Now before you jump to conclusions, no, I am not giving up on my personal heritage's high holy day. I love St Patrick's Day. This year, it been a little on the low key side. Well, actually, I have't done anything in particular to observe the day other than think about it a lot and wear a spot of green.
So I think what I have given up this St Patrick's Day during this particular Lenten exercise, it expectations. Used to be I expected holidays like St Patrick's to have certain things done in certain ways. Corned beef and cabbage, Irish music, some soda bread or Irish Cream. Wearing green from head to toe and talking with an Irish lilt. I love all that, but it is not happening this year for some reason. Maybe I am getting old. Maybe my prioirities have changed. I am not sure.
What I have learned today is that by giving up expectations, it opens the door to new experiences. It makes things less stressful. Hard to be disappointed when you have no expectations.
Okay, I think that sounds a little more cynical than I intended. I have had many, many wonderful St Pat's celebrations. I was actually invited to what I am sure will be a very jolly celebration tonight. But I am choosing to do something else for several reasons: it is in support of a good friend, it is something I truly enjoy and it is what I want to do. Not to say I don't want to go to the jolly celebration. I do. But as oft happens in life, conflicts arise. Choices must be made. And expectations must be at least adjusted.
So, it is a good day to give up expectations. I expect, however, that you will agree and support me in my non-expectant state.
Happy Saint Patrick's Day, by the way.
Giving up cussing might seem more like a resolution (more fitting to NewYear's than Lent) but really, I have to admit, I rather enjoy letting out a good &*#&*#@ now and then, and a real blue streak like &%$#@! *&^%*# and ^%&$$ is delightfully satisfying not to say wonderfully like taking the lid off a pressure cooker that is about to explode. Sometimes you just can't express what you mean without a good four-letter word now and then. I confess: cussing is a guilty pleasure.
So recognizing that cussing is a guilty pleasure makes it well-suited to a lenten sacrifice. A resolution is a vow to improve oneself. Giving up something during Lent is intended to cause one to be reflective and meditative and feel some pain or discomfort in order to bring oneself closer to God. Giving up cussing would do that. I am sure God gets tired of hearing &^%**$ and *##$%$@ during public addresses or on TV shows. Cussing has become epidemic in modern American society, That aside, it still feels good at times and so giving it up during Lent is good spiritual practice. It is also good for the spirit itself.
Well, an educated and sophisticated person can I suppose. The meaning behind the cuss can be let out in more appropriate ways with some lovely ten-dollar words one acquires through a good study of the English language. One needs only to turn to Shakespeare to find some very effective and devastating turns of phrases that would turn any grandmother's ear red. But I digress.
I shall give up cussing here on in, at least during Lent. It will be a sacrifice for sure. Like, as I was blogging about yesterday with the giving up of impatience. While driving, a good cuss, ^&$$$#%, alleviates the pressure of waiting needlessly at the stoplight when then is no traffic or the railroad crossing when there is no train. It feels good. So during this season of inner examination I shall refrain from the minor and the major cuss as much as possible and doing penance of some kind when I slip. It will be maybe one of the most interesting and enlightening exercises during Lent I could do.
And who know? Maybe I won't need the swear words after Lent. My sacrifice would then become a legitimate resolution for the rest of the year and certainly cut down of my soap budget thereafter.
Day Nine: Give up cussing. Amen. Now there's a word I could use more often!
I can be rather impatient. Oh, yes. You might not believe it, but let me assure you it is true. There are times when I get very frustrated waiting..like at stoplights. Oh, boy, do I hate waiting at stoplights. I fume. Yes, I sit and I fume about wasting time at stoplights that seem like they will never change. And this is whether I am driving or walking the dogs. Waiting is not always something I do well. I want what I want and I want it now.
Well, that is not always true. I do agree there are somethings worth waiting for. Today it might be this blog. Since I am writing it in the evening, I am going to assume it was worth waiting for. Impatience would not have hurried it up. It was just one of those days I was doing other things and it was post-poned. No, I was not procrastinating. I gave that up on day one. So today, it is impatience.
Seriously, impatience does not help one to have good mental health. I can feel my blood pressure rise and I tend to get real grumpy. This happens when I'm feverishly tryng to get something done or find a misplaced paper or my keys when I'm already running late. So I did develop some good habits like making a list, placing papers in a file folder or my "to be filed" bin and hanging my keys by the back door dutifully when I arrive home. But still sometimes I don't lay the proper groundwork to avoid the frustrations of not finding what I need when I need it. And as far as waiting at stoplights, well, I find it a good time to think a deep thought, check my cell phone for messages, or just observing the people and things around me.
