I have been working on my plan for Lent this year, even though Lent has already started. It kind of describes where I am right now, in a lot of ways, so I will just jump right in.
This year, because my schedule is so full, I am giving things up rather than doing extra things, because just doing my actual things takes up so much time already. Here are the things I am giving up, and the reasons why:
Cursing. I use a lot of profanity in my daily life, and I really don't have an excuse for it. I came by it through a lot of stress and aggravation, but the truth is that profanity doesn't make it better. It's bad for my kids to hear it, and it's confusing for them when they are punished for copying it, because if it was so bad to use those words, why does Mom do it? I feel like the profanity gives off an ungrateful attitude -- like, in spite of all my blessings, the fact that I can't find the kids' shoes somehow means I have to color the whole day ugly by cursing about it.
So far I would give myself a B on this one. I have slipped a few times, in moments of fairly high stress. So I am working to be more aware of situations in which I might be more prone to cursing, and use other strategies like taking breaks, being prepared for things ahead of time, and just giving myself little don't-curse-now-sweetie pep talks.
I know that I can succeed at this, because when I am around my super conservative friends and family, I can refrain from cursing with no problem. So I know my brain can do it. The issue will be changing the habit, and not slipping back into it when under duress.
Political polemics. This is one of my biggest social faults -- getting into political debates, especially on Facebook, where it is easier to not be civil. I am recently so disgusted by the uncivil nature of political discussion, my own contributions included. I can't make everyone in the world mind their manners, but I can mind my own manners, and in the end maybe be a better ambassador for the kinds of political ideas I feel strongly about, if I am ever in a position to share those beliefs. It is an election year, which means that I want to crawl in a hole until November, pop out to cast my vote, and then crawl back in the hole until about summer of the following year. I can already see that things are going to get out of hand, and that June through November are going to be insane on all forms of media -- news, social, comedy, you name it.
Harsh words. Sometimes (often) when I am feeling stress, I have a very sharp tongue and I say mean things to the people around me, or about other people, or about anything around me. It's a bad habit that is a lot like profanity, in that it causes stress for other people and it doesn't really help the situation.
One thing I can't refrain from is writing about religion, dagnabbit. I can't give it up. It's so strongly on my mind. But I will strive to continue writing in a descriptive, rather than prescriptive way. I just want to relate my own experience, not tell anyone else what they ought or ought not to do or say or think or believe. I feel strongly, especially lately, that the spiritual journey is a really complex thing, and that we have to let go the idea of having other people understand us perfectly, and of the idea that others should be in the exact same spot on the path that we are. It is unrealistic and short-sighted to believe that everyone could or should be standing on the same game-board square at the same time. My job is to mind my business and share ideas respectfully and with love when an opportunity comes along.
I have another project, and that is the first draft of the novel I have been writing, thinking, and dreaming about since Chris was a baby. I finally have a handle on it and I have mapped out my draft. I am going to finish the first rough, terrible draft by the end of Lent. I have 43 days left, and it is totally within possibility at this point. I feel set-free about this because I was reading some advice from Ira Glass about creative work, and I realized that part of why I kept freezing up when I was trying to tell this story was because I wanted it to be So Good and everything, when, because it is my first attempt, it is just not going to be that good. So that frees me from the need to make it good. Instead, I can just tell the story to the best of my ability, and print it out and bind it up and stick it in the closet, and maybe one day my daughter will like reading it, or something. And the act of writing it might free me up to work on more successful creative projects later.
Do you observe Lent, or something like it? What do you focus on?