Marking the Journey: Lent Week 1

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“All other loves will enslave us if they are not ordered to Him.”  —Happy Catholic

Let’s reflect a bit on the first few days of Lent, shall we?  Did you commit to a fast or spiritual practice of some kind?  How is it going?

I look back on Lent as a whole experience, but in the midst of it, there is a process, a cycle, an ebb and flow of my reactions, emotional, spiritual, and otherwise, to the abstaining that I have chosen.  Sometimes it’s hard.  Sometimes it’s surprisingly nice.  Sometimes I give up the giving up for a little bit, and it’s disappointing…or a relief to stop restricting myself for a bit…or both.

Maybe it would be nice to mark the journey along the way.

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As you know, I have decided to abstain from having the TV on in my home for six days a week.  The seventh day is chosen by me each week, based on the logistics of my schedule.  This week was shorter than the rest, of course, with Wednesday being the beginning of Lent.  I chose yesterday (Saturday) for my TV day.

Thursday was lovely.  I felt calm, an inner peace, nourished by the quiet of my home in the evening.  I had nothing on my schedule after work, and I used the time with an unhurried attitude.

Friday was lovely.  I came home after work with just enough time to walk the dog and enjoy a few minutes of reading, then I left for an evening spent with friends.  A small revelation:  I was eager to go.  I was looking forward to it.  I consider myself an extrovert, because my energy is replenished by being around other people.  When it comes to social events, I am always, always very glad I went.  I am always refreshed and rejuvenated afterward.  But the in-between times, between committing and going, and between coming home from work and leaving again, are usually an argument with myself.  I feel drained and tired and overwhelmed from work, and I feel like staying home and cuddling up on the couch with a movie will be the better choice.  I feel the need for some “down time.”  But then if I really do that, I still feel drained and tired and overwhelmed later.  What I really need is to go out of my solitude, do the thing with people, but it takes an fight with myself to actually get going.

But when TV is not an option, going and doing the thing sounds great!  It felt like exactly what I needed after a long, draining day.  And it absolutely was replenishing to my energy, as always!

For me, watching TV alone for replenishing energy is an ineffective pseudo-social event.  I see people and hear conversations, but they are fake, and I am not participating.  My energy comes not from witnessing social behavior, but from participating in social behavior.

This is not to be confused with watching TV for the purpose of enjoying the story.  Following a story I love, following characters that I have become attached to, can be an enjoyable and life-giving part of my week.  I cannot tell you how many times a character’s story in a TV show or movie has struck a chord with me and helped me to better understand myself, others, the world, even God Himself.  It’s just never an energy-giving activity for me.

Which brings me to yesterday, my TV day.  Most of my day was at home with the TV on.  And I was eager to watch a couple of new episodes of my favorite shows, but the rest of the experience fell flat.  I had a thought, mid-afternoon, that I didn’t want to do this, I didn’t feel like watching TV.  I craved the quiet.  But I thought, it will be another week before I get to do this again, so I’d better get my fill!  I failed to recognize that the craving for not having the TV on meant I had already had my fill.

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When I am slightly outside of an experience, I can see the power it had over me.  Is TV-watching the biggest issue that challenges my spiritual well-being?  Absolutely not.  Is watching TV, in and of itself, morally wrong?  No.  Is it God’s will that I never watch TV again?  Of course not.  But God’s will is certainly not for TV to have enough power over me that I prefer not to do the things that I actually need.  This week I noticed this power in relation to social events.  There are other issues and habits that are certainly being affected as well.

TV is one of many things that fill my time and my mind.  Taking it out leaves space for these realizations to take root and grow.  That is the purpose of abstaining from something: to make space for something better.  I usually give up something that I fully intend to take back in full force on Easter, including the other times I gave up TV.  But I don’t want TV to keep me from the things that are better.  This year, I want the experience to actually change my relationship with TV.

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