The Lenten season officially begins today. Fat Tuesday is over, and Ash Wednesday is here.
Many of us Christians try to be more disciplined for Lent by giving up something we really love. It’s a spiritual exercise that can make us better people, I’m told.
I still dread it.
As I mulled over what I will give up this year, I prepared for the usual pain. Last year I gave up white stuff – bread, rice, potatoes and sugar. That was the longest 40 days I ever endured, and I celebrated on Easter Sunday by eating an entire loaf of French bread, and chasing it with a half gallon of vanilla ice cream. That can’t be good.
One year, I cheated and jokingly announced that I was avoiding cocaine. (I wouldn’t know cocaine from Martha White flour and have no idea what you do with it.)
This year, I decided to give up something I really hate – that pesky old human tendency to worry. I look fairly normal on the outside, but there’s a very uncivil war going on in my head.
I lay awake at night worrying that the big old oak tree outside my bedroom window will fall on my bed with Lucky Dawg, Rebel and me penned underneath. I worry about global warming for a few hours; then I do an about-face, and anguish over whether or not we’re doomed to return to the ice age. And on and on, ad nauseam.
I come from a long line of worriers, so I guess it’s in my genes. I worry that Congress will zap social security, just when I finally get to slip my hand in the till; or that I’ll get a flat tire on Highway 12 and no one will stop to help me change it. I worry that I’ll catch swine flu or that horrible flesh eating disease.
I worry that my retirement account will run out and I’ll become a lonely old woman eating cat food out of the can with a plastic fork. But I must say, that brand, Fancy Feast, looks pretty tasty.
Trying to keep worry at bay is exhausting at best, and probably fatal at its worst. Worry is like spam or junk mail. It just takes up valuable space in our heads, when we could be spinning more positive dreams for the future.
We all function better when we’re not weighted down with excessive worry. But each time I kick worry out the front door of my mind, it seems to sneak around and re-enter through my ears.
I’m done with worry for the next 40 days. A friend once told me that he limits his worrying to Thursday afternoons between 2 and 2:15 p.m. When he begins to worry, he writes down the worry, adds it to next Thursday’s list and dismisses it.
I’m going to try that. I’m not sure 15 minutes will give me enough time, but I’ll sure try.
Emily Jones is a retired journalist who edits a website for bouncing baby boomers facing retirement. She welcomes comments at www.deludeddiva.com .