I was talking with a friend about letting go, talking of releasing that which no longer serves. Then I realized what was coming up. Lent. Soon I’d have to look at what I am choosing to relinquish. Lent is coming up and it’s time to give something up. While I’m a recovering catholic, I never really left the beautiful rituals and Lent is one of my favorites.
The short definition of Lent is that it is the season of release and repentance for Catholics. Muslims have Ramadan. Jews take Rosh Hashanah to detach from the world and focus on their inner selves. Even if you are agnostic or atheistic, everyone can use a time to reflect or recharge and of making ready for the new.
It starts with Ash Wednesday(today) and ends about a month and half later on Easter. To tell the truth, in my house growing up, it started the Tuesday before because Mom always made pancakes and sausage for dinner. Meat was a no-no on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent. Breakfast for dinner was rare so us kids happily looked forward to Fat Tuesday.
For me, Lent has always been a great period to refocus on Source, self, what’s separating me from being my best and what I can do to renew that connection. I like to choose one concrete thing to give up and one abstract thing signifying my intention and purpose.
Coming out of winter, these forty days will be giving me a space in time that says, “whoa, what was that?” “You see that?” “So that’s what that meant!” Or “Something is about to be different, let’s get ready”.
It is a little scary to be in the in-between space. It can feel cloudy and undefined. To be willing to concede the stupid things said and dumb things done. To feel the winds of change blowing and still be uncertain. To sit still and look at myself without judgment; to just be numb, sad, scared, hurt, mad or even to cry because of what is seen. It seems a bit maudlin. Still, it’s hard to resist the temptation to quickly snap out of it and get to the other side, as if existing in this space of contemplation will somehow make us stuck here.
We all talk a lot about periods of change; what change looks like, how to navigate it, what it feels like. Then we run like hell to be done with change, transition. What happened?
What made us think that life is only bright shiny moments? Why do we want happy moments to last three seconds and bad ones to last no time at all and nothing else to be in the middle?
Hallway moments are a part of life too.
There are times when we may need to get outside of ourselves and allow the goodness of life to wash away our fears and doubts, to let life bring us out of our dark times. But this is not darkness. This is only a period of stillness, a time of low light. I’m talking about pushing past the fear that it will stay, sitting with the feeling, sitting with the fear the sun won’t rise again and we’ll be stuck in the middle. I am speaking of willingly keeping a vigil for that which has already gone before. This mourning allows the relinquishing of times that are no longer here to make way for a refreshed space. This is a sacred, releasing time.
Acknowledging that I am reassessing the old is a powerful way to support my open heart and to spur change in my life.
There is no time limit, no right or wrong way to do it. My friend made the observation that they often thought of Lent as the period of time where they were in the shower right after turning the water off, when they close their eyes while waiting for most the water to run down their body but just before reaching for a towel and stepping out. When it was time to move, they knew it instinctively. I love that!
In this time of contemplation, decide to give up something for a little while. Make it meaningful but simple. One year someone I know gave up sugar. Man, did that change her life! Another stopped watching television (including the internet). In the past, I’ve give up everything from coffee (one of the best/worst decisions I’ve ever made) to meat, to apologizing for no reason (sistas, can I get an amen?). Sometimes I pick up whatever I laid down. Sometimes, I don’t. I haven’t heard an “I’m sorry” come out of my mouth to a wall in years!
This year, I’m giving up wheat flour. Again. No bread in any form. No biscuits, cookies or pastries. No sandwiches, fried chicken or fried anything. No pasta. No donuts.
I know! I know!
My abstract, and I had to give this some thought, will be giving up how I look at myself. Literally. When I check myself in the mirror, there is this reflection of a thought in my eyes. It’s sometimes a short look, sometimes a long one. It sizes me up to my younger self or my shoulda-been self or my coulda-been self or my never-been self. It’s a look that in the blink of an eye says,,, I don’t know what it says. Yet. Could be “eh, no big deal” or “not quite there yet, almost fabulous”. Of course it’s a damn sight better than hearing your ego proclaim “Ewww!” every time it sees you, but “Eh” can wear your heart down too. But I’m going to ask and sit with the question until the answer comes, whatever it means.
The point is, I choose. In place of the bread, the “Ewww!” or even the “Eh”, there’s no need for me to do anything. Not unless I choose to. So I sit with me and just watch.
I meditate, pray or journal on what I see or don’t see within myself. Or not. If the feeling to make myself do something more is strong, I write it down, like a calendar item and give myself a date and a promise to handle it after Easter. I don’t let the desire for change overcome what is taking place inside me right now. Moving with only the desire to understand what I was, honoring who I was, who I am and not changing the feeling underneath. This moment is mine. I allow the fullness of being in that alone moment to show me all of the colors of me and to guide me to the release.
You try. Give it your full attention; let it inform you of the subtle changes, the big and small expressions of you that you carry today. Allow yourself the luxury of the backwards glance. Then let it drift away.
The next movement into another way of being will be effortless. It it will be smoother. It will be a choice, not a reaction. We’ve willingly cleared the mind-body confusion over old patterns of behavior, minimized regrets and leftover feelings. Like Lent, we will have prepared the soil of our souls for the next phase of the Sun. And peeps. Easter means plenty of peeps.
Hey, don’t judge me. I’ve already given donuts and fried chicken.
Leave. my. peeps. alone.