Preparing for Lent is a little like waiting for the next shoe to drop for me. Like, you see it on the high wire above you and know that its grip on the phone line is precarious. It’s going to come down eventually but the when is still up in the air. That’s what preparation for Lent often feels like because the Lenten season with its sacrifice and introspection rarely goes out without a bang.
Sometimes, I’m prepared ahead of time. I’ve taken the time to be introspective and find a particular thread to focus on. But, mostly, I often feel surprised by the start of Lent. I don’t really know why either because I put Lent on my Google calendar many months in advance and see it regularly when I scroll through the months to get an idea of what’s coming up. But even with the words LENT scrawled across 40 days on my calendar, I’m most often scrambling for something to focus on, to sacrifice, to internalize, to flay me alive and rebuild from the pieces cannibalized from my stinking corpse.
I chose to stop buying books. After two or three years of not reading, I got back into it. (Thanks, BookTok.) I was on a buying spree for longer than I care to admit. I doubt I’ll keep that up after Holy Week. My TBR may be 22 books deep on my end table and my wishlist is… well a lot bigger, but I keep getting sucked down different fiction paths that light me up again. I may have jumped headfirst into reading as a learned behavior to hide from reality as a child, but it brings me such joy.
I chose to donate the price of a book each Friday to some organization. I figured since I was saving money by not purchasing books so often, I could donate the proceeds. This isn’t new for me to do during Lent – it’s just the first time I’ve been able to do it each Friday because something Big and Expensive hasn’t come up yet. (My need of new breaks for my car has been a thing since before Lent so it doesn’t count.)
I decided to also add calorie counting again because my avoidant personality loves to cope with food. Food, food, food. Give me way too much to eat, full to bursting, and my fat ass is particularly content even if I bemoan the over-full part.
But the biggest thing to focus on was dedication on the religious front. It’s gotten sorely complicated and things I’ve wanted to do have often fallen to the wayside. So, I needed to evaluate and focus on what I personally need on this mystically, bewildering, meandering path of mine.
Wonder Where You Are
Reevaluation is something that we should all take part in, but my problem is that I’m so used to just sitting like a boulder in the middle of a river, I never take the time. I never make the time. Isn’t it easier to allow the water to burble and scream around me than to actually try and move? The water will eventually wear this boulder down, though, and the sharp edges of the rock face are becoming blunt with age.
It started off with the fucking calendar of course. It’s a lot. There’s too much. It doesn’t seem right and while interesting things crop up now and again that snag my interest, it’s still far too fucking much. It’s this weird mismatch, hodge podge of random anecdotes all swirling around in this sort of free form blob that gives me a headache to look at. It’s too fucking much but that’s how I roll. Overwhelm first; figure it out in pieces later.
And then the land shit. That part isn’t too much; it seems like it’s not enough. As if the wraiths and spirits and monsters tromping through my tiny bog each night are all constantly whispering that I need to do much more than I’ve already started to consider or have done. The spirits of the pasture, the craggy men in the mountains beyond, the burbling river have all joined in partnership to assure me that there’s more.
The tiny little snippets of those hags I talk to online have started to coalesce into something close to sentience in my mind. And the calendar and the local cultus are all adding into the mix in a way that leaves me confused and frightened. This is never what I saw for me. This was something to admire in others’ practice over the early morning coffee or exhausted late night social media doom scrolling.
Reevaluate before you suffocate, except that I’ve already started to suffocate.
Nothing Has Changed at All
This Lenten season felt a little like the world was frozen all around me and I had to explore that frozen tundra to figure out a way to get through. The chaos that consumed me was just another icy wind with gnarled fingers scratching at my face and mind, but it changed nothing coming out of it on the other side. The world was frozen and me right along with it.
There is no true feeling of success here. Sometimes, towards the end, I feel so proud of maintaining the right levels of sacrifice that I’m filled with excitement and joy. I am happy in those moments, a bragging swagger added to each step forward. But this year, the feeling is less about success and more a simple survival.
It is not as if I didn’t finish out this season doing the few things I truly wanted to complete (no new books/donate) but it still feels like even those accomplishments are bland. Or maybe, not bland per se. A simple fact that was never in question. I decided no to this and yes to this and therefore that is what happened. Everything else added to the tally were effluvia and therefore not as nearly as important as I built them up in my mind.
This all speaks to the need for change across the board. Again.
A Strange Light in the Sky
Towards the end of Lent, I usually begin reviewing my list of Items to Be Bought Later for my ancestors so that I can get them something. It’s kind of a “thanks for putting up with my bullshit” present. If I feel particularly good about how things went, I’ll sometimes add something for myself but not this year. They earmarked their present in February so I’ll grab it next week for them. I don’t know who is more excited about this.
For myself? I’m left with a list of questions and to-dos that sort of gets longer each day. The messages adding to those questions and things to see to are all being pushed in concert like everyone came together in a meeting and decided to push the same agenda no matter who is doing the pushing.
So, here’s to Lent and to the Tower card that keeps getting shoved in my face. I see it and maybe I’ll do something about it. Eventually. Probably.