Posts Tagged 'Lent'

Lent is Coming. Time to Start The Misery Competition

Lent starts next Wednesday and my anxiety has increased. It doesn’t help that I’m not on meds anymore.  

I hate Lent. It fills me with dread.

Lent always seems to bring out the competition in Catholics, more so online these days.  It’s like Lent needs to be the horrible torture fest in the name of God and if you aren’t miserable and despairing than you aren’t a good Catholic making a good Lent.  The more miserable you are the better.  Of course that feeds my anxiety and depression because I already believe I’m a horrible Catholic because I don’t do fifty devotions everyday, volunteer 70 hours everyday along with working 90 hours a day while caring for 4000 people.  Heavens, I have a hard time going to Mass on Sundays and I pray in the morning and at night and go to Confession regularly but apparently that isn’t enough.  That God isn’t going to love me until I’ve worked myself into the ground and then He’ll deign to notice my existence but only the once because I still haven’t done enough to even be considered worthy enough to gain a second glance. And forget about Heaven. As my mother constantly told me growing up, bad girls like me go straight to Hell.  I existed therefore I was bad.

Lent seems to turn God into a psychopathic, sadomasochistic tyrant bent on humiliating people and sending them to Hell, going by the way Catholics act and talk during Lent. (And outside of Lent, too, at least for some Catholics).  It’s like God is absent or barely there the rest of the time or at least this pleasant parent that lets the kids get away with everything but then Lent starts and God turns into this bully that lays down the law very strictly and any deviation is automatically a sending to Hell, do not pass Go, do not repent and go to Confession, there is no way that forgiveness is going to happen so you better freaking forget it.  Messing up means you’re dead to me.

Intellectually, I understand that this is not God but how people imaging God to be and what they think Lent should be.  The part of me that constantly heard that God couldn’t possibly love me and that I was going straight to Hell along with all the “Catholic” opinions stated as Church teaching make this easy to believe and to fall into this mindset.  And I’m left to figure out what is real and what isn’t all on my own.  It all feeds my depression and anxiety and just makes worse. And there are a lot of Catholics that would like to keep my marginalized or even excommunicated from the Church because of my depression and anxiety. I am not in a good place when it comes to Lent let alone my faith sometimes.

Lent has an emphasis on three things: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Yet, I’ve always seen an extremely improper focus on fasting and fasting alone with maybe Stations of the Cross thrown in.  Everyone is “giving something up” which they think is the whole purpose of Lent.  This is where the competition comes in. And it is competition because it ends with Easter and they can resume what they had “given up” which many do with relish.  This is not the purpose of Lent. So what is?

The purpose of Lent is to prepare for the Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. It is also when the elect (those going through RCIA) prepare to enter the Church and receive the Sacraments, to be Baptized into the Body of Christ.  Fasting is important but it isn’t the main thing or the primary importance.  Jesus is.  Our focus should be on our relationship with Jesus and what we can do to improve that relationship. But that relationship shouldn’t necessarily be at the cost of our other relationships.  A parent can’t stop taking care of their children to go to daily Mass, volunteer at the parish, etc. They can add these things if they are prudent but the care of children is how the parent lives their relationship with Christ and their vocation and has priority.  A mother can’t add or do things that would harm her child(ren).

And what about prayer and almsgiving?  Other than adding the Stations of the Cross or maybe daily Mass most don’t focus on prayer. And almsgiving? Well, Catholics seem to be tight fisted with money and give the least out of all groups.  

Lent uses all three (fasting, prayer, and almsgiving) to help us focus on Christ and his Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection.  Like Church relies on Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium (think a three legged stool) to uphold her teachings/doctrine, so does Lent rely on the three legged stool of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  You can’t focus on one to the detriment of the other two.  You’ll fall off the stool on to the ground and end up with bruises and embarrassed.  I can’t think of Lent as a time to focus on being punished for my sins, as a time to suffer just to suffer.  Yes, I have come across Catholics that just want fellow Catholics to suffer just to see them suffer and so they can gloat about being “better” Catholics.

So what to do for Lent?

Well, the Church already tells us when and how to fast and abstain. Maybe add Wednesdays during Lent as an extra day of fasting and/or abstinence. If you have an activity or behavior that drives you batty and you know gets in the way of your relationship with God and/or others, then definitely give that up.  I know I shouldn’t read certain things on the Web  (I’ve started it already) since they make my anxiety worse.  It’s not just something I’m going to do for Lent because my anxiety exists all the time and not just in Lent. Don’t just “give up” something just to give up something.  Do it with purpose and that you can continue outside of Lent. I suggest giving up sinning because you can continue it all year round.

For prayer, I’m working on being consistent in my prayer life.  I started that several Lents ago and work on that all the time.  That’s a good habit that can continue outside of Lent.  Or maybe add one prayer. Or add a prayer to pay at specific times of the day.  I pray a Hail Mary as I’m making my bed in the morning (okay, when I get up) and include several in my bedtime prayers.  That was actually a penance I received several months ago that has turned into a good habit and I liked doing it so I kept doing it. Yes, you still pray the Stations of the Cross.

Almsgiving.  Yes, you’re going to have to open your wallet.  Look at your budget.  How much is truly necessary (rent, utilities, food, gas, insurance, student loan payments) and how much is luxury (daily trips to the coffee shop, the gym membership you barely use, buying new and expensive clothes when you have perfectly good clothes already or can find it cheaper and used at Goodwill, etc.)?  If you haven’t been giving anything, start with $5 or $10 at least once a month.  If already giving, give another $5 more or start giving weekly.  Or at least give to the special collections like St. Vincent de Paul or the Bishop’s Appeal. If you can’t give at all, offer you time. Volunteer.  Parishes always need help somewhere. (I do give even though I’m still currently unemployed.  I give because I can and my lack of employment doesn’t effect my relationship with the parish.)

See, Lent doesn’t have to hurt.  You don’t need to suffer needlessly or pointlessly or at all.  I don’t have to either.

One thing I am focusing on is taking better care of myself. Depression can be very debilitating.  It can be hard to do simple, everyday things let alone new, complex things.  And my anxiety feeds my depression and my depression feeds my anxiety. Not fun. So I’m working on treating them and not just during Lent.

I am totally giving up snow, however. That stuff is vile. (And yes, we had snow yesterday (23) and today (24) and it’s almost the end of February. Seriously whