Friday, April 7, 2017

A good Lent after all

We're heading into the last week of Lent, and I've got to be honest: this has not been a particularly successful Lent for me. Sure, there were some little sacrifices and some effort toward prayer, but spiritual reading and most alms-giving plans went out the window, and I feel less connected than usual to parish Lenten activities as well.

I have tried to keep up with the blogging, though, regardless of whether there are page views or not, and I think that's been helpful in some ways. It's good when you are in the midst of various types of chaos to try to carve out some sort of routine.

And when I really look at things honestly, I have to admit that this has probably been a somewhat unproductive Lent because it has also been one of the most chaotic winter-into-spring seasons I can remember in quite some time.

When the girls were still being home schooled I could blame "third quarter blues" for my tendency to get behind and unmotivated and whatnot during this time of year. Now that they're in college (though still living at home) it's not possible to make that claim. In reality, my "third quarter blues" this year have nothing to do with their school schedules and everything to do with the sense I've had since before Christmas that there's just too much to do, not enough time (or money) to do it all, and no end in sight.

If you had told me I'd feel this way when my girls were attending school somewhere other than my kitchen table I'd have laughed, but the reality, as I've come to realize it, is that home schooling was a convenient excuse for my periodic feelings of being totally overwhelmed by life. There are lots of other reasons why I start feeling this way that clearly have nothing to do with what the other people in my family are doing at any given moment, and if Lent has brought me some clarity it takes the form of that recognition: that sometimes, for no particular reason, and with no special circumstances, I start finding ordinary everyday stresses to be gigantic mountains covered in spiky plants and teeming with unpleasant insects or dangerous reptiles, so to speak. But the more I put things off or try to avoid dealing with them, the worse the "to-do" list gets, until I start to feel exhausted before I really even get started on a day's intended tasks.

I am far from alone in this. Plenty of moms who are friends or even family have told me that they get this way too, especially this time of year, when you start feeling like you've barely even taken down the Christmas tree before Palm Sunday looms large against the liturgical horizon with Easter just ahead (and, for some families, baptisms or First Communions or Confirmations or weddings or other Big Events to plan for and celebrate). If anything, I have resisted the idea that this is an issue for me because, after all, I have three grown children, and there are moms out there homeschooling a brood of eleventy-plus kids while maintaining a beautiful home and throwing a massive birthday party at least twice a month in addition to everything else. But that's where a Lent like this one does help clarify things for me, because I have told plenty of other moms of relatively small families or even women whose children haven't lived at home for a decade that it's okay to be stressed by normal home-life stuff: it happens, it's normal. So why don't I believe it for myself?

Pride, probably. Pride, and the reluctance to let go of the idea that there is virtue and holiness in Doing All the Things, that a good Lent is a Lent where I Did All the Things, and that being a good wife and mother means Doing All the Things even when they start to weigh on me and make me feel incompetent and even, sometimes, unworthy of my blessings.

Maybe grappling with these ideas is where God wants me to be, this Lent. Maybe this has been a good Lent after all.