Like most people in my age group, I’ve a healthy appreciation of the “self-help” industry. When I wanted to (cook something new, learn to knit or crochet, make a home repair, lose a few pounds, eat more nutritious foods) I turned to the Internet and library to read about how other people have done these things before I tried it.
Now it is Lent, the big daddy of do-it-yourself personal improvement.
Let me explain something…I am an adult convert to Catholicism. As a girl, I envied the Catholics I knew two things: Confession (actually called reconciliation) and Lent. I didn’t have a very thorough understanding of Lent, but I knew it must feel good to examine your behaviors, find an area you would like to change and make a concentrated effort to do so. I like it that the period of lent is actually a good length of time for creating new habits – experts say is takes 30 days to form a new habit or break an old one, so Lenten season gives us enough time to make our efforts last.
Disclaimer – one does not have to be Catholic or religious to apply these principles, and I am not saying that people who are not Catholic or religious do not have their own terrific ways of doing the same things. I am also not saying that people who are of different religions or no religion at all are not doing the same things under a different name.
I grew up in a house that valued self-examination and betterment. It is something I was thinking about for as long as I can remember – the idea that we all make mistakes and by being conscious of our actions we can make less of them. I am trying very hard to assimilate the same idea in my home as my children grow.
As I grew to understand Lent better, I came to appreciate it even more. There is a great deal of depth in the practices of Lent. There are three main aspects: Prayer - to bring you closer to God, Fasting – denying yourself something that in some way hinders your relationship with God (and usually others ), and Charity – giving in a purposeful and generous way to our fellow mankind.
It is a great time to pick three ways to change. We are incorporating the Rosary this Lenten season for prayer. I am working to be openly giving when my children are asking for attention or time and leaving my work or chores as second in order of importance for charity.
I am fasting from shopping.
Let me clarify something – I am not a shopaholic. I do not shop for therapy. I don’t live outside of our budget. I don’t really spend all that much. But it is more than we really need to be spending. I hit the clearance racks during seasonal sales as religiously as I attend mass every week.
Not long ago my daughter, when my Mom complimented her outfit, smiled, struck a pose and sang “Clearance!”
I love to cook new and interesting things and soooo often unpack my groceries to reveal expensive new varieties of nuts or cheese, and fresh foods I bought just because they looked good without thinking about how much they cost or where they came from, and even something as random as (another) bottle of nail polish.
I am going to be fully aware of every penny we spend for the next 40 days and I will only purchase things if I determine that we actually need them. If there is something else I can make do with or another way to accomplish the goal (reusing, thrifting, going without, replacing, borrowing or just waiting) then I will do so.
Of course, there may be some things I determine we actually need (like razors, vinegar or school supplies) that we could live without but I’m counting them as necessary because of their importance in our family life – don’t laugh! I also am not going to sacrifice our nutritional standards for the sake of saving a few bucks. There is no way I am buying the General Mills cereals when they contain three times the sugar, half as much protein and no fiber compared to the nutrient-rich but more expensive kinds my family will eat.
But I’m not buying the cereal, razors or vinegar unless we are out. Time to let the cupboards clean themselves a bit and get a leaner lifestyle going.
Today is my first real test. Not only is today Friday, a day of abstaining when I will eat two small meals, one full meal and no meat but I promised Little Cowgirl I would take her to Target to spend some of her Valentine money from Granparents, Aunties and Great-Great-Aunties. She wants a stuffed jaguar. I want to pick over every 80% off rack in the store and exult over my incredible buys all week enjoy helping her shop in the toy section. That will be close enough, right?!