Hello friends. Cody and I are doing alright here where the forest meets the sea. As of today, we have lived in Oregon for six months. It is amazing how it feels at once like ten days and a hundred years. I am still engaged in the search for a hairdresser I trust but I have found a dentist so that’s something.
The longer we live next to ocean the greater my fascination with the cycle of the earth, the moon and the tides grow. While I do worry about getting sucked into a philosophical rabbit hole I just can’t help being overwhelmed by the enormity of the water. I think the daily reminder of the vastness of the unknown is seeping into my brain. To that end I thought I’d blog a little about the result of some of this wonder and brain seepage. Let me just say, thanks for stopping here today, I appreciate it, and you.
I have this idea I want to share, it involves a little introspection and Lent. This year, Lent begins on Valentine’s Day and runs throughout March, so it looks like I’m coming in just under the wire. Before I actually launch into what I’m thinking, it seems to me there may be value in a quick primer on Lent for my fellow heathens and the fallen.
The super stripped-down version, base model, gluten and dairy free organic description of Lent is as follows. The idea originally was for us mortals to imitate the struggles Jesus faced when he was in the wilderness for forty days and had to fast. Quick side note here, has anyone else ever noticed how often this whole forty-day timeline comes up in the bible, someone should dig into that.
Anyway, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. We are told to remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return (though lately I am identifying more with the idea of sand than dust). After that, the fasting or abstaining in symbolic solidarity with Jesus’ trial begins and does not end until Easter.
In the interest of full disclosure, it has been a long time since I have been to a mass that was not part of a wedding or funeral. To tell the whole truth, Easter at our house is mostly about coloring an odd number of eggs for an even number of sons and then letting them battle the hunt out, Thunderdome style, in the back yard. The spectacle seriously trumps any WrestleMania ever.
Regardless of the current deposition of my soul, none of your business but thanks for asking, I am consistently fascinated by Lent. I hear my friends and family talk about what they are giving up . . . chocolate, soda, caffeine, sweets, social media, profanity, nail biting, sarcasm, whatever. When I look at this laundry list of modern vices, I have a hard time connecting those back to the fasting of Christ. I am sure it is just my own bias and I am absolutely not judging (you’d know if I were, everyone always knows) I am just curious how we got here. How did passing on stimulants or not posting pictures of your amazing kale salad with walnuts and mandarin oranges become a representation of a forty day fast. I don’t know, but I do have an idea that might make the self-awareness part of modern Lent a little more specific for me.
Here it is, this year for Lent I want to focus on something that the absence of, will ultimately make me stronger. I am going to try and give up regret. I have given a lot of thought to the things that sustain me. What do I go back to time and time again? What is fueling my actions day to day? What I have come to is that I am building my own obstacles (or maybe excuses) by carrying around . . . a chorus of regret. Little voices in my head, many of which, are more than forty years old.
I know that giving up regret all together is a tall order, an also a little unwise. Learning from that feeling of regret, coupled with empathy, is part of the magical formula that makes up our ethical self. Okay, that just turned into a philosophy textbook. What I mean is, SOME regret is healthy, safe and even smart. Little things like regretting eating the rest of the Superbowl hot wings at midnight are supposed to keep us from repeating that painful mistake. Regretting watching the second film in the Scary Movie franchise should keep us from wasting our time on the third installment regardless of how funny the trailer looks. Damn you hilarious Wayans brothers.
But, then there are larger regrets, real life decisions, actions and words that hang around and haunt us later, for a long time, usually late at night when all we want is to go to sleep already. But there they are, floating in space demanding to be examined, reviewed, regretted.
You may be wondering then, given the unpredictable ways in which regret rears its head, how on earth do I think I’m going to give this insidious mind worm for Lent? Great question, you are very smart, I don’t tell you that enough. I do have a plan.
I want my goal to be attainable. Isn’t setting realistic goals part of every self-help, recovery, positive action plan in every book you’ve ever bought when you were at the end of your rope and then later ignored because you were super proud of yourself for taking action by purchasing that book so much so that you forgot for a moment why you needed the book in the first place. We’ll never know for sure because none of us have ever actually read those books. Anyway, I have selected a single regret-centric issue, one that reaches way back in time, on which to focus my energies. Pieces of my own history that dig at my brain and cause me much consternation BUT which I can manageably address with positive action. I have to give myself every opportunity to be successful or what’s the point, right?
So, here is my plan. I have chosen to focus on the regret I feel over what I believe to be a history of ingratitude. Throughout this period of Lent, I will be writing and sending thank you letters. I intend to send long overdue handwritten expressions of my gratitude and appreciation. Now, not everything on my list is a mountain I need summit. This is not a long list of soul wrenching anguish. There are a couple of simple 1980’s era birthday present thank yous in the mix. There are more nebulous personal support thank yous in there. There are even a couple of letters to people who are no longer here to receive them, but the letter still need to be written. I am pretty sure that gratitude transcends corporeal form.
Now that I have put this out there, I’d like to invite you to participate. You know me, there is absolutely no pressure, no expectations of any kind SO, if you’re feeling it, I’d like to encourage you to write a single thank you letter and see what you think. We are still in the window where it won’t be weird if you send a thank you for a gift you received this last Christmas. Was there someone who made your day brighter last week, last year, sometime in the early 1990’s? Why not drop them a quick letter and let them know what that moment meant to you?
Forever stamps are currently fifty cents and postcard stamps are only thirty-five cents. If you are anything like Cody and I you probably easily have at least fifty pennies running amok in your sofa cushions, bottom of your bag, in a coat pocket or gathering dust inside a coffee mug somewhere in your closet. Why not use those stupid things to brighten someone else’s day? Make those copper load-stones worth something again. Hey, maybe next year for Lent I will give up penny hoarding . . . ooooo now that really will be a sacrifice.
Thanks for stopping in. I love our visits. We’ll talk again soon. I promise.