Wednesday, February 17, 2010

No Shopping Ban for Lent? Seriously??

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I had said before that I was going to do what I did last year for Lent, which was to give up unnecessary shopping. And then hubby said "I thought we'd been doing that since January." Bah dum bum. Oh yeah, right. So I thought about about it and realized that yes, I had been really good about it. My purchases have been well thought out, practical - many replacing current clothing that was due to go. Yes, I ordered 3 dresses with the latest 20% off but (1) 2 of them are online only and I haven't seen the 3rd in store, and (2) I am most likely returning some/all of them. The nice thing is that I reordered the Tall Minnies, the Long Beach Cardi, and the Pearl Jackie to get the 20% off - and that more than offsets the shipping, so even if I return all the dresses, I'm still way ahead. Nice to have a B&M so close by, but I won't rub it in.

So that left me with what to do for Lent. First of all, Lent is a special time of self-examination and penitence. Lent is a time for concentration on fundamental values and priorities, and is not a time for self punishment. (Thank you, Father Ken, since I just borrowed your excellent wording from your Invitation to a Holy Lent.) I've had some vague ideas swirling around.

Recently I heard on the radio, because I'm not a regular Oprah watcher, about her plea for the no-phone-zone when driving. No calling, texting, etc. DISTRACTED DRIVING = BAD. No other way to say it. But it's more than just the cell phone. How many times have your been out driving and seen other drivers eating, drinking, smoking, applying makeup, reading, shaving, writing, looking anywhere but straight ahead. I guess this is really driven home right now because of the huge snow mounds we have everywhere in the DC area which make driving even more hazardous than usual.

What intrigued me most was my initial reaction to the radio ad when I thought "No way can I do that." That, dear friends, is what gave me pause - to have such an immediate reaction. Red flag much? Um, yeah, clearly this is an area to explore. If you want to sign Oprah's online pledge, here's the link to it. I think I'm more beholden by putting out here on my blog, but I will go ahead and sign online.

This morning, dropping the kids off at a friends', since I had an early meeting, I had to remind myself to call Nancy to ask her to open the garage before we left our garage, wait to drink my tea until I was parked at school, take a phone call while I was parked at the grocery store, not put on lipstick or check messages until I was stopped at a light. We are so accustomed to multi-tasking while driving - we don't even think about it anymore. All of this yields more focus on driving, more quiet, more time for reflection. All of which are good things. But it takes work.

And it's more than just driving. On Monday, I cleared out my work email inbox and my personal email inboxes (I have one for regular and one for the blog). What a sense of relief and accomplishment. I idly thought "that's what I should be doing for Lent, cleaning out my email on a daily basis so that it doesn't get cluttered and distracting." Distraction = less focus. Clutter, whether physical or electronic or mental = distraction. Isn't all the multi-tasking while driving really another form of clutter? Cluttering up our time?

And think about how good it feels to clean out the closet, the utility drawer, the pantry, the linen closet, under the sink, etc. It's cathartic. It's good for the soul. All the clutter just weighs us down in so many ways. And when you think about it, this really does align with a shopping diet or shopping ban. You're not bringing in more cr@p you don't really need

So here's my final decision. My Lenten practice will be No Distracted Driving - under the overall theme of Disengage the Distractions and Clear the Clutter.

And I've decided and declared just in time to head off to church for the 12 noon service.

Other ideas for Lent...or just living better and gaining a new perspective, outside of the usual giving up meat, sugar, etc.:

My mom gave up saying anything bad about someone for Lent last year. She felt better about herself by giving up the negativity and tried to continue it when Lent was over. I think it's a great idea. And she's really not a negative person anyway, but we all are guilty.

Another idea is a Lenten Carbon Fast. I found this fascinating - it was put out by the Archdiocese of Washington. A daily calendar for Lent of something different to do each day to improve our/your environment. Lots of great suggestions on daily living anyway. (No, I'm not Catholic, but that is irrelevant. If it's a good idea, it's a good idea.)

And here's the most intriguing new idea I've heard, which one of our Seminarians related to me. The idea is living simply and in solidarity with people who have suffered losses are living with very little (i.e., Haiti) - pack 1 bag. It can be any bag, it can even be a big bag. But pack 1 bag and live out of that for 40 days. We are so used to all of our "stuff". Would you be able to live out of just 1 bag for that time? Clothes, toiletries, accessories.... I guess I'd have to pack my laptop and phone? Lots to think on here.

So do you observe Lent? What are you doing this year? Thoughts on the above?


James Diggs said...

After reading your blog today about Ash Wednesday and how you connected it to the need in Heiti in the end, I thought you may like to join us on facebook and “give up something for Lent to help Haiti”!

Please join and encourage others to join too so we can walk the journey of Lent together while helping Haiti.

Anonymous said...

I gave up chocolate once for Lent and it was not good. I was not a very nice person and I felt something was missing in my life. Yes, I am that addicted to chocolate.

DaniBP said...

Great post, Heidi!
I don't usually give up anything for Lent. I was raised Catholic so I did lots of the giving-up-candy/meat etc in my childhood. I should consider doing this again, and making my chilrun' think about it too! You've got me pondering! :)
I find this time of year I gravitate towards reflecting on how much I am giving to charity, and how much I fritter away on things I can do without. Maybe that's because it's Tax Time and all of the donation receipts are arriving in the mail. I have a look and think about how I can Do Better, to help others, and to not be wasteful.

Here's a LOL: My MIL gives up "liquor" for Lent, but she still drinks wine, that doesn't count! ;)

Jenni said...

