Ash Wednesday is almost upon me. The first day of Lent. A day to begin forty days of fasting. What for? What is the purpose of this? Self-deprivation. It's no fun. I face Lent each year with a kind of dread. Why do this to myself?
Today is Mardi Gras, the feast before the fast. I don't feel inspired about what I'm giving up this year. I don't feel ready. I've dedicated this year to quiet love, and I'm giving up bitching for Lent. I'm giving up negative expression, but more than that, deeper than that, my goal is to give up negative thought. So what should my "feast" be? A bitchfest, no doubt. Which, come to think of it, puts me in the great biblical tradition of people like Job, who mightily complained to God when things didn't go his way.
There are so many things I can bitch about from traffic to the uncertainty I feel in my own heart. But what I really want to focus on is the unfairness of the blindness it seems I'm doomed to wander through life with. The inevitable pain and sorrow, the intolerable length of time it takes for any real healing to occur, despite my unending attempts to focus on this healing. The fact that all I've wanted for years is a true partner in life, someone to raise my children and build a home with, and that I still don't have that, and it's increasingly looking like I never will. One of my children has already grown up and moved out and another one will in a year. I'm on my own.
Despite knowing what holds me back from the kind of love and partnership I want, I find myself unable to make the changes that would allow this. At least not fast enough. And the irony is that these very issues are the ones my last potential partner could least deal with because of his issues, which in turn were the last I could deal with.
Why is life this way? It's a mystery, a paradox, and very often I find beauty and comfort in this, but, honestly, sometimes IT JUST SUCKS.
And at times like this, it becomes completely obvious that it's all about death. The destination is the grave for the body and the refiner's fire for the ego. I can go kicking and screaming, or I can go willingly. But seriously - who is going to go to the fire and the grave without a little kicking and screaming? Does it even really matter?
Of course it does. The grace with or without which I submit to these things makes all the difference in the world. And I know this, but sometimes it's still impossible to find that grace, to live it.
I look and look for the love that will make me whole, but death reminds me, the fire shows me, that there is no other option but to find it in myself. The wellspring of love is within me, and I will be comforted and healed by it there, or not at all. I am alone with love, or I am just alone.
So this is the purpose of Lent. To deprive myself of external things that only seem to give me what I want and need, in order to be less distracted from the true source of love.
And while I'm feeling sorry for myself because I'm not in Louisiana for Mardi Gras, and try to find the Mardi Gras Mambo on YouTube to cheer myself up, instead I find something that reminds me in more than one way of how little I truly have to bitch about: