Even though I’m not an observant person of any organized religious persuasion, I was a regular church-goer as a kid. So many of the seasonal rituals are still part of my life. I seek out opportunities to cry at Christmas over singing Silent Night. I love the boom of the Alleluia Chorus. I am still moved by the way light slants through tall windows across brown pews in a white church.
And the idea of taking an active stance—to either do or not-do something—for the forty days of Lent still attracts me. I think forty days is rather a perfect striving-for-change number, short enough to be realized, long enough to have an impact.
My first experiment with Lentinism happened when I was about twelve. At that time, I thought I wasted too much time watching television. Don’t ask me why I thought that. I have no idea. Maybe it was because I had become such a big reader by that time.
In any case, just before Lent began that year, I observed and tracked how many hours of television I watched per week. (Yep, I’m still methodical.) Then I decided to reduce that number to one hour per day for all of that year’s Lent.
I have to say that I was one determined sixth-grader because I was diligent. I never told anyone in my family what I was about. This was a private pursuit only. Besides, seeing me curled up on my bed with a book was so familiar, no one noticed when my reading time increased.
I learned three very important lessons that Lent, ones that are still part of my outlook on life. First, I discovered how useless television is, an opinion that gets reinforced every time I visit anyone who watches commercial TV.
Second, I learned a lot about my own strength of will, a key thing to know about oneself, I believe.
Third and most important, I learned that I could change my habits—emotional habits, physical habits, mental habits—through the force of my own will. Of these three lessons, the third is the one that has to be reinforced most often, the one I forget most readily.
So as Lent 2012 approached, I started contemplating the fact that I was due for a revisit to lesson number three. But as John Lennon once observed, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
When I woke up on February 22 (Ash Wednesday), my husband was sick with the flu, I hadn’t settled on anything meaningful (to me) to do for Lent, and by bedtime, I was extremely sick myself. So Lent is a bit late for me this year but it’s OK. Now I’ve decided what I want to do.
Be grateful for one thing in my life. Every day.
Forty days. Forty gratitudes. Starting today, February 28, through April 7.
Today, I am grateful for gingerale and whoever discovered that ginger settles your stomach. No, seriously, if you had been where I have been for the past week, you’d be very grateful for gingerale too.
It’s the details of life that matter most.