Lent, the holiest season in the Christian and Catholic calendar. It is a recollection of the sacrifice that Jesus, the son of God, made for us for the forgiveness of our sins. In turn, it has become a tradition that believers give up something of value or luxury during the forty days of Lent starting on Ash Wednesday (that’s the day when Catholics are identified by the ash smudge on their foreheads) ending on Easter Sunday. The belief is by giving something up, we are offering up a reflection of the sacrifice that Jesus had done for us.
When I became a Catholic CEO (Christmas and Easter Only), I had turned cynical of this tradition. People were giving up alcohol, chocolate, rice, and sweets. And more recently, social media. I was cynical coz Facebook? I thought the whole point of giving something up was to learn the value of sacrifice, stewardship and inner reflection. I was imposing my own biases onto another person’s values and this was unfair. I wasn’t even giving anything up myself, I really had no place to judge.
Giving in and Giving Up
This year, I decided to embark on my own Lenten journey. I thought I would participate in the tradition of giving up. In that spirit, I have decided to give up behaviors and habits that were holding me back or slowing me down. I needed to find a way to reconnect with myself.
I gave up multi-tasking. For me, this is out of necessity rather than growth. I do things very slowly. And my attention span is crap. If I try to do more than one thing at a time, and I do, chances are one of those things will be ruined or forgotten. Hence, there were some burned dinners and half-written blog posts. I need to be able to complete one task before I move on to another. I also need to stop keep feeling so frazzled because I have so many things going on at the same time. I end up with many unfinished projects. I’m also learning to prioritize and to avoid distractions. If that means doing things on a timer or on a schedule, then so be it. Trying to do more than one thing at a time accomplishes nothing and just stirs up my anxiety. Giving up spreading myself thin has been a great stress relief and a boost to my mental health.
I have given up on trying to prove myself stronger when in reality my body and brain are begging for me to stop. I have recently written about my struggle with nerve pain. While doctors are playing roulette with my meds, my nerves have gone on a wild and rowdy rave. They’ve all been lit and fired up at the same time. I have been in pain. A whole lot of pain. And because I am stubborn and hard headed, I continued to push through the pain. Mind over matter and all that. Until it got to the point that the pain had moved to my shoulders and moving had become painful. I spent a whole weekend curled up in a ball crying under the covers. I was forced to rest. It was a hard way to learn what should’ve have been a simple lesson: for my brain to heal, my body had to rest. These past few weeks I have not been going to the gym. Which really bums me out, but then I got hit the flu so yeah… I had to give up the idea that I have to be “fine” and strong all the time. That it is okay to admit that there are moments that I am weak and that my body needs to recover and sometimes that recovery may take some time.
Summing up, I believe I could say I have given up pride. That meant knowing when to reach out and ask for help. And when to accept help when offered even from the unlikeliest source. I had a woman come up to me today and asked when I had a stroke. Then asked if she could say a prayer for me. There was a time when I would have been weirded out by this, but this time I said yes with an open mind and an open heart. I prayed with her. I cried. I felt a certain lightness.
As we celebrate Easter, I hope to continue to “give up” on the negative habits and thoughts that weigh me down. I could only get stronger when I embrace my weakness and learn to grow from them. I hope to continue to gain insight, understanding, and acceptance of my own limitations but still be able to push through them without causing harm to myself.