17 Apr

This is about Lent.  But first:

Such a nice gathering last night at the home of friends.  It occurs to me that I am more in the camp of adult-adults than the young adults.  They were all celebrating birthdays that start with the number 2 and new jobs that involve not showering and taking physical risks and encouraging kids to be just as cool as they are.  Abigail is going to learn how to take kids on outdoor challenges.  The mere idea of that makes me take to my bed.  Sign up for challenges?  What about all the challenges we are facing ALREADY?  You think that teaching them self-reliance and teamwork and outdoor skills will increase their ability to meet their real-life challenges?  Oh.

My own job requires bathing, no physical risk (just much mental angst), and trying to DIScourage kids from expressing their creativity and independence.  My job punishes nonconformity.  And hard.  “You failed to meet society’s expectations of you, and now you must PAY,” is the message I send to teenagers and young adults.  And some old adults who still don’t get it.  We would love to rehabilitate you and make you learn to be fit to live in free society with us, if you are willing, but the stakes are high, and you only get 20 million chances, so don’t screw this up.

But I digress.  The young adults are so adorable to me.  They have energy and ideas and they paint and dance and design and build.  While I hold it together, and hold it together, and settle on driving a minivan because it’s the practical choice.  I’ve had my chance to be them, though, and I did it and loved it.  I had an entire decade of twenty-something independence.  I married young, although at the time I was convinced that I was so old compared to all my friends.  That’s the Mississippi in me.  It still flares up from time to time, but now I can recognize it and I just enjoy it.  and embrace it.  Because Mississippi, while being completely off-base on some counts, has been right in many less-celebrated ways that are just starting to make sense to me as an adult-adult.

Enough about me, though, I am TRYING to write about Lent.  It has surprised me and completely caught me off-guard.  I have just loved it.  I was so fearful of it and so desperate to cling to my place in the WORLD, and I was afraid that if I opted out of certain habits that make me ME, that I would slip off the edge of the abyss into being less than me, and my home needs me to be MORE actualized, not less.  And I expected to be lonely, but “FINE, God,” I said like a petulant teen-ager, “For six weeks and that is ALL, I will try these two exercises.  In return for Jesus’s sacrifice and crucifixion and all that.  FINE.  But don’t expect me to enjoy it.  And I am only doing it for YOU.  I hope you are keeping track of the many ways I am trying to be a good person.”

So I decided to actively appreciate the ways other people have been generous with me and where appropriate, to let them know.  And that’s pretty easy for me because like the poster child for denial, I have cultivated a blind eye for the negative and all that’s left are the beautiful things, and all I had to do is say them out loud.  Piece of cake.  I do love to talk.  The harder thing was to this:  To give up all my expectations of other people.  Invite me, don’t invite me.  Call, don’t call.  Come see me, don’t.  Dabble in your destructive habits.  Live it up.  Do what you wish.  You aren’t going to hear about it from me.  No lectures, no chastisement, no snide remarks. 

Just me.  At home.  A shell of my former self.  Wearing duct tape over my opinions about you and what you should do with your life.  Alone.  With my dogs and my children.  Unless some of their wealthy relatives like my brother or their grandparents have whisked them away to winter resort towns.

I haven’t been entirely successful with my efforts, and it isn’t over, but with 40 days of sacrifice under my belt, I can say this:  Instead of feeling deprived of friendship, of significance, of meaning, of companionship, of the thrill of knowing what’s best and being proven right?  I’m left with only the essentials of a good life.  Dogs, children, fun, grateful hearts, and clean living.

I have only lost the excess.  The chaff.  Every relationship to which I have applied these principles has been tidied-up.  Fewer misunderstandings, more clarity, less frustration and static.  Not a single tantrum or outburst (from me, Henry is still 3 and not yet effectively trained in gracious living).  I did tell Sonya that she was stressing me out when she asked me if we knew where we were going at La Cantera, but it turns out that she was right — we were lost.  (Lost in a high-end shopping center – Quel horreur!)  So I apologized for being so snippy.  After all, I am still me.

I still can’t believe how much I am enjoying this time-out from my real life.  Lent turns out not to be about deprivation and identifying with Jesus’s suffering.  I have hardly felt martyred at all.  Instead I feel renewed and peaceful and not dependent on other people to feed me with how I am going to feel about things.  I get to decide that.

Who knew that giving up something that made me who I am would turn out to be transforming and just exactly like magic?


7 Responses to “penultimate”

  1. IH April 18, 2011 at 3:42 am #

    Thanks Claire. I had just been snippy and judgmental with someone I love. I read your post and called the person back to apologize and restore equilibrium. I have so enjoyed your blog and am amazed that you find the time and have the brain power to be so thoughtful after getting three children ready for school, getting three children to school, working, picking three children up from school, shuttling said chidren to extra-curricular activities, supervising homework, making dinnner, and fulfilling night time rituals times three. You are my hero.

    • brightenthecorner April 18, 2011 at 4:39 am #

      and how I do it? Remember when we knew for weeks that we had a paper due and we sat down the night before and just started writing? And somehow after you had sent all your random thoughts down into your typing hands, you had something that you didn’t have when you started? Because you started writing without knowing what you were going to say? That’s all I do.

      The fact that it becomes anything at all, let alone that it would influence YOU to think about something or do something, is what is amazing to me.

  2. brightenthecorner April 18, 2011 at 4:16 am #

    Hey longtime french-speaking (or at least french-class-taking) friend, do you think it’s quel horreur or quelle horreur?

    quelle looks better, but I think it’s masculine, isn’t it?

    I have known you for many, many, many years and I have never once heard you be snippy. And if you were, I was probably snippy first. I say forgive yourself.

  3. IH April 18, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    Asking me about French? Don’t you remember that I was kicked out of French class one day for trying to create an insurrection? I have no idea what I actually said to the teacher that led her to think I was being devious and disrespectful. I believe it had to do with my having absolutely no command of the French language and my mere presence in the room was an insult. Then there was the time on a train when I tried to make small talk with a French passenger in the club car. She stood up from her table and yelled at me in English to never speak her native tongue again. It is clear that I have abused the French language in ways that are unforgivable, so weigh my input with that in mind. That said, I agree that “quelle” does look better.

    • brightenthecorner April 18, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

      I would probably know which gender form to use had I not been so distracted by your French-class antics, Missy. Your reminder convinces me to stick with Quel. (and let’s discuss an immersion class in Spanish on the beach in Mexico, asap.)

      • IH April 19, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

        Sounds wonderful!

  4. dad April 20, 2011 at 1:10 am #

    quel–that’s my bet, anyway…

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