The Lenten season decided to sneak up on me this year. One moment, it was the New Year and a decision about observing Lent was weeks ago; the next moment, it was only in a few days and I had to decide whether or not I could face it again. After last year’s fiasco, the ancestors couldn’t really blame me for being leery of the prospect.
The funny thing is that, even with how awful things were last year, once I was able to look back and take stock, I could in fact see how it worked to better develop my relationship with them. I spent more time with them during Lent and I found myself relying on their advice more heavily than I would typically. On that end, we could say it was a bit of a success.
And as always, I really don’t want to disappoint them. They aren’t able to take part in these little rituals anymore. It’s for them that I say an occasional Hail Mary or Our Father. It’s for them that I pay homage to saints and have begun adding certain saints’ feast days to my celebratory calendar. It is with my ancestors in mind and the knowledge that through me, they can reconnect with their physical representations of faith that I do these things.
So, as much as I definitely wanted to say, “oh no, I think not,” this year, I knew that I wouldn’t. No matter how awful things were last year, I could remind myself that the the point in the season is about deprivation, about preparation, and about reflection. I spent a good deal of my time last year doing all of those things and at the end of the day, even with the awful fallout, I can say that it definitely wrought change even if I didn’t really expect it to.
With that reminder in mind, I thought about what I wanted to give up. I have a habit of choosing really big things and then getting angry with myself for not following through or forgetting or just generally not going a full 40 days of deprivation.
I think, in all the times I’ve observed, I’ve been successful exactly one time. On the flip side, I can say that last year was a success in and of itself, just not in the way I had expected.
I’ve decided to get down to brass tacks this year though. I’ve decided to tackle two of the Seven Deadly Sins: sloth and gluttony.
One of my major failings – and I have many – is sloth.
I spend my entire work week having to complete things in very specific and predefined timelines. If I don’t meet the expectation that we have given the client for whatever item I am working on, then our value/add goes down in their eyes. And of course, I hear about it from the Big Boss.
So all day, every day, I am working with the knowledge that I have a finite period of time to see to whatever it is that I am seeing to.
Almost in response to this constant pounding nag that I have only so much time to do something, I tend to put off everything else in my life. I have to send out mail? Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow. I have to flip my bookshelves because they’re bending again? Meh, I’m not in the mood so I’ll get it tomorrow. There’s a sink full of dishes and no bowls left? You know what, I’ll just get to it tomorrow.
The problem is that tomorrow never shows up because by then, the task has become insurmountable. Instead of dealing with things when it’s time to deal with them or when I realize it needs to be done, I continue to push it off in the hopes that either someone else will do it for me or I can nag someone else into doing it for me (with limited success).
When no one bothers to step up to the plate to do it, I end up doing it anyway and am disgruntled by how much harder I’ve made the task for myself. And yet, I continue to do this.
Tomorrow is a day that never comes and the cycle flourishes.
The best part is that I know what will happen when I tell myself I’ll deal with it later, but I don’t bother to stop putting myself in this untenable position over and over again.
I have a variety of reasons why this is a thing. If it’s because the chore in question is related to Big Adulting Stuff, the reason is quite simply that I am too anxious to do the Big Adulting Stuff. So, it’s better to ignore it (wrong – as I know) than to actually do it. If it’s the smaller things, then the only reason is because I’m exhausted and I frankly don’t want to have to deal with it.
As tired or anxious as I may be that doesn’t mean life doesn’t keep happening.
So, in an effort to continuing in this vein for yet another year, I’ve decided to take into consideration the fact that what happens when I get home from work tends to mean that I am not going to do whatever needs to be done.
During dinner, I get sucked into Internet or TV. And then I’ll read because I don’t want to deal with the things waiting for me. And then I’ll write if I have time or continue to binge watch whatever I was binge watching earlier that week. I have a lot of things that drag my attention away from where it needs to be, so I’ve decided to limit that.
Television off. Phone on vibrate unless I’m using it to listen to music. Books and laptop are not allowed out until 7:30. That gives me an hour and a half to deal with whatever thing I’ve been putting off that needs to stop being put off.
Another major failing of mine is a form of gluttony.
When I think of the word gluttony, the image those most often comes to mind is a Roman banquet of epic proportions replete with periodic stops at the vomitorium to make room for the next course. I can absolutely and confidently say that I am not like that – in fact, I’ve been losing weight fairly steadily since I flipped my diet last year prior to my gallbladder surgery.
But, I do have a tendency of eating out more than my budget can handle. And I have a tendency of blowing my monthly budget out of the water with idiot mistakes… like going out to eat more often than I should. To me, not following the strict budgeting I’ve put into place for myself in an effort to achieve a Big Adult Goal this year is a part of gluttony.
In a way, gluttony ties back to my slothful tendencies. As I was thinking on these two things to give up, it occurred to me that, very easily, the two go hand-in-hand. While I may not consciously push off cooking dinner, I always have a host of canned responses as to why I don’t bother. The phrasing of those reasons tends to be me highlighting how tired I am because of work and how I’m just so hungry right this second that I need to get something immediately instead of waiting.
I’m lying to myself every time I do this and I know that I am. Every Tuesday, or thereabouts, the kid and I make dinner together. (Usually tacos.) It doesn’t take me that long to get that dinner finished and every Tuesday, I come home “starving” and desiring to just dip into a bag of Cheetos or make something quick that I can eat that much sooner.
But because this important to my son, and to the S.O. when he comes home to leftovers, I know that the canned responses are, in fact, bullshit. It’s a carefully coordinated and class act, but it’s all bullshit for as far as the eye can see.
So, I will be saying good-bye, generally anyway, to junk food and fast food. Going out to dinner for a pre-planned [and therefore budgeted] meal with the S.O. or my son is one thing, but going out three nights a week because I don’t feel like taking the half hour it may take me to cook dinner is ridiculous.
And this way, hopefully, I’ll be able to, you know, stick to that budget that’s been crying at me every month when I look at my bank statements. That way, I can ensure that on top of giving up, I can continue to give back to the community and various causes as I was doing last year even if it’s just a few bucks here and there.
After my last fast food hurrah with my son yesterday, I took the time to clean and rearrange the ancestors’ place of veneration. I sang songs and made sure that I had everything set up with all the appropriate symbolism that goes into my relationship with them on a daily basis.
I sat down with the ancestors briefly (since I had to help out with the annual Valentine’s Day hoopla for the kid’s school) and asked them what sort of advice they had for me going into this. I reminded them about the concerns I had going into last year’s Lenten season and that, to be honest, I didn’t really have the same concerns but that they were there nonetheless. I pulled The Empress card in response.
Among other things, The Empress is about nurturing and creativity. These were two things that I failed to do for myself last year. Instead of nurturing myself and pushing myself forward, I was too busy beating myself up for every perceived mistake. Instead of going into the season with creativity and excitement, I went into it with a heavy heart and just about set myself up to fail.
As always, I don’t know what the next 40 days will bring, but it certainly will be interesting. Hopefully, when things get a little tight or I start getting down on myself, I can reflect back on The Empress and remind myself that success in something like this is measured less by the tangible and more by the feeling left behind.