Sunday, February 24, 2013

Giving up: Second Sunday of Lent

Day 5: Take 5 minutes of silence at noon. The challenge of this one was in distinguishing it from the rest of my day.

I live alone, work largely in solitude, have an office door I can and sometimes do close. I am often silent, and the people and things around me are not so noisy.

But at noon, I made sure my office door was closed, and I turned my back on both door and computer, and closed my eyes. I blocked out not only the literal noise, but some of the figurative noise: the fluorescent lights and the temptation to type or read, even the snowy view out my office window.

I thought about lots of things — about who, if anyone, was likely to come to my door anyway, about how my thumbs felt rubbing against each other, about romantic prospects and what the longest commute I've had feels like — and on and on.

A meditation teacher I had once told me not to worry about actually quieting your mind, but to observe what thoughts intrude on your observation of the moment. All the thoughts intruded this time, aside, I suppose, from the thumb thing.

Day 6: Look out the window until you find something of beauty you had not noticed before. Without my glasses on, the green sign for the drive-through window at the bank across the street from my chiropractor's office is almost magical.

Day 7: Give 5 items of clothing to Goodwill. OMG I tried.

So, here's the thing. There's no Goodwill anywhere near me. There is a Salvation Army, which is anti-gay, so I don't support them. There are some of those yellow Planet Aid boxes, but Planet Aid is shady and also arguably a cult. There are some worthy-cause thrift stores, but they are open inconvenient hours (while I'm at work).

And there is a Goodwill about an hour from where I live. So a friend and I drove down there with a big bag of clothes to donate. We checked the hours first, of course, and the Goodwill site claimed Goodwill was open until 9. It was not. It was in fact open until 6, as we discovered when we arrived at 8:30.

So we got a drink instead, which felt a little less Lent-y. I'll get the clothes to the St. James thrift shop at lunchtime one day this week.

Day 8: No bitching day. I'm writing this paragraph before this day happens, and before I write this part of the post, as a disclaimer: I have a real problem with the word "bitching" used this way. I do not think it is accidental that the word used to minimize people's complaints is a gendered one. We can have a big discussion of this in the comments if you want, but, lest I be dismissed as "bitching" on "No bitching day," I thought I should put it out there. That said, I will attempt to refrain from unnecessary complaining, and to evaluate what is unnecessary complaining. I assume that's the real spirit of this one. Yes, I see the irony of leading off with a complaint. Why do you think I wrote this paragraph in advance?

Also, in college, one of my favorite songs was Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good," largely because it contained one of my favorite lyrics: "I can't complain, but sometimes I still do."

Also, a couple of Lents ago, I was given a purple wristband as a no-complaining device. The idea is that you wear it and switch wrists when you catch yourself complaining, until you can go all day without switching wrists at all. I wore it on Day 8 as an aid.

I caught myself probably complaining unnecessarily three times. The first two, I turned around quickly into a "look at the bright side" situation. The third was at almost 11 p.m., after I'd taken off the wristband, and I was in the middle of a large and inappropriate tirade regarding something that is none of my business before I caught myself, at which point I stopped, apologized to the person I was talking to (who was clearly uncomfortable), and felt icky about it. Still do, in a way I might not have if I hadn't been so focused on it.

Am I the only one who has to stop for a second to think about whether expressing any vaguely negative thought at all counts? I guess I am all for encouraging more positivity, and am glad I had to stop and think about it, but I'm a bigger fan of "It should be at least two out of three of: nice, honest, necessary," than I am of "No bitching." Was that right there "bitching"?

Day 9: Do someone else’s chore. Who is this "someone else" of whom you speak, who does chores? I did drop off a friend's electronics recycling for her, which saved her a few steps, and I made dinner for some friends. I hope that all counts.

Day 10: Buy a few $5 fast food gift cards to give to homeless people you encounter. On Day 10, I was in Portland, Maine, stage managing a play. It was fun, but busy, and I had no opportunity to go to a fast food restaurant or seek out homeless people. I'm also feeling a little morally conflicted about this one, for a couple of reasons. I'll think about it and make it up somehow.

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