For Lent this year, I decided to take a fast from self comfort and fill in the void with self compassion and intentionality. Basically I’m trying to force myself to feast on mindfulness until Easter. And you know what? So far I’m failing pretty hard. Even though I’ve totally refrained from coffee and tv and social media outside of communication (ok I slipped a little out of forgetfulness, but really I’m doing ok!), but it hasn’t really kept me mindful. It turns out that I can slip into a self comforting state of forgetfulness and distance from any pain in my world without any prop whatsoever. I literally have the ability to just sit there and turn off my brain. How on earth do I have this ability? I didn’t used to be this way.
I don’t know at what point exactly when everything became so hard. When I was a kid, I used to spend hours digging up rolly pollies just so I could watch them crawl across the ground and curl up into those funny little balls when I poked at them. My best friend and I used to dig under bushes in almost religious silence, wondering about the complexities of the smallest thing. Rain was glorious and produced fantastic puddles. Chocolate was good. Tag was fun. Blowing bubbles was a majestic miracle. And when you liked someone and wanted to be their friend, by golly, that’s exactly what you did. The world was challenging, but always simple.
But as an adult, I flop the equation. Most of life doesn’t seem that hard anymore. I fold laundry. I sweep floors. Money must be made to buy food. Kids must be bathed. Maybe when the challenge and wonder goes out of so much of life from repetition and familiarity, the sacred goes with it. I don’t see wonderful tiny creatures in the ground, I see dirt that can be tracked in. I don’t see the beauty of rain, I see the inconvenience that comes with being cold and wet. I don’t see playing tag, I see exhaustion and how out of shape I am. Everything is complicated but nothing is sacred and valuable. Things are easy but joy is hard to find.
I think at some point I decided that if I trip along, mostly surviving, never intentionally doing anything (good or bad, because I could mistake one for the other and that is not a risk I’m willing to take), arriving at the end of the day without any idea really how I got there, it was somehow better than making real decisions with actual responsibility taking. I want to be doing more than surviving and avoiding blame. I want to be awake to life!
So I decided that in order to accomplish this, I might actually have to consider planning my day. This is not something I really ever do. And I realized as I sat down to make my first plan, that it horrifies me. That much intentionality highlights what probably undergirds the whole problem: I don’t even know what I want to do because I am so afraid what I want might be wrong or it might not work. And that’s not a silly fear. I want a lot of wrong things and I do a lot of stupid stuff when left to my own devices. What can I do?
Quite awhile ago I was reading through The Jesus Story Book Bible with my oldest son. To my great frustration, he kept flipping the pages on me instead of letting me read. In my usual habit I unnecessarily flipped out at him. Bedtime was almost over. I was almost free! I couldn’t handle the delay.
“If you aren’t going to pay attention to me reading then I’m just going to be done reading to you!” *huff huff grimace.
“But mommy,” he said. “I just want to look at Jesus!”
My heart melted. I was a jerk. I let him look at Jesus all he wanted. I apologized for being rude. We talked about who Jesus was and why he is so good. I was grateful that my son had managed to draw in my focus and push me up out of my need to just move past the things in my day that I had to do.
Every time something like this catches me, it feels like waking up. And every time I don’t really remember why I fell asleep again. Until I do. Why is this so hard?
I’m only a few days into this, and I’m not sure I have any idea what I’m doing. Why on earth did I pick such a big huge thing as being mindful? But I have a feeling my son had the right idea. I can’t do this thing alone. And after all, it seems that what I’m continually looking for is cheap comfort in the face of a world that is too terrifying to think about very often, if I can stomach it at all.
But there is real comfort out there. So again and again, every time I’m feeling tired, or very mortal, or like eating when I’m not hungry, or tuning out to tv, or books or movies, or even just sitting still and thinking about nothing at all–I try to think about how my son knew exactly what he needed to be doing.
And I just want to look at Jesus.
This could totally be yet another example of how I really suck at picking reasonable project scope. But let’s face it, even if I crash and burn horribly at this and drive up to Starbucks tomorrow demanding a Venti-triple-shot-half-caf-mocha (Oh goodness, that was just off the top of my head. I don’t drink anything like that. Don’t judge me!), I’m headed in the right direction. And I will be present a whole lot more which is really good. And I will look at Jesus a whole lot more, which is priceless.
That’s my plan for now. That and maybe blowing some bubbles. Is there anything more like paying attention to the tiny pieces of the moment than blowing bubbles?
Anybody else out there feel like they may have bit off more than they can chew for Lent?