The Last Word on Lent

I talked a bit in length about Lent here and here. Now that it’s over, I want to share how it all went.

To be clear, this was a very personal exercise. It would have made no sense, for example, for Brett to challenge himself to practice saying “No” because believe it or not this is a guy who respects his own personal boundaries. If he does not want to do something, he simply says, “no thank you.” It does not appear to be a part of any grand scheme, other than he seems to know how he likes to spend his time. I respect him a great deal for this and really hope it is contagious.

In spite of my somewhat constant efforts to trim down my schedule, I still find myself feeling very overwhelmed. I do not quite have the margins in my life I would like. 

I got a great piece of advice last week- “One In-One Out.” I have been applying this principle to my home for some time. When I get a gift, or buy a new shirt, or a new pair of shoes, I get rid of something old. It keeps everything manageable. It keeps me from getting overwhelmed by “things.” But my friend Holly suggested applying the principle to my commitments, to my life. 

On Saturday, I made a list of everything I have “going on.” It is time for Spring Cleaning. This was an inventory of my closet.

It looked something like this:
-Be a good wife
-Biking to work
-Losing 50 pounds
-Training for a 10K
-Going to Mexico
-United Way Board
-Being a good friend
-Glow Run 5K
-…. (and so on)

Anything that has used any of my psychic energy in the last several months went on the list. It managed to stay on one page, so I probably missed a whole lot. After I did some “free writing” I organized the list to reflect what areas of my life they are part of. For example, KVYP and United Way Board went under Volunteering. Glow Run 5K went under Social and also Health.

It was helpful to see just how many things are competing for my attention and in what ways. It was nice to see the many ways in which I’m trying to improve my health. There was a long list there and it included things like biking to work, yoga, kick boxing, training for a 10K, swimming, etc. It was good to see lots of variety. There was also a long list of things competing for financial attention and that gets a little hairy also. Yes, we are saving to go to Mexico this year. But I also need Dental Implants. Someday soon we will probably need a new car. Maybe someday a baby will be part of that equation. With those things on the list, things like moving and finding new jobs fall in as well. Having one item that needed attention in the “money” area of my life meant, in many cases, that other items naturally followed. It suddenly made perfect sense why I have been feeling a little emotionally and mentally weighed down lately.

I was able to pitch a few things out of the mental closet. I was also able to take comfort knowing that some items would naturally take leave on their own. For example, once a friend’s wedding passes, my bridesmaid duties will be fulfilled. The challenge at that point becomes deciding whether or not I want to fill that empty space with something new.

I am implementing a new policy (ah, how she falls so quickly back to her old ways). I am putting a 24 hour waiting period for every new “commitment.” If that commitment comes in the form of a direct ask, or just an idea that I have to take on, I am giving myself 24 hours to think about and discuss whether or not I want to invite that into my life. If the answer is yes, something old must go in its place. I want my “yes” to mean “yes” and my “no” to mean “no.”

Lent is always a blessing to me with this practice. By giving myself a break from taking on new projects and goals, I am learning to settle into myself. It fits well within my health practices and of course, it is all about finding “adult contentment.”

3 thoughts on “The Last Word on Lent

  1. Amanda Jean! (Is that your middle name? My brain says it is, but I don’t always trust it) I feel happy reading this. To me, it smacks of true progress when someone can move on from the phase of doing nothing but taking on new projects to help better yourself, into the phase of paring down to what matters to you. What impressive progress you make with your mindful living. Inspirational! 🙂

  2. It took me YEARS to learn to say no to things. I had this guilt inside of me that said if I was in the MOMS Club I had to serve on the board, take the kids to church? have to teach Sunday School, etc etc etc. It’s like I wasn’t allowed to just be a participator, I had to also be an organizer. Well, now that I don’t do anything-seriously I don’t volunteer for a thing- life is so much easier and I don’t have that nagging guilt. I just am not a person who participates/organizes/volunteers. My family life takes up too much of my emotional (and other) energy.
    ALSO. I have learned through the saying of the no, that I need to listen to the way I feel when I think about or consider something. If I am asked to volunteer/organize/do something and I really think about it, I can tell if I’m dreading it or feeling excited. Then it makes my answer much easier. Also I have to consider if I’m saying yes because I really want to do the thing or if it’s because someone else expects me to.

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