Observance

I did not grow up in a religious tradition that observed Lent. I vaguely knew what it was from friends who complained about having to give up chocolate or French fries or some such, but it didn’t really impact me all that much. As I’ve gotten older and moved from some religious traditions towards others, I have found that Lent is an interesting time of year for me. Since I didn’t have the childhood enforcement of giving something up, I didn’t loathe the idea. Furthermore, I didn’t feel tied to giving up anything particular. As I have observed Lent in the last ten years or so (has it really been a decade since we went to the National Cathedral on Ash Wednesday, Mom?), I’ve experimented with different ways of marking the 40 days. This is one of the things I like about Lent. Some years I’ve given up a specific object to varying degrees of success. Others years I’ve not really “given up” anything…but have tried to be aware of what I do and say (or not). What I like most about Lent, in my experience, is that it is a time to renew myself. Sure, it can be (and truly is at some levels) about self-denial. But I would rather think of it as a return to something simpler by removing things from my life that don’t need to be there, and by taking stock of what I do have and being thankful for it.

This Lent, I’m going to be thinking about what I need, and what I don’t need. I have a wonderful, loving companion who makes me feel special every day. I have family who I love and who love me. I live in a fantastic apartment, a kind of place I never would have dreamed I would live in at this point in my life (or maybe ever). I have a spare bedroom that is full of books and yarn to feed my two main hobbies—reading and knitting—plenty to keep me busy for way more than the next several weeks/months/year or so! I am blessed to have hi-tech stuff around—TV, iPod, computers, TiVo. I have food to eat, and plenty of clothes to wear. My material needs are met. And if there is something I’m missing, either I don’t really need it, or if I do, I have resources to get what I need. Although I don’t have a cat, which I want, but really don’t need (although a fluffy ball of fur would be nice…)…

This Lent, I’m not going to excise any of these things from my life (and I’m not getting a cat). I’m thankful for them and feel blessed that I have them and don’t feel like it’s wrong or bad or inadvisable to appreciate and enjoy them. However, I am going to endeavor to refrain from acquiring anything more. No more books, no more magazines. Interweave Knits Spring Issue will have to wait. So will a trip to that yarn store Beth and I have been talking about.

The no more yarn will probably be hard…I read blogs and get emails and see all the lovely fiber goodness that calls to me and I hope I won’t be weak and break down! No more new (or new-to-me) clothes (this might also be a bit challenging). Before I open my wallet, I will ask “do I really need this”? If the answer is no, it needs to go back on the shelf or rack or I need to navigate away from the shopping cart on the internet page (probably better not to go to any of these places in the first place!).

I’m curious to see how much money I’ll save. I’m curious to see how hard it will be. I’m curious to see if I falter. I know I’ve got a few things that will arrive due to previous purchases and hope they will remind me that I have enough and don’t need more. I’m curious to see if I can extend my observance past Lent and make it more of an every-day thing.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and began my experiment/observance yesterday on Ash Wednesday. I don’t always attend services on weekdays or for particular Holy days throughout the year, but Ash Wednesday is one I’m often drawn to. In her book, Girl Meets God, author Lauren Winner writes about her experiences in New York on Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent. I discovered her book on Ash Wednesday four years ago, and her words resonated with me then. I went back to the book last night to read it again. She gave up reading for Lent. She lived in a typical hole in the wall apartment in New York City and had 3,000 books there. And gave it up. Am I being too easy on myself? Should I give something up that would be uncomfortable? Something like reading or knitting? Maybe so. For those that can and do do that, I applaud and admire you. But I think for me this Lent is more about self-discipline and being satisfied with what I have than self-denial per se. We’ll see how it goes.

Knitting content soon, I promise.

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