Thursday, February 11, 2016

On Lent and Seasonal Goal Setting


Time certainly does fly. In particular, I can't believe another Lent has officially begun. I don't know if it's just because active Christianity is still relatively new to me or what, but I actually don't dread Lent the way I remember a lot of my friends doing when I was growing up. Maybe it's because I tend to be a little too self-indulgent these days. I feel like I'm in perpetual need of a cleansing and Lent seems to be the perfect time for that. Cleansing is never easy, but it always makes me feel amazing -- physically and mentally, as well as spiritually.

Last year, I certainly observed Lent, but I'm not sure how well I really did with some of my more tentative goals. Even though I fasted, gave something up for the season, and abstained when I was supposed to, I didn't really feel like I did enough. I'm not sure what I thought was missing, but I personally just felt like I should be doing more. That said, I thought it might help if this year I actually wrote some of my goals down. When I make a promise to myself or express a goal in writing, it always feels more "real" to me than it does if I don't.

On Sharing Faith and Beliefs

Seth and I usually give up pizza for Lent and with good reason. It's something we both enjoy and miss when we're not allowed to have it. It's also something we're excited to have back when Lent is over. Best of all, it's a sacrifice we can make together and I like that. I'm realizing that one of the main reasons I never really developed a deeper spiritual life before despite being a spiritual person is that I was trying to do it alone the way I felt like I had to do everything for so long. 

When I first developed an interest in exploring this path, it didn't even occur to me to talk much to Seth about it. I'm always concerned with coming across like I'm pushing people to change to be more like me, so I'm overcautious about not shoving my beliefs or intentions in other people's faces. However, when he did express an interest in being part of this and in doing some of it with me regardless (years ago at this point), I realized that in keeping my spiritual life too much to myself, I was actually excluding him without meaning to. I don't want to rob anyone of the opportunity to be included if they actually want to. 

I think that might have been part of my reason for expanding the subject matter of this blog beyond just theosophical thoughts or astrology to include personal spirituality as well. These blogs I keep are mostly for my own benefit and self-expression, but since I make them public, I've been trying to make sure I'm being open enough about what I'm doing in my spiritual life at a given time. I'm especially trying to keep that in mind as we start another Lent and look for areas in my life where I could stand to be more open about my faith.

On Being Less Excessive

Another thing I definitely need to get better about is taking care myself, especially physically. To begin with, I need to lose some weight and get in better shape. I'm just a little bit too fat right now and that's been the case for a couple of years now. However, I have yet to really get as serious as I should about fixing it. I figure Lenten fasting is a great opportunity to do some work there.

This year, I'm really going to focus on fasting to the greatest extent possible, almost letting it double as a bit of a diet. I'll be eating my one meal a day at night. I will most likely also want to eat the one or two smaller meals I'm allowed according to fasting rules. However, I'm going to try to keep especially the smaller meals light -- ideally just some fruit, vegetables, or something else healthy. We get a CSA box from one of our local farms now, so there's always plenty of fresh produce in the house, which makes it easier.

I also need to drink a lot less. Truth be told, I probably should have given up alcohol for Lent instead of pizza, as it's probably the closest thing I have to an actual bad habit, but I wasn't so sure how ready for that I really was. (Maybe next year.) However, I definitely do plan on putting strict limits on how much I drink this Lent for sure. I plan on being completely abstinent more days than I currently am, as well as having only prudent amounts of alcohol on the days I do drink. It's my goal not to binge drink at all or drink to the point of actually being drunk.

I also need to start exercising more and taking more consistent care of my hair, skin, nails, and so forth. However, for now I think I'll focus on getting the eating, drinking, and excess weight stuff under control. Then I can add to it once I've cleaned house in some of the more critical areas. Rome wasn't built in a day, so I'm trying to remember that and not be too hard on myself.

On Being More Industrious

I've been reading a lot of spiritual material about the importance of having a proper work/life balance lately and although it pains me to admit it, I see a lot of room for self-improvement there. I don't have any problem making enough time for self-care, personal time, or time off the way a lot of people do. My problem is the constant resentment I harbor toward having to work at all. Truth be told, I wouldn't work or contribute to society in any way if I didn't need the money and I'm aware that that's not in line with what God asks of people. 

It's no one job or situation that causes these feelings either, just so we're clear. It really is working period. This is nothing recent. In fact, I've been this way my entire life. I do work, but it's solely because I wouldn't have money to live otherwise. I know damn well that my first instinct if I won the lottery tomorrow would be to quit copywriting and ghostwriting on the spot, probably without even giving my clients proper notice. As it is, I also have to admit that I work as little as possible. If I have a decent amount of money in my account, I'll immediately start getting excited about how much extra time off I can afford to take and I'll start saying no to more of the assignments I'm offered than I really need to for actual time reasons. 

I have no idea how one goes about changing one's attitude toward something like that, but I know I should at least be attempting to. At present, I just try to remind myself that when I sit down to work on my projects, I don't have to think of it as thanklessly serving some other human being that really doesn't appreciate me the way they should. I can think of it as doing something God would like me to do instead. I can remind myself of the ways the things I do help to make the world a more positive place.

I've also been reading about God-given talents and how important it is to make sure you're developing those and using them for the glory of God. Admittedly, I'm very stingy with my talents because I don't feel like other people deserve to benefit from them. I develop and utilize them only for my own amusement -- never to better the lives of other people or make the world a better place. I know I should think more about that this Lent. I suppose blogging more often where people can see is at least a start though.

On Being More Prayerful

I'm also focusing on making time for more spiritual reading and personal devotions this Lent. I used to be better about praying the rosary and some of my other chaplets on a daily basis, but I've fallen out of the habit and now only really do it occasionally. I've been actively focusing on spending more time on things like that lately and plan on continuing to do so throughout Lent. It's also been a while since I memorized any new prayers, so I will be looking to do some more there as well.

Such things really help me, not only spiritually, but mentally as well. I feel calmer and more mentally clear when I spend more of my time praying or when I make time for prayer multiple times a day. Work seems less stressful and a positive attitude about life in general seems easier to maintain. I'm looking forward to getting back to that, as well as making the other positive changes in my life as detailed above. With any luck, this Lent will be a refreshment that I could really use right about now.