integrity? Let me choose that.

And by Easter, perhaps I’ll see what I’ve given up. And if I miss it. Or if it has simply become, again, a joy.

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