“Change making happens when people fall in love with a different version of the future.” Seth Godin
Knocking on the door of life, in the middle of an excruciating death, is the Lenten journey I willingly took on. I had to fight my own community the first few weeks, but after fourteen days in the desert sun, I went to battle with myself. I’m using Lent as a portal to the life I want to lead rather than the one I’m leading. I practice new habits. I fail. I try again. My take on Matthew 7:7, “Someone’s knocking on the door, someone’s ringing the bell, open the door, let them in.” (Go ahead and listen to the song as you read, it sets the mood.)
My most arresting insight thus far is the enormous amount of resilience it takes to stay in the ring. I wish I could supplement this characteristic with a vitamin or raw vegetables, instead of sheer will, and prayer. My husband started out as my personal nemesis, tempting me back to our cherished routines, but when I stood strong, he joined me (when convenient). I feel like Rocky Balboa after ten rounds, beat up, and worn out. It’s disturbing to watch especially when I’m the one being pummeled. My discerning daughter said to me, “You either do it or you don’t mom. What’s the point in doing things half-ass then claiming a sacrifice?” Meaning, adjusting the standards in the middle of my bout, was unacceptable to her, and she’s not the only one who feels this way. I have friends who gave up a few days into their journey. One slip up and you’re done? That leaves no room for a sequel.
A week or two into my desert journey I was forced to question my own intentions. Why was I so ready to throw in the towel after botching a few rounds? I will tell you why. I don’t like being associated with failure, much less sitting with these uncomfortable feelings, and claiming them for my own. To be seen as less than perfect is untenable. It’s like the nightmare I have every now and then, where I find myself in the middle of a public square, totally naked. I can’t find a scrap of clothing anywhere and everyone is judging me. I fought the urge to give up repeatedly, “If I can’t do this well then I won’t do it at all.” I had to fight against my own desire to retreat to known behaviors, change is uncomfortable, like trying to fit in someone else’s jeans. Failure is the bitter pill I would rather spit out then swallow. I found out my real challenge was going twelve rounds with perfectionism. The fight is yet to be called.
So what’s a Lenten traveler to do? You can’t keep starting over like a game of solitaire. So I studied myself like a lab rat. I made a chart and I built in allowances for failure. I also got down on my knees and asked for help. I had to convince myself that a day of rest is okay, for goodness sakes God even supports this initiative, every seven days we are required to rest from penance, sacrifice, and toil. So with God’s approval I built in a mobile day of rest to accommodate my social calendar. I know, brilliant, right? In fact I built in six mobile days of rest, and then I had to give myself three more, but I didn’t give up. If I really want to change my habits, I figure it’s going to take time, somewhere in the neighborhood of forty days. Old habits are as resilient as cats, they have nine lives, and they’re horribly arrogant. I have a whole new appreciation for the phase, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” I will slip up, you can count on it, and to get back in, I built a back door.
So go retrieve the towel, give yourself permission to flounder, it doesn’t matter how the referee calls the game. We don’t have to live up to anyone’s standards but our own. Larry says, “Honey, you lower that bar any more, and you’ll trip over it.” His sense of humor is still developing, so I smile patiently, and ring my sister. She is the world’s greatest optimist, even when I mess up, she says, “You’re doing great, screw everyone else.” Love her. Life is hard, handle it with care, ask for help, and turn off those annoying self-defeating tapes. I decided I will mimic my lovely granddaughter Audrey, when she gets frustrated, she just puts up a little hand and says, “Stop.”