Today is Ash Wednesday. Though I’ve always known about it–it’s the first day of Lent–none of the churches I’ve attended really observed it, so I had to look up its meaning. I still don’t feel like I fully get it, though I understand the symbolism of Lent and its small-scale mirroring Jesus’s forty days in the desert. Observers of Lent give something up, usually a bad habit. I’ve known people who give up chocolate, soda, and meat. I’ve known non-religious people who give up something for Lent just for the heck of it–like a reboot of their New Year’s Resolutions. Mostly, these things are not relinquished to emulate Jesus’s suffering, as seems to be intended, but to make their lives in some way better, thus contradicting the whole “you are dust and to dust you shall return” ash sprinkling ritual that kicks the whole thing off. Yes, you might suffer without chocolate, soda, or meat, but you will also gain some nice benefits. I have never known anyone who has (successfully) given up something really inconvenient for Lent, meant to make their lives harder and thus force them to reflect on the suffering of their savior. I can think of a few good ideas. Give up your car. Give up the Internet. Still, I guess those things could make your life better by saving you money, making you walk more, forcing you into social media detox. So stop using your dishwasher or you washing machine. Give up date nights or time with your friends.
Actually–no. Don’t do that. Give up chocolate. I mean, if you want to do the whole self-flagellation thing that’s your prerogative. And as I said, having grown up in evangelical/”non-denominational” churches–the ones with the neon crosses and rock ‘n’ roll worship that tend to take over strip malls–and since I’m currently not a church-goer at all, this is not my holiday. I totally agree that we are dust and to dust we shall return, but maybe on a different level–we are from the earth, we are of the earth; we are carbon-based. We will die and decay. But it might be more accurate to say we are akin to dust, or that we rise from it. Which, on Ash Wednesday, naturally makes me think of the myth of the phoenix.
Okay, maybe it’s a leap. But it coincides with my life rather nicely. You see, I have been having a hard time lately. I’ve been eating horribly, sleeping horribly (baby was never a great sleeper and now she’s going through a regression), and because of these two things I have not felt well enough to exercise. I’ve been dealing with weaning hormones. It’s winter. It would not be too big a metaphorical stretch to say that the woman I was just six months ago caught fire and burned to the ground.
But: today I rise. I’m not giving anything up for Lent; I’m taking things on. Healthy food, exercise, work ethic, housekeeping. I’m doing everything I can to build myself back up again. To that effect, you can look forward to quite a few posts on the subject, including self-challenges with notes on what worked and what didn’t. And if you catch me going off course, getting too negative in my focus, please remind me: the initial effect might be suffering, but the ultimate goal is joy.