Friday, February 24, 2012

Lent: The Benefits of Self-Discipline

Two years ago, I published my very first blog post!  That particular blogpost was about Lent.  Since Lent season is upon us, I decided to go back and read the post that documented my very first experience with it.

In 2010, I decided to fast from things that would truly be a challenge; things I would have have to really think about:  Elevators and Escalators, The Mall, My Time, My Diet.

Elevators and escalators represented convenience.  Convenience makes me dependent and complacent. I found myself pushing the button for the elevator and becoming impatient if I didn't hear an immediate "ding!"  Elevators and escalators are also not necessary in order for me to function. Taking the stairs made me aware of where I was and sometimes I had to really search to find a stairwell.

After committing to Lent, I took a trip and stayed in a hotel.  I checked in and headed toward the elevator with my ginormous and overpacked suitcase, but then remembered that I couldn't take the elevator. I found the stairwell and slowly trudged upward, thankful for suitcase wheels but resenting my Boy Scout methodology to packing--always be prepared-- which of course means that I brought my entire bathroom and closet with me!

Two floors up and five more to go, I had an amazing idea! I could put my suitcase on the elevator, send it up to the seventh floor, and probably run fast enough up the stairs to catch it! Yes, this was indeed the best idea ever!

Actually, it was not the best idea ever. It was ridiculous and was essentially cheating, but I did it anyway. I ran up to the seventh floor and waited outside the elevator doors. My suitcase was a no-show. However, a man got off of the elevator and noticed that I looked frustrated and perplexed. I humbly and shamefully told him my story and he laughed and laughed. . .and laughed. . .but then offered to help me. He rode the elevator to each floor until he found my suitcase sitting all alone on the second floor. He brought it to me and then told me to have the front desk call him when I was ready to check out and he would help me down the stairs with my suitcase. I did not end up calling him, but I appreciated the offer. 

What did I learn?  It would have been easier to stick to my commitment and struggle up the stairs than to try to get around my commitment and end up inconveniencing others. 

The Mall:
Because of the elevator/escalator fast, I discovered that I couldn't go to the mall unless I wanted to stay on one level. OR I could exit the level I was 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! I decided to avoid the mall completely!

The mall was the place I would go when I needed 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 liked to walk around and window shop, grab a coffee and people watch. What's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. However, I realized that I experience a lot of anxiety when it's overcrowded, which by the way, is terrible and the exact opposite of "numb" or relaxed. I also found that while people watching I would compare myself to others and would feel inferior....and sometimes I felt superior. That's not cool.

Giving up mindless trips to the mall was awesome!  I go shopping very rarely now and don't miss it!

I also decided to focus on my time.  I spread myself too thin.  I did two years ago and I still do now. I am always going in multiple directions at once, never saying no, and always feeling guilty. I wasn't referring to that type of time. It was the 30 second to 2 minute conversations that happen at work when afterward, I would 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 "Gah!".

To be honest, that practice was less about my time and more about my attitude.  I was more compassionate, more in-tune to others.  I gave my time willingly and without sarcastic comments (!).  Now, I continue to intentionally take time out to really listen to little stories that I used to view as time wasters and that I now view as connecting.

My diet:  I am a vegetarian. I also keep dairy products out of my diet as wellas processed foods in general. My diet is strict, mainly for health reasons but also for religious reasons. I found myself slacking off on the religious side of it. The main reason I  slacked off was to avoid offending other people who have prepared food. I also became tired of explaining to people why I was not eating certain foods at family events, work events, and even church. Each explanation resulted in having to listen to well intentioned people talk about the food pyramid and "God created this. . .so we should eat it!"

Two years later, my strict diet is my lifestyle.  I love it.  This lifestyle saved my quality of life and continues to positively affect me.  Caving to one simple food for the benefit of someone else's chosen diet or lifestyle leads to an immediate regression in my health. It's a constant reminder of why I follow such a restricted diet in the first place!  It isn't for fun; it's for my quality of life!  My diet is the reason I can participate in physical activities of my choosing, it decreases my migraines, alleviates allergic reactions, helps support my next-to-nothing immune system and is how I maintain a comfortable and healthy lifestyle independent of prescription drugs.   

There were many nay-sayers who told me that I was really overdoing Lent and that I should give up chocolate or something else that might be a little easier.  Well, fasting is not about ease.  Fasting is about sacrifice and ultimately bettering yourself and hopefully becoming more spiritually aligned.  I do not practice Lent because I believe it is required or because I believe I will burn in hell fire if I don't. I practice Lent because I have learned the value that self-discipline has in my physical and spiritual life. 

My goal two years ago was to achieve a better disciplined mind and tongue, have more accountability, and even burn some calories by taking the stairs.  My personal belief is that if you can do something or give up something for 40 days, you can probably do or give up those same somethings, forever!

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this Jess! Thanks for sharing! Your words on "time" reminded me of a time about 10 years ago now - my father worked with chemically dependent youth and and kids with other problems related to abuse and trauma at a rehab center where they lived (in a beautiful natural setting). He often took me along to teach some of the kids beginning piano, and to help with the choir. I remember he put a colorful banner up in his office. It read "While you are talking to me, you are the MOST important person in the world." - kind of dramatic, right? But I remember noting how people responded to that kind of treatment. It was pretty cool, something I will always remember.