I am not of the Catholic faith but I like the symbolism of Lent. This year I decided to take part in the giving up of....something....for 40 days. The friends that I have who are experienced with Lent (and take it seriously) give up vices like coffee, chocolate, or junk food. It's tough for them; they struggle with the temptation to cheat, just once, but they don't.
This week I discussed the idea of Lent with one of my best friends. I was looking to her for some guidance in what I should give up since she knows me well. I also needed help because I already restrict my lifestyle in so many ways, especially my diet. Our conversation was very interesting. She too was struggling with what to give up. In years past she had given up things like swearing, eating out, pizza, chocolate and coffee. This year, she was looking for something bigger. Something that she didn't want to admit to having a problem with. That inspired me to do some deeper thinking about what to give up.
After going through a list of things I could give up, that might be difficult for me to give up, I realized in the long run, the items on my list wouldn't be too difficult to go without for 40 days. The purpose of giving something up is to represent what God did for us and how much he sacrificed. Shouldn't I be able to give up something substantial for 40 days?
For the next forty days I will be giving up:
Elevators and escalators:
They are a convenience and they have made me dependent and complacent. I find myself pushing the button for the elevator and if i don't hear an immediate "ding!" I become impatient. Seriously, that's ridiculous. Elevators and escalators are also not necessary in order for me to funciton. Taking the stairs makes me aware of where I am and sometimes I have to really search to find a staircase. I discovered today that I can't go to the mall unless I want to stay on one level. OR I can exit the level I am on, get in my car, and drive to another parking lot with an entrance on an upper level--but that's not practical at all! So, for the next forty days I will also be giving up:
The mall is the place I go when I need to numb my brain (and look at pretty clothes and makeup and shoes....and I have plenty of those things at home that just sit in my closet). I walk around and window shop, grab a coffee and people watch. What's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. BUT I also notice that while at the mall I sometimes have anxiety when it's overcrowded, which by the way, is terrible and the exact opposite of "numb" or relaxed. Sometimes I catch myself comparing myself to others and feeling inferior....and sometimes I feel superior. That's not cool. Do I really need that $4 cup of coffee? Yessss...I mean no! :) I have a wonderful coffee maker at home with a cabinet full of different coffee blends.
Some of you might be thinking, "what?! How can she give up more of her time?" It's true. I spread myself too thin. I am always going in multiple directions at once, never saying no, and always feeling guilty. I'm not talking about that kind of time....I'm talking about the 30 second to 2 minute conversations that happen at work when afterward I sigh and think, "I did not have time for that!" or "That guy never works! He just talks all day--going from office to office bothering people!" or "Oh my goodness, I can't handle whiners!" and sometimes its a sigh followed by "Gaah!". While theses statements might be true, it's the attitude behind them that is the problem. I am NOT proud of these moments. That guy who walks from person to person telling the same story over and over is probably in need of some friends or the feeling that he's being heard. The lady who whines about everything might truly be annoying and self-centered but she also might be sad and lonely and the only way she knows how to communicate is to...whine. I can give 30 seconds to 2 minutes of my time sporadically throughout the day to people who obviously trust me (maybe not after reading this) with the things going on in their lives. I am going to give my time willingly, and without sarcastic comments, for the next 40 days....and who knows? Maybe forever!
Most of you know that I am a vegetarian. You also know I try to stay away from dairy products and over processed foods in general. My diet is pretty strict and it's for health reasons as well as religious reasons. I have been slacking off on the religious side of it. I don't restrict myself out of legalism and I don't think that I will go to hell if I eat catfish or whatever. The main reason I have slacked off is so I don't offend other people who have prepared food. It is also for selfish reasons because it gets tiring explaining to people why I am not eating certain foods at family events, work events, and even church. In my heart I made a personal decision to restrict myself from certain things to better serve God so when I fail to observe those restrictions, purposely, I feel like that is a sin for me. So I will be in strict obsevance of these restrictions for the next 40 days.
I am excited about all of this! Typing this out I had a few moments of hesitation because there are some aspects of this that are going to be very difficult for me. I think the result will be a better disciplined mind and tongue, more accountability, and hopefully taking the stairs will take care of burning some calories! :)