Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ashes to Ashes

I don't really go out dancing very much anymore - especially not on a Tuesday night.  But last night was Mardi Gras and I met a few friends for drinks where my friend's band was playing classic rock with a few New Orleans tunes thrown in for the holiday.  We had fun, people watching, singing loudly, and we even got up and danced for a couple of songs.  I left feeling happy, glad I didn't just hit the couch and grab the remote.

That mid-week merriment means that today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the day of making a sacrifice that will remind you over the next 40 days of the suffering of Christ.  Lent was never part of my childhood tradition.  My Fundamentalist upbringing avoided doing anything that might be Catholic, so we never did ashes or Lent or even candles during worship.  My young observation of Lent was that the Catholics went out for seafood on Friday night.  I couldn't figure out how lobster related to Jesus. As I grew older, Lent seemed to be a bit like a renewal of failed New Year's Resolutions: I'm giving up candy, or soda, coffee, wine, fried foods.... Most sacrifices seemed dietary.

But considering how much I enjoyed just an hour and a half of fun with friends last night, I've decided to give up not making time to enjoy life. I'm sure, like all vows, I'll have lapses where I'm working all day, on the weekends, crowding out space for joy.  I'm going to count on my children and my friends to remind me - even if I do have to schedule it on the calendar weeks in advance.

But fortunately, joy doesn't have to be time consuming. I can find simple moments of joy when I release myself - even momentarily - from the tension that arises from expectations: expectations about the helpfulness & motivation of my children, expectations about my productivity, expectations about my body. Not that I won't nag or write lists or eat cake, but for Lent, I am giving up my attachment to expectations of perfection. I will breathe deeply, letting my exhale blow those expectations away.  I am an imperfectionist.  Much easier than it's opposite.