Thursday, February 27, 2014

Approaching Lent

I'm home sick recuperating from a bug.  I have a new acupuncturist here- he's been working on loosening up some chronically stiff things, and while sessions are not exactly comfortable, I am definitely noticing a massive difference.   I was supposed to have a session on Tuesday, but when I arrived and he discovered I was sick, he booted me out to go home, take my medicine and rest.  "If you don't rest, the medicine will not work!"

For a guy who is all about the alternative healing, I was surprised.  He actually went on to say, "Rest means you go home.  You go to bed.  You can watch some TV. You should drink THIS much water, and some of it can be coconut water, for the electrolytes.  That's what you do.  Oh, no, you don't go back to work."

He was quite adamant.

So while I'm home sick, I'm taking the chance to (ahem, rest, of course) and catch up.  I have letters and a sermon to write, a project to work on, and an email app to select so I can process my inbox to zero.  I'm hoping to get the letters written and the email app selected today, in between bowls of Italian wedding soup and glasses of coconut water.

I'm trying very, very hard to not let the Inner Negativity Voice get the upper hand as I take this week off from the gym.  Negativity Voice says, "But you'll LOSE EVERYTHING!"  My Inner Wimp says, "But it SNOWED! Instant, valid excuse!"  Tough Girl Voice says, "Your joints and back weren't THAT painful.  I'm pretty sure a Navy SEAL and/or an NFL Cheerleader would have both giggled at your wimpiness."  And it takes the acupuncturist to say, "Look, you had these minor recurring injuries.  Rest for THIS WEEK entirely, and you'll actually heal."  Maybe I should promote my acupuncturist to the role of Sick Coach… you know, the person who tells an overly-driven person how to rest and get better.  I'm really not good at the sick thing.

(Which, by the way, is how I ended up with this whole dairy allergy thing to begin with.  Pushing too hard and sending a natural intolerance over the cliff.  You'd think I'd have learned something from last year, no?)

I'm contemplating Lent and what discipline I'll do this year.  I'm feeling strongly this time that I don't want to do a deprivation-based discipline.  After all, with the dairy allergy, everything is deprivation.  I've liked the no-Facebook-after-5 disciplines and that's a good standard now, and I really liked the "take a hike a week" discipline that I did last year in Oregon that I kept pretty quiet because it was just for me.

This year, I want to do something simple and graceful, based in gratitude.  M is talking with me about what we might want to do together.  We are considered cutting out purchased carbs (breads, tortillas, pitas, pasta, our usual sandwich fare) and making a 40 day rule that we are going to make all our own bread.  It would be a learning process for him to learn to bake.  I'd make it a blanket requirement for myself: no processed carbs at home OR while out, except for what we make ourselves.

Some day, I will learn how to make these go in the right direction!
Bread that I made last year when I was working on a no-knead recipe.

I feel I've learned enough about nutrition AND my training load is light enough right now for this to be a sensible and safe discipline.  I know that the act of baking tends to force me to slow down and build in extra time, meaning that I have to be grateful for that gift of time and energy.  Being able to give up something like bread and to bake it ourselves… I admit it IS a luxury.  It won't be an easy luxury, but the reality is that we are in a place in our lives where we can afford the time and energy to do this discipline.

We'll have to make up some rules for ourselves, I'm sure.  Maybe Sunday afternoons are going to be baking days?  We might even pick up the grain grinding jar for our Vitamix, to help with this discipline… who knows!

This could dovetail nicely with work for me.  My parish is participating in a project called 'Change for Lent'.  Basically, you set aside a jar, and put a certain amount of money into it each day.  Some suggestions are to give up your Starbucks coffee and put the cash amount of that coffee in.  (Yes, that is hard work in our increasingly cashless society!)  I think we might figure out how much we are spending on bread products and put THAT amount in… including the amounts that we would have spent on a sandwich, had we gotten a sandwich while out and about.

How will this be a spiritual practice for Lent?  Well… It'll be both a health and a spiritual thing.

Eating fewer processed carbs tends to make both our bodies happier.  We eat pretty high on the vegetarian scale, so our diets are very naturally high in whole-food carbs, so cutting out processed carbs is like scraping off some of the icing from a cake.

Emotionally, I tend to be extremely hard on myself with a lot of negative self-talk around food.  I have noticed, looking back on journal entries, that I tend to be much more gracious with food I have cooked myself.  If I ask myself to bake my own bread for Lent, and/or as I eat the bread my spouse will be learning to bake, then I think I'll be more grateful for the bread, and more mindful of the eating.  It will likely help me focus on reducing that negative self talk.

Spiritually… I think something like bread is really tied into the Christian faith in our rituals.  In our culture, it is everywhere and easily accessible… but that wasn't necessarily the case in a time before factory bread.  Bread used to be something that took time and planning.  The heels of bread were a treat, not the icky part that kids refuse to eat.  Pasta was a family affair- a multi-hour process of rolling dough and stirring sauce.  Bread is something real to all the senses, real in a way that we often lose when we pull it out of a plastic bag from the market instead of baking it ourselves.

I think, for me, it will be about slowing down and consciously connecting with family as we knead or roll or mix dough.  It will be about pressing pause on my inner critic who is too quick to snap at or stop my spouse in the kitchen as I teach him how this works.  It will be about me learning to be grateful for a food source instead of pricking myself with guilt every time I want to stuff my salad into a pita.  It'll be about me trusting someone else to manage the bread baking sometimes, and to let go of the inner Control Freakazoid.

So that is what I've been mulling today, as I work hard to take a rest day.

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