It’s Ash Wednesday today–the beginning of Lent here in Catholic Christian Land–and I’m off to the girls’ school this morning for mass and the annual smear of holy dirt on the ol’ forehead. They’ll be looking for me, my girls, and I’ll be sure to sit in the middle of the church, where we can all see each other, so that they know I’m here for them and that we’re on this journey (you know: life, faith, family, to the grocery store to stock up on fish for Fridays) together. They asked me yesterday to explain “ordinary time”–those lulls between church holidays and the preparations for them–because they had been taught that ordinary time was ending in order for this new season to begin.
In that vein, I’m using this day to start fresh. I had a whole list of resolutions written up as we flipped the calendar to 2017 two months ago, and blog post ideas galore, and Life-Changing Habits to begin (like the all caps there? Do you sense the importance?). But then life happened: I had a book to finish, and another one to plan, and I’m not at all embarrassed to say that that work took up every spare moment of my time so far this year. It’s been a whirlwind. As I sit here now, on the first of March, I feel overwhelmed, and behind: on laundry, on my goals, on all the paperwork the school sends home, and I’m just…done. I hate living like this: nothing/no one gets the attention it deserves, and instead of attacking something head-on, I just…retreat. If it’s fight or flight, I’m a deranged bird still heading south mid-summer while the rest of my flock is sunning itself in, like, the Hamptons. Outside of the writing these past few months, I feel like I’m still failing at the rest of adulthood, wholly. Isn’t the age of forty a little too old to be feeling this way?
So back to this idea that ordinary time has ended. Catholics are always talking about what they’re giving up for Lent: Cookies! Booze! Facebook! I need to approach this season–this beginning–from a different angle this time. Maybe instead of giving up something, I think I finally need to do just that: give up giving up.
Let me consider that one for a hot second.
We get ashes today to remind us that we’re only here for a small bit of time. So what if I take this Lent as an invitation to look at how I’m contributing to this world? To my family? What if take measures to start on a path of really being here for a reason and not just filling up time and space (or wasting it on Instagram and organizing the exact same pile of paperwork over and over again)? I’d like to think we’re raising our children to believe that they’re here for purpose, but how can I help them (and me) actually practice it, instead of flailing around wondering why nobody ever has any clean underpants? And I swear I’m not just considering this because the idea of giving up cookies makes me sad. Honest.
A plan is coming together–or baby steps, really. I’ll fill you in as I go along. This may not sound very Lent-y or repentant at all, but this is what I’m choosing this year (and yeah, I’ll probably give up the cookies, too. Old habits die hard). But here’s the root of it: Easter this year falls on April 16, which happens to be the anniversary of my dad’s death (nine years ago, because pancreatic cancer sucks) so you know the symbolism for this writer is laying there huge and heavy and looming ahead of me like some sort of solemn challenge. I have six weeks to focus on shifting the way I walk through this world. I have a new year to begin.
I’ve a life to start living intentionally.