Banished from Pemberley

I have banished myself from Pemberley.

I thought long and hard about what to give up for Lent, but all along I knew I needed to give up the thing that I most crave in the world: reading Jane Austen fan fiction.

It sounds silly, I am sure. It is silly, in fact, but I can’t help it. Reading about Darcy and Elizabeth is escapism at its best for me; it takes my mind off everything else in the world, and does it in such an easy fashion that it takes very little effort on my part. (I always say that I don’t read much fantasy because I don’t like being introduced to new worlds and having to learn about them. With my Darcy stories, I don’t have to learn anything at all; the characters and locations are already familiar.)

I have been going crazy for the past 24 hours, though. I have built some powerful habits around this addiction, so every time I sit down to eat a snack, for instance, I find myself reaching for my phone. It’s going to take some time to reach for something else — or nothing else, really. It would be much better for me to live in the present and heighten my awareness of the world around me.

This world, however, is much more difficult for me than the world of Regency England, of entails and suitors and Lady Catherine deBourgh, of balls and fine eyes and ten thousand a year. This world is challenging and messy and stressful, and for whatever reason I find myself less and less able to handle that stress.

My hope is that the time I would have spent reading on my phone will now be spent in doing healthier things. Perhaps that will go a long way toward enabling me to live in the here and now, and no longer in days of yore (and yesteryear.)

Lyme Park Snowdrops IMG_0083aBR by Brian Rogers / CC BY

Love is all you need

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

It’s Ash Wednesday, too, the beginning of Lent. Interestingly enough, the three pillars of Lent all relate to love relationships.

Prayer: strengthens your relationship with God and helps you to focus on how you can serve God through serving others.

Fasting: involves your relationship with yourself, as it helps you turn from selfish habits and things that disturb your inner peace.

Almsgiving: (not, as autocorrect wanted it to be, “skydiving”) lets you reach out and build relationships with others in need, whether they need something tangible, like food or shelter, or just need our compassion, concern, or forgiveness.

I love Lent. I don’t always do very well at those three important parts, but even making the effort makes a difference. It’s like a spring cleaning for your heart, a chance to look at whether you have been relating to God, to yourself, and to other people in the most loving way possible.

Some say that these three practices are like the three legs of a stool. I’m cool with making it a chair and adding skydiving back in.

Don’t give up

It’s Ash Wednesday, the traditional day of giving things up. “I’m giving up chocolate,” you hear people say. “I’m giving up watching TV. I’m giving up fast food.”

Not me. Not this year.

I’m not giving things up for Lent this year.

dream weaver by Greg Westfall on flickr

I’m not giving up my dreams. I know I can be more, do more, have more. I’m going to spend time in reflection during this Lenten season, clarifying just what it is that I can best do for myself and for this world.

I’m not giving up my forward momentum. I’m going to keep working hard to make things happen and asking for help when I can’t do it alone.  I’ll keep breaking things down into the smallest possible steps — and then taking those steps!

I’m not giving up on myself or anyone else. I’ll keep giving the benefit of the doubt, believing in others’ best selves as well as my own.

I’m not giving up on my relationships. I’m going to spend Lent with the people I love, finding ways to share in their lives instead of making them find a place in mine.

I’m not giving up my faith. I want to turn away from the things that have drawn me apart from making God a part of my daily life. Lent’s emphasis on prayer, fasting and giving to the poor will help me look at the ways I’ve strayed from the path of Love that I have willingly chosen.

I’m not giving up.

dream weaver” by Greg Westfall / CC BY