I've been thinking about what I should do for my Lenten resolution. A friend is giving up Facebook (though I secretly hope she'll take advantage of the mini-Easter Sundays). I'm sure a number are giving up chocolate or sweets. My brother used to try to give up TV but ended up switching to something else after he caught himself watching it once too often. Sometimes what I would do is give up a different thing each week, just so I could do a little bit of everything without going nuts by giving up everything at once for a long time. But none of these things sound quite right this year.
Then I read a Forward Day by Day post (the Episcopal equivalent of those little Magnificat devotional booklets) on Facebook.
Detachment from the stuff of stuckness leads to a loving attachment to God who brings us out to bring us in, to give us spiritual life, freedom, health, and hope.
This year, I'm thinking about doing something a bit different, but follows the same idea of "detachment from the stuff of stuckness." Though quite honestly, I think my vision is going downhill again--I misread that as "sickness" for several minutes. So, sickness or stuckness--it's the same sort of thing. (Dang, I'm still reading it as "sickness" even when I JUST typed "stuckness!") It's something that hold us back from joy. Old crutches, old habits, old thought patterns.
It's like we keep punishing ourselves.
Bear with me here. I'm trying to explain where I'm coming from--perhaps only for my benefit, because I feel extraordinarily selfish for even thinking of this as an option.
I know we're often told that God loves us, but some of us aren't used to loving ourselves. I'm not talking a narcissistic type of love. I'm talking about those of us with low self-esteem and low estimation of self-worth for whatever reason, such as growing up in an abusive home, having endured trauma of varying sorts, having mental illnesses, or simply just have a negative view of the self, we tend to harm ourselves psychologically or physically.
Sometimes we hurt ourselves subconsciously.
Trauma contributes to nervous habits. One of mine is skin-picking. I stopped gouging myself with a cuticle scissor some years ago, but I still pick like crazy at my pimples. And dry spots. And bumps. More so when I'm anxious. It's only when I hit a geyser that refuses to stop bleeding that I generally become aware that my picking has gone overboard again. It's how I cope with certain stresses. My face is a common area, but my thighs is also a victim. To a lesser extent, my arms. My thighs are ugly. I have old purple spots of varying ages that tell you how long ago and how many areas I've picked at until it bled. Over. and over. and over again. It hurts my skin. It hurts me. It's a compulsion, and it's hard to stop. I can't stop for me. though I know I need to.
But if I think about God's love, about taking care of the temple that contains our souls, I'm not doing a very good job of it, and it becomes evident when I'm digging for bandaids at work to put on a pick-site on my arm because it won't stop bleeding.
Comfort-eating is a crutch. Instead of doing proactive things to counteract the bad days and the depression through activities such as exercising, going outside, singing along with music, talking with people, or heck, even praying, I sit and eat. Stress at work? I go buy Starbucks hot chocolate. Feeling sad about my siblings? That's four cookies. One for each of them. Actually, it's "one for each paddy" (each hand), so that makes 8. Nervous and need to nosh to keep occupied? Crunchy food. Salty, crunchy, fatty, sweet chocolatey food. And too much of it. This is clearly apparent through the fact that I've gained 30 lbs over the past few years. God's temple is rather rotund.
Negative thoughts--while I'm improving thanks to getting depression treated, I still have those nagging little thoughts that keep dragging me down. Thoughts like: I'm fat. I'm stupid. I'm not worth it. I need a "reason" to feel bad. I'm a terrible wife. I'm a terrible employee. I'm a terrible person. I'm lazy. Negative thoughts also include the ones where I'm actively being negative. For a while there, I was particularly negative on Facebook about some things that made me feel stuck and worthless, until I realized I was always talking negatively--and it wasn't doing me any good. It's one thing to do therapeutic writing and think about these things, but it's another to be consumed by negativity.
It all boils down to "everything in moderation."
Popping a pimple that's ready is one thing, but creating scars on my face by clawing at the small red bump is going overboard.
Enjoying the occasional treat is one thing, but eating (or drinking) several sweets a day is going overboard. Starving myself is also going overboard.
Writing or talking about growing up, trauma, fear, anxiety, stress, and other things that bother me is one thing. Excessively focusing on it out of anxiety is going overboard.
My Lenten resolution is to practice loving myself as God's loved one by doing things in moderation. I can take care of my skin, but I will not allow myself to continually injure myself by picking at bumps, pimples, and scabs. If I feel my hands wandering to bumps on my arms or face, I will take some sort of action to stop myself.
I'm not going to completely cut out sweets, but I'm not going to rely on them to provide sweet carb energy. One cookie. One piece of chocolate. Apples are actually pretty tasty. So are ants on a log.
I'm going to focus on optimism and hope and positive actions. Instead of ruminating, I'm going to turn on music. Instead of thinking entirely negative things, I'm tasked with finding a good thing. Instead of getting sucked into a rabbit hole of the Internet, I'm going to set limits and and goals by switching it up. Instead of re-reading Cracked over and over again, how about I write humor? Instead of refreshing Facebook for the umpteenth time, maybe I should close the laptop and draw. Or play with the cats.
It's going to be surprisingly hard seeking out moderation, I suspect. They're old habits of mine, and old habits are hard to break. However, things of sickness or stuckness or however you read it it needs to be moderated with hope, joy, continual self-improvement. It needs to be moderated with life. I predict that the hardest stuckness will be the skin-picking.
This is a very different Lenten resolution than I've done before, but my hope is to get unstuck and create positive habits and stop sabotaging myself. I'm seeking freedom, health, hope. I hope to find spiritual nourishment and peace from this "sickness." I will, with God's help. (I must not be pessimistic about this. I must not doubt myself. I must not be skeptical of my abilities. I must not think poorly of Lenten resolve...dang. There's that negativity I was just talking about.)
May you have a fruitful Lenten journey.
Filed under: Becoming Episcopalian