Thursday, February 23, 2012
Quick Takes: It's Lent!
2. I've used this picture before, but feel compelled to use it again. I am trying to consciously set Lent apart in my mind from ordinary time, but I have historically been bad at making any kind of distinction between Lent and the rest of the year. It all feels like Lent to me -- the daily sense of a kind of messy, uphill slog in semi-darkness in a barren landscape to a destination that's unknown and not expected to be much fun when I get there. I often feel, in my quotidian life and work, as if I'm hauling heavy stones up a steep hill, only to get them there and watch them tumble over the cliff into a bottomless void. Lent feels no different. I suppose it's up to me to make it different by punctuating my days with regular periods of prayer and by giving up small pleasures, something I usually resent doing. I hope and pray for a better disposition this year.
3. Lent is also a yearly time of personal mourning for me. Two dear friends of mine died in the middle of Lent in 2006 and 2007. During Lent 2007, I also had an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured, landing me in the hospital and necessitating emergency surgery, during which one of my ovaries was removed (it took several days to be correctly diagnosed, so, in my usual state of oblivion, I went on about my life, walking all over town, teaching my classes at the large public university where I was completing my doctorate, and filing a claim against a former landlord in Bronx County Court, while ignoring the pain that dogged my every step). Sometimes I feel quite lost without one of these friends in particular. He died right before the ectopic rupture, which happened one night at home, and, as I was lying there on the floor sweating and vomiting, I prayed to him to ask God to save my baby, but evidently it was not to be.
4. We are supposed to wait in "joyful expectation" for the coming of our Savior, another thing I'm lousy at. I wonder how to do it. Is my usual habit of grimly expecting something not-so-nice just a habit? Can it be changed? Can I change my temperament and demeanor without becoming a complete, phony sap? This year, we are waiting for Jude, and I will be happy when he's finally here. Nevertheless, I don't know if it's because of my general demeanor, or if it's an opinion formed from my own observations and experiences, but I don't buy into that happy-ever-after scenario about this or about anything. The adoption magazines -- like all parenting magazines, actually -- are full of stories of the wait over, the family and the individual completed, the loneliness soothed, the joy of union. I'm not sure I ever believed that was the expected outcome of any relationship. I like to think of myself as a realist, as someone who sees through what is false in our culture, but perhaps I'm just a cynic who has more in common with my southern Italian forebears than I like to think. Nonetheless, I wonder what happens after the airport.
5. I've decided to give up drinking this Lent. I've never done this before. My drinking, such as it is, is restricted to a glass of wine every night with dinner, but I love that glass of wine, and have come not only to expect it but also to see it as a reward for getting through the day. It wasn't a hard choice, though. I was hit with a stomach virus last week and couldn't even drink water, so my nightly habit fell rather naturally by the wayside. Now that I can eat and drink again, I weighed wine and coffee in the balance, and decided that, much as I love that glass of wine, I need coffee more.
6. When I was little, I never thought I'd grow up to drive a car. Not only was it not really necessary where I lived, but also I really hated cars. I hated their smell, both inside and out. As a child, I used to fantasize about ploughing over all the roads in the world and planting grass and trees there, leaving a small path for people to walk, returning the ugliness of industrialism and urban life to the peacefulness of a sort of William Morris-esque pastoral utopia. But then I grew up to feel as if I needed the city as much as I now feel like I need that glass of wine or cup of coffee every day. And now I am, reluctantly, driving. I still feel unmoored, too light, when I'm behind the wheel. I filled up my gas tank yesterday for the first time, and managed to get gas all over my shoes and inside my pocketbook (being a city girl, I never leave my purse in the car, even when I'm filling it up with gas). I am going to try to incorporate the fact that I drive a car now into some sort of intentional Lenten practice.
7. A good and fruitful Lent to all.