This week Lent began.
Lent is, hands down, my favorite season. My small family is not Catholic, but we believe in embracing truth and beauty wherever it can be found. And Lent is truly a season of truth and beauty. Lent has three main tenants: prayer, fasting, and alms giving. For the past eight years or so, my husband and I have embarked on a number of Lenten adventures. One year we fasted during the day for the season. One year my husband gave up talking. One year he shaved his head every day and I covered my hair. And always, prayer, fasting, and alms giving are in the background of our journey.
This year I decided to take on a period of silence. Many of you know that I drive around 3 hours a day to and from school and work. Most of the time I use my driving time to stay connected to the world through NPR or maintain membership in bookclub by listening to audiobooks. With Remy and working and reading for class and writing briefs, I have had very few opportunities for quiet reflection in the last year. So I thought, why not take back my time in the car?
Let me just tell you: I haven’t been successful yet.
I was feeling really good on Wednesday. My drive is short, and I was with Remy for most of it. It was easy not to turn on the radio. Thursday was okay, I made it most of the way to school but none of the way home in silence.
Friday I got a reality check. First I thought, “I need to know what’s going on in the world, so it’s okay if I listen to NPR until I get to the highway.” I was “rewarded” with this StoryCorp interview. I literally sobbed for most of the story and at least one story after. A good reminder that I should just stick with the plan, and turn the radio off.
Once I was on the open road and dry-eyed, things went better. I used the quiet to reflect on the beautiful sunset. I let my mind wander to friends and family and prayed for each of them. I thanked God for the wonderful season of Lent and the lovely life that I have.
But after an hour, things began to digress. I began thinking about the Federal Rules of Evidence and how they might apply to a complicated hypo that I had created. When I caught myself, I tried to justify this act as somehow spiritual – perhaps my mastery would one day bless someone less fortunate in some roundabout way. Then I started thinking about how I needed to get my oil changed – can paying for services rendered be considered Alms Giving? If so, I was about to make a major Lenten contribution to the hard working folks at the Grease Monkey. These thoughts were interrupted by some jerk who cut me off, so I prayed for his soul. Obviously he needed it, and I needed to get back to praying (I reminded myself this was the whole point of this exercise).
Like I said, things digressed.
I realized on the drive home yesterday (yes, in silence… mostly) that unoccupied silence is a hard and uncomfortable thing. I was surprised. After all, every day that I’m home with Remy, I pray for two hours of silence while he’s napping. And I revel in those two hours of silence. But my mind is never left to wander in those two hours. Those two hours are precious and not to be wasted on staring into space, communing with my maker. No, they must be crammed full with casebook reading and blog writing and dish washing. I mean, honestly, when else can a mom get anything done?
I do realize, theoretically, that taking time to just be is not wasting that time. I try very hard to take time to just be with Remy and count that time as very well spent. Why is taking time to just be with my own thoughts or to just be with God or to just be with the squirrels in the backyard any different?
That’s my challenge for this Lent, I suppose. Realigning what is important. Which, really, is what Lent is all about in any year.
How do you take back moments to just be with your self or with God?