So Lent started a few days ago. Went to the service, the most solemn of the year, and my favorite. What does that say, that I like the really sad services--Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday? Whereas Easter sometimes seems like a carnival? Perhaps it's because churches tend to see Easter as the Major Outreach Event of the year (with Christmas)--Recruit! Retain! Impress! And so the life is sometimes spit-polished out of the service.
Anyway, I got my smudge of ash, and thought, during the service, what I would be giving up for Lent.
The "fasting" is pretty voluntary. Some years I've done it, and some years I haven't (and have felt guilty, being me). But I do like giving up something, in a weird way, because despite the discomfort, participation and mindful living brings more meaning to an important holiday. Christmas is easy to make a big deal of--one can argue it's made too much of, as it is. But Easter?
ANyway, my fast this year is kind of splitting hairs. I've done it before, and I will preface it by saying that it is a lot harder than it sounds.
I'm giving up 1) reading books. 2) While doing other things.
This means I can still read, but I can't read while eating. Or nursing. Or brushing my teeth. Or (gulp) waiting at stoplights. Or a host of other activities that generally are accompanied by a book, in my daily life.
The last time I gave up reading while doing, I realized just how much reading I do while doing other things. A lot of people wax poetic about how great reading in bed is, but I tend not to do so much sitting down and just reading. I am a little too fidgety for that. (Please, if you're a book multitasker, please let me know. You know who you are: having different open books stashed at various stations around your house so you have reading material everyplace--perfecting the art of propping open books with random household objects, learning how to walk while reading with the careful toe-kick so as not to trip....Anyone? Please tell me I'm not the only one.)
What does it say about me that I multi-task my favorite activity? Perhaps it's something good, like I'm efficient or something. But when I don't read while doing, I feel sort of...nervous. Like all the empty spaces of the day, the quiet activities, become more important and sort of scary.
A lot of people have the habit of turning on TVs to accompany their days, sort of a white noise to fill in scary spaces. TV I can't stand--but books, well, books are my white noise. I'm always a little nervous if I go someplace where I have to wait or sit or be for an extended period of time, and I have nothing to read.
All the books on voluntary simplicity I've been reading (while brushing my teeth) emphasize the need to have those empty spaces, those quiet times, those areas of your life that are not filled with something. I tend to get all high-and-mighty because I'm not as bought into the TV, but I have my own ways of coping.
So my first Lenten observation is that when I am not reading while eating, I tend to like company for my meal a lot more. Breakfast and lunch are my good book times right now--Lucy is happy in her high chair for a good fifteen minutes, which is glorious. But right now, that time is just, well, quiet.
It made me a little sad: I'd often rather read than share a meal with someone. Sure, books are great, but people are kind of important, too. And I'd like my daughter to grow up sometimes having mealtime conversations with me.
Don't get me wrong--I think occasional reading while mealing is fine--but when it's the default so that you feel bereft if it's not an option...well, that seems a little odd.
Why is it so hard to stop multitasking? Over stimulating our brains? What will we hear in the empty spaces if we leave them be?