Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. A day of fasting and the beginning of penitence. I don’t have a big list of indiscretions – what counts? – I don’t have wrath, but I do get angry, with my negative bank account I guess covetous is up there too. This will be my time of introspection. I know I seem to do that a lot with my writing and my depression, but during Lent it feels less of an imposition on the world but an obligation to myself.
Last week, our parish gave out ceramic hearts (last year it was a small metal cross) – something to hold, to focus on for meditations, prayer, for looking inside oneself, an extension and giving your fingers something to do; a distraction without being distracting. This kind of thing is perfect for me. I’ve always had some kind of talisman – a dice pouch, Bob, a special coin or key chain. It brings the calm to me when I’m not able to meet the calm in the chapel.
Last year for me was a practice run. It’s for real this year. I’m giving up Diet Coke (and all soda) again. This is kind of a big deal for me. I’ll add the green tea with jasmine. I have the next forty days to think about my really huge step at Easter in becoming Catholic. I’m going to write a 40 Days of Lent (similar to my 365 project). Just a little blurb about faith; my faith, and a positive commentary or something. (This first one kind of got away from me.) I want to fix things. I’m going to do better for myself, which is about as vague and abstract as it gets.
I started my good news jar for 2014 in January. Then my friend promptly died and my other friends disappeared. I haven’t put anything in the jar since New Year’s Eve – technically not even in 2014. I’m going to try and change this.
I’m going to reach out to the two friends I seem to have lost. I won’t toss out ultimatums – they’re cruel and they don’t work, but beyond this upcoming effort, I’m not sure I should continue on past it. If something is broken that badly, it might be better to wrap those remnants.
The third friend will have to come to me, I suppose since reaching out is being pushed away. But Lent isn’t for me in relation to them; it’s for me to find me; the me who’s been missing or hiding for a time.
I’m not good alone; on my own, I fail. These last few years have shown me that having people in my corner has been my lifeline, even when I didn’t know I needed a lifeline. That thin red strand that keeps me afloat. My coping is always more than coping. It is friendship; it is support; it is my hope, and I fear it is gone.
Someone once told me that I was their only friend. I protested. They had many friends. But now I know what they meant and what they felt, and I also know not to ever dismiss again what someone else is feeling so passionately when they’re feeling alone in the dark.
This Lent for me is allowing myself to rant, but not whine. It is having negative feelings and being able to express them in a positive, constructive way. Lent is my new year.
Yesterday, I went to the falls, scroll down for the pictures, and I sat about ten minutes in the cold. It was really cold, and I barely noticed it. I wasn’t frozen solid; I just wasn’t cold anymore. It calmed me, but it didn’t make me feel better. It just gave me a compartment to put my sadness in for the rest of the day, and welcome the peace that was left inside me. It wasn’t a perfect solution but it was something, and I’ll take it.
I have things to think about with my health, where I go from here, how I go and whatever else pops into my head. There is nothing like getting a list of what is wrong with you (whether physical or mental), added to what you already knew was a long list. My mother died at 61; my father at 64. There is no reason to think I have more than those fifteen or so years left in me. Some days, there’s no point. Some days, it’s less than no point.
I was always under the impression that Lent was a holy time, a sad time, but in the last year, I’ve found that it is more about renewal; a time of joy at the coming of Christ’s Resurrection and the knowledge of what is to come for us all. It is not simply taking something away, but the adding of something. For me that has been my writing and that will continue, but I have other things to add in these next forty days.
I am setting goals for myself, both daily and long-term Lenten goals.
I will write about the saint I’ve chosen for my confirmation name, pending approval, I suppose. I will also write for my parish’s blog about the faith formation I have undergone. Brittany’s birthday is in a fortnight. I think of her every day, but her birthday should be about her life and what she’s given me. I have two Lenten devotionals to read each day, and these will give a focus to my thoughts and my prayers for the next forty days.
Sunday is the Rite of Sending/Rite of the Elect. I am both looking forward to it and terrified at the prospect. I’ve been told that we will be sitting in the fifth row of the Cathedral. That’s pretty close to the front. Everyone will watch me walk up to shake the Bishop’s hand and sign the book that officially begins the last few weeks before I receive my sacraments. It is daunting, and I feel so small, but small in the good way, not in the lonely way. My drop will be added to the ocean of other Christians who’ve found their own ways to Jesus.
There are three obligations of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Lent fasting is much different than what I’m used to for Yom Kippur fasting. For Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, I can take two small meals and one large meal and no snacks, and of course abstinence from meat on Fridays. My yearly Yom Kippur fast was no food or drink. Water only to take medicine. Almsgiving can be money donations, but it can also be (and should also be) time and talent, and so for that I am volunteering at my kids’ school for the next three Fridays as well as writing for my parish blog (at least one post). The money I would have spent on diet soda I will donate to Random Acts and my church.
I will leave you with the words that the woman said to me as she made the sign of the cross on my forehead in ash: “Repent and follow the Gospel.” I’m looking forward to the renewal that I can feel just beyond my field of vision. I feel calm and excited to be beginning anew.