Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The season of Lent is upon us

Happy Ash Wednesday to my fellow Christian group members!  For those that are not familiar with the celebration of Ash Wednesday, it is the beginning of the church season of Lent; a period of 40 days during which Christians are encouraged to prepare their hearts for the celebration of Easter.  It is customary for Christians to try to grow in their relationship with God by praying more, fasting from food, drink, treats, or habits, and/or giving time, funds, or other items to charity.

 When I was growing up it was always a big deal to think about what I would “give up” for the 40 days (plus 6 Sundays) of Lent.  Most kids gave up candy, sweets, or soda and all Catholics gave up eating meat on Fridays. Sometimes adults gave up, or at least cut back, on smoking or drinking.  Sometimes I tried to give up fighting with my siblings or sassing back to my mother, neither of which lasted very long! Often we would pray together more often as a family or I would attend Mass every day….and of course, there were the traditional things like Stations of the Cross, the rosary, and other rituals meant to strengthen one’s faith.  Lent was a really big deal when I was a kid.

As I matured, I began to think differently about Lent and I decided that instead of ‘giving up” something, that I would try to “take something on,” so I tried to think of a habit or practice that I could do to help me become a better person.  As I mentioned above, it often involved more prayer or religious practices. Sometimes it was reading a good spiritual book or a devotional or scripture mediations designed specifically for Lent. Often I’d volunteer to help at the Church or other charity. All of these were good things…and they certainly didn’t HURT me…but I never seemed to be able to stick with them after Easter. 

In recent years, and again this year, I have decided to observe the season a bit differently. I don’t eat candy or sweets anymore so I can’t really give them up, although I have committed to being a bit more careful in my food choices because I can feel my clothes getting tighter. I have, however, decided to fast from “thoughts” that keep me from being the best I can be. I am going to attempt to give up ‘negative thinking”.....thoughts of worthlessness, guilt, fear, and doubt.  I am going to try to be more conscious of the words I speak….gossip, sarcasm, and irritability.  I want to give up the thoughts that tell me that “I don’t deserve this……or….I don’t think I am capable of doing….this or that……….or……I’m afraid of…..whatever.”  I want to give up thoughts of selfishness, self-doubt, and anxiety….and try harder to trust, believe, and be kind.  After all, those type of thoughts will sabotage my journey quicker than a candy bar (which I won’t eat anyway).  As I’ve said before, “There are a lot of skinny people that are ugly, rude, and mean.”  Changing one’s eating habits only help change one’s body shape, whereas, changing one’s thoughts will transform your spirit and enhance your beauty regardless of your size.”

I’m also going to try to BE a more thoughtful person……so every day I will try to say “THANK YOU” to those around me; the stranger that holds the door open for me or helps me find something in the store; the co-worker who says, “good job” or the student that comes to his/her appointment prepared; the people that make me smile on a daily basis….and the God that gives me life.  I will try to smile a bit more….even when I don’t want to or am tired. I will try to see the good in everyone….even those that get on my nerves or disappoint me. I will try to be more active…more organized…..more productive with my time….and more in tune with the world around me.  Sigh…..this all sounds more challenging than giving up soda…..but yet, these are the very things that will transform my life and make it easier for me to stay focused on my weight loss journey.  Too often we use food to fill an emotional void or to cover up other issues of stress and anxiety, whereas, if we focus on liking how we “act” and becoming a nicer person, we may find that we are less focused on food and it is easier to say No to temptation.

None of this will be easy and I will fall time and time again in the coming weeks. I will be tempted to lash out, especially when I am tired. I will be tempted to eat when I am not hungry, especially when I encounter emotional distress.  I will be tempted to blame others when things don’t go as I want them to. I will be tempted to be cranky when I have more things to do than hours in the day; irritable when I’m lonely (long-distance relationships are tough); and negative when my body aches…..but…. I will keep trying.  No one is perfect….and just like you on your journey….I will have days when I wonder if it’s worth it. I will have days when I fail and blow it. I will have days when I want to give up…..but hopefully…. I will be blessed with another day to start over again.  And through it all….. the real goal….is to grow in my faith; to strengthen my body; and to make a difference in someone’s life.

How will you observe Lent?