One year while I was in college, I gave up soda for Lent. It went well. Perhaps, too well. (I have one soda every 6 months or so.) I'm not sure what I'll be fasting from for Lent this year; Mr. JVO is literally fasting one day per week. Not a good idea for me.

Distracting driving is a huge problem. In CA, it's against the law to talk or text while driving (unless you have a hands free device). However, now that I live in WA, I've witnessed way too many almost-serious-injury-accidents.

Great post!

Anna said...

Hi Heidi,
I visit your site often - I agree with your thoughts - Lent is more than 'giving up' -it's 'becoming empty', a time to reflect -- I have chosen to not shop or have sugar for the next 40 days - I plan to use the time I would have given to shopping to write and reflect on what I do want to put into my life. Anna

Summerilla said...

Heidi this is an amazing, inspiring post. I am the worst when it comes to talking on the phone and driving. I really don't like talking on the phone when I'm at home and have other things to do and I also think driving sometimes can be boring - so by combining the two I feel like I'm getting something accomplished, I'm the queen of multi-tasking. I have such a hard time slowing down and just trying to focus on one thing at a time, this is something I've decided I really need to work on. This idea about living out of a bag for 40 days - amazing. It would be so enlightening.

ashley said...

hi heidi! i observe lent and just got my ashes. i reeeeeally shouldn't have worn a white turtleneck bc some of the ashes dropped onto my shirt and now STAIN! ahh! but i still havent decided what to give up to improve my inner self. im glad you found yours, stay strong during lent :)

and lol, about what your husband said.

Queen B. said...

Happy Ash Wednesday !
I really enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the night to unwind with a good book...
so for the 3rd Lent season in a row, I'm giving up all alchohol...

and will spend the next 40 days DECLUTTERING the Cozy Kitchen !

Anonymous said...

I am moving next month and I have started packing what I don't use, what an eye opener to how much stuff I have accumulated and is cluttering up my space. Makes me realize how much of this stuff is so unneccessary, and don't need. So my vow is to accumulate/purchase alot less stuff. After next weeks JC rollout I am going on my self imposed shopping ban.

You are so lucky you live near a B&M, I could not reorder my stuff to take advantage of the 20% sale because the return shipping would have been $30.00, clearly not worth it for me to return.

LT said...

Thanks for the thought provoking post! I was going to go with the usual giving up sweets, but at lunch today was talking about doing something more meaningful. Now I have some good ideas!! :)

Veronica said...

What a great and inspiring post!! For Lent I usually give up something, but this year, I am going to "do" something along with giving up my beloved coffee. This year I am going to do a "service" to my community each week. Whether it is volunteering at the library or church, donating food to the local food closets or simply offering to help someone in the grocery store, I am going to use Lent to serve my community. It is a way to focus on others and realize that I am so fortunate in many ways.

Thanks for inspiring me!

post-fab princess said...

Good for you Heidi!!! You know, I almost think I could give up coffee more easily than I could [completely] give up online clothes shopping.

I haz a problem. (:

Anonymous said...

Hey Heidi! Great post. I went to my church for ashes, but I was an hour late...ugh! No ashes this year, but I'm more than making up for it with my penance of NO STARBUCKS! I'm a latte' a day girl, so it's going to be hard, but remembering why I'm doing it will get me through.

My little 9 yr old is giving up skittles and goldfish crackers, though we told him it's not necessary at his age. He's already giving up meat on Friday, which is usually pepperoni pizza. Hold the pepperoni for now =)

HeidiG said...

James Diggs - thank you, I will check it out!

Rosa in DC - ooooh, yes, chocolate is a drug, my friend. :)

DaniBP - excellent point - and one of the goals of giving up something tangible such as coffee, chocolate, etc, is to do something charitable with the savings. Love your MIL story - my dad "gives up" okra & liver each year.

Jennia - it is such a problem. In MD & VA, you aren't supposed to text, but it's a secondary offense, so you can't be pulled over just for that. I wish they would pass the law everywhere - although talking on a hands-free device isn't supposed to be much better (according to the studies).

Anna - thank you! I love how you are planning to do something specific with that time. I hope you get a lot out of it!!

Summerilla - what can I say? Good think you don't commute far?? :) It is amazing how many little things we do to distract ourselves, as I found out yesterday just driving around doing errands. I think I'm going to have to make another CD to listen to in the car to distract me from my distractions when I drive into the office today!

ashley - glad you enjoyed hubby's comment. I wore navy blue today - didn't even think about color, but will remember that next year!!

QueenB - wow, decluttering the kitchen - that's going to be so uplifting!! That's definitely a de-clutter area for me, esp since hubby just pulled half the stuff out of the utensil pot by the stove and now it's all crammed into the big drawer. Time for another purgetr there!

casual-crew - the packing-moving-unpacking process really does drive home how much stuff we dont' need, doesn't it? Last time we moved, I wanted to do all the packing myself so I could purge as I packed - but hubby rightly pointed out that I would be 8 months pregnant when we moved and just might not be up to the job. He was right. :) Didn't get as much clearing out done as I wanted to at that point.

LT - good luck with your decision! I hope you find something that really works for you.

Veronica - I love that you are going to do something instead of giving up - we do traditionally think of just giving up, but it's so much more than that. Good for you!

PFP - yes, we haz some probs alright. I'm going to have to work really hard to not use the "I didn't give up shopping for Lent" loophole. Lord, grant me strength.

cdp - ooh, that is penance. My kids have decided to give up candy - but E specified that it just pertains to candy - ice cream and brownies are still ok. :)