It’s so unjust, you know? A little pragmatism and you get the reputation for being a grump. There’s just some things that I tend to get passionate about, is all. And…well…I have difficulty shutting up when friends get on those topics. And then, well, I suppose I might get a little negative about them…perhaps even monopolize the conversation a bit. But a grump? Never.
As Lent arrived this year, I began pondering what it is about my life from which I might choose to abstain for several weeks. All of the immediate answers that I was hearing from friends and connections felt contrived if I tried to apply them to myself. I mean, abstaining from caffeine and the Internet and various other things are all perfectly valid spiritual exercises, don’t get me wrong. I just wasn’t feeling any passion about any of those things. I didn’t see how they would cause any forward momentum in me on a spiritual level.
So, with concrete actions failing me, I started moving into the realm of the abstract. I think what works to make me a worse person (at least lately) is that I get angry. I get angry at social injustice, and I really get irritable when I think about politics lately (it doesn’t help that I live in an area in which I’m surrounded by a very, very conservative political climate…a climate in which I am certainly an alien). It had began altering the way I see friends…causing me to apply stereotypical judgements to them. Knowing that anger and frustration and irritability is always cancerous to one’s soul, I decided that I what I needed to abstain from for Lent was things that brought this out in me. I needed to detox. And, while that would certainly take the form of a great deal of political news, I wasn’t sure what else it would entail.
So, a few days ago, I indicated by way of my Facebook status that I was “giving up negativity for Lent.”
Amazing how a semi-humorous remark like that can spark a comment chain that takes on a life of it’s own. Hilarity ensued. Friends that I haven’t spoken to in a while (and who apparently perceived me as the aforementioned grump) moved from asking me if I could really do it (and alluding to pessimistic but hopeful wishes for my success) to wanting to reconnect with each other. The end result was the planning of a party. I suppose you can’t do much more to combat negativity than that.
There’s been other interesting effects, though. Sometimes detoxing from things that take up too much of our emotional energy leaves empty spaces, and those spaces can then fill with much more important things that require our consideration. It’s like a chamber filled with stale air has been vented to the outside world, and suddenly fresh air comes rushing in to fill the space. That space has to be filled with some sort of air….and positive thoughts are always better than negative.
The things that came rushing in to fill that void keep me up at night sometimes. I spend so much emotional energy being frustrated and anxious about things that I didn’t do when I was younger, things that I needed to do but that honestly just didn’t occur to me. Other things that I just wasn’t motivated enough to do. Things that I said I would do later. Now it’s not only later, but it’s beyond later. I’ve been spending so much time catching up and trying to re-make these passive choices from earlier in life that I’ve neglected things that I need to be taking care of now. Practical things. Important things.
I’ve often hypothesized that I reach emotional milestones late in life. That’s become more than a hypothesis now. I feel as if I’ve been living the last ten years of my life perpetually thinking that I was twenty years old. Recently I’ve awakened, and realized that I need to be dealing with things that I’ve sorely neglected in the present because I’ve been expending valuable (and finite) emotional energy regretting the past.
Replacing that negative vibe with a positive vibe has led me to a conclusion. I need to grieve over those decisions, and let them go. There is a present and future (involving a family) that require my attention. I’m not giving up on correcting some choices that I’ve made…I still think there’s room for maneuverability there. I just can’t let that consume my entire thought process.
Essentially, I can no longer approach it negatively, when there’s a positive way to approach the situation…one that doesn’t require forgoing the present. There’s so much more freedom when I look at it in that way…like a sculptor seeing the shape within the negative space.
Amazing what seemingly random and abstract Lenten practice can do for our emotional states. Here’s to hoping for more productive epiphanies.
Photo Attribution: cameraworx