Okay, so impatience is not a sin. But it not pleasant to be around, either. I know that. I am sure I will hear about the next time I have an attack. It will probably be a temporary lapse in consciousness. Remind me, gently, that I gave it up. And please, please....may I ask you be patient?
When I left Detroit oh so many years ago, I was not certain of much. I did not know if I would make it away from home, being the home boy I was. I was very connected to my family, deeply enmeshed in my family as several folks described it back then. Breaking away and striking out on my own was a scarey thing to do. Even I thought I would eventually return and settle back into the fold of family and friends there. As a precaution, I chose some certainty in the move knowing that I would have a relative here in Riverside who would be my "anchor". That was me then, always needing an anchor, some measure of certainty that someone would always be there should I fail.
I've heard it said we are all born knowing everything. Soon after, though, we begin to forget. And by the time we have language skills to express ourselves, we have forgotten even the experience of birth. Then we grow and when we reach puberty we think we know everything. Our parents, indeed most adults, are just plain ignorant, or so we think. Then as we mature we begin to realize just how little we do know. And that is when we are presented with the opportunity to learn. Some choose to open their minds, other to keep them closed. Some live in certainty. Others become more and more uncertain. And that's where the real certainty begins to mainifest: in knowing we don't know and may never know, everything. And its okay.
So today I am meditating on certainty, on giving it up. I don't recall ever thinking I knew everything. I assuredly know I don't know everything now. Everything has questions attached. And every answer brings another question. I have come to realize that should I ever stop questioning, I might as well stop living. If there is nothing left to learn, why bother to breathe?
"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd." Voltaire
Living in the question rather than settling in an answer is the imperative. Stop questioning, stop living. Of that I am certain.
Every morning the sun rises. My upstairs bedroom window faces opens on the west side of the house, so what I get it reflected light. But it still lets me know that the day is rising up like a phoenix to begin again. It reminds me how when I went to bed the night before, I still had hope: hope for a brighter day, hope of a new tomorrow, hope that everything would be okay after all.
I am beginning to think one can live too much in hope. You see, hope is something that is always "out there", just beyond the horizon. It is not a real thing. It can bolster you up and make you want to carry on, but it is not real. Hope can be just an illusion. At the risk of sounding a bit jaded, I am giving up hope.
Okay, maybe that is an overstatement. I am not giving up hope. There is always hope. As I write this blog, I am sitting out on my deck in the side yard. The sun is fairly high in a clear blue sky. It reminds me that hope can mean believing a better world can come out of a clear blue sky. I think that is even called "blue-skying". But really, it takes a little more.
I read our local morning paper online today. It was full of stories about dog bites. "Dog Bites are on the Rise!" "Man bite by Pit Bull Will Recover." "Dog Shot by Officer wi\ill Live." Mixed messages for sure. Dogs running rampant. Dogs going to restaurants with their owners. People taking their dogs into public spaces more. And there are more dogs in America than ever before. All of this gives me pause. It is a mixed message to be sure and leaves me to wondering what the world is coming to? Is it, forgive my trite phrase, going to the dogs? I hope not.
And there is the problem with hope.
Hope is not enough. I believe in hope, don't get me wrong. But the object of hope needs action. To get the hoped for results, one needs to rise up and move their feet. It worries me sometime when I see and hear of so many who have given up hope. Like the man who lives on the streets whom I wrote of yesterday or the cynical pundit on TV news who dwells only on the negative failures of our government and economy. There is always hope. But I believe we need to get beyond hope, use the inspiration of hope, the "audacity" as our current president put it, to make it happen.
So today I give up hope. I am going to live into the hope of a better day by moving to make it one. I am going to give up hope in hope of making it real. Let hope be my inspiration, not my dwelling place. Will it work? Well, all I can say is, I hope so.
This is the eve of the first day of Lent. It is the day when we clear our our larders, use up sugar, flour and eggs, and prepare for the beginning of the season of contemplation, repentence and reflection. Known as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, even Pancake Tuesday, it is a day in some quarters for revelry and celebration in anticipation of the forty days of self-denial and spiritual practices.
In light of this, I have decided that it is time to blog again, this time setting the goal of blogging daily during the season leading up to Easter. Easter to me is a time of rebirth and renewal. What better way for doing that then meditating on the things we really want or should give up; things like fear and guilt, resentment, doubt, self-pity, excuses and more.
This is my plan: to each day during Lent meditate in this blog on the forementioned items and more. It is my personal Lenten journey this year. I am inviting you to come along, and, if you care to, share your thoughts and experiences as we go.
So eat some pancakes quick, fling your party beads quick. The journey starts tommorrow. We're off to see the wizard...and the wizard might just be us.