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?