I have found the need this Lent to change things up a bit. I approached Ash Wednesday and the coming weeks with a sense of dread. I usually go off coffee and various other things. This year I just found myself wondering what I was doing and why.
I have been particularly busy recently and have been on my laptop many evenings, trying to catch up on emails and other bits of work. Inevitably that means I have been going to bed with my head buzzing with ideas which have infiltrated my dreams and left me with a less than restful sleep.
As a mammy I often talk to my now adult children about ‘balance’. I have one doing the Leaving Cert, another in her final year at college, one doing a demanding science degree and another running a full-time job and various other jobs in Belfast. I tell them they need balance, they can’t be putting themselves under pressure all the time. I extol the benefits of playing sport, listening to music, having a laugh and just relaxing. The problem is, I don’t seem to have been listening to my own advice.
Consequently, I found myself approaching Lent feeling truly bent out of shape by the number and weight of things I was carrying. The result was I would go to bed and be too tired and too grumpy to really want to pray. On Ash Wednesday I was still grappling with what to do for Lent. I had the presumption that I would go off the usual things – simply because that is what I have done before.
From somewhere though there was a wee voice saying, ‘Is that what you really need this Lent? Should you be doing that simply because you have done it before? Should you not maybe think about this?’
And so, I have decided that this Lent I am going to re-find my balance. I am trying to be mindful about the choices I am making. I am not going off coffee but I am trying to stop and think about it when the coffee urge strikes. Is this something I need to give me a buzz and get me through work or is caffeine the last thing I need right now? Does my need for coffee reflect a deeper reality that I am pushing myself too hard and need to step back – or do I just really fancy sitting down with a friend for a chat and a cuppa? As I say, it is about being mindful.
Am I just being a chancer? Am I opting out of Lent? I hope not. I really do think Lent is a time to rediscover our balance in life. That is something that applies to all of us.
A child who is absolutely fascinated by – some would say addicted to – the online game Fortnite could find Lent a useful time to rebalance, putting more time into playing outside, getting creative, reading, helping around the house. For many Lent can be a time to buy less, consume less, become mindful of our relationship with the Earth and try to be less wasteful.
I am involved in facilitating parenting programmes and sometimes a family will feel that things have got out of hand, they don’t know where to begin. Particularly when children are able to understand – so anything from about three years of age – it is possible for parents to say: “Okay, we are going to make a few changes here.”
It is an opportunity to begin again, whether that is in terms of bed time, screen time, meal times or whatever. Maybe Lent is as good a time as ever to give that a go.
We all need balance. When we have that balance, we are more able to be loving and caring to others. Perhaps these weeks, with some mindful living, can help us find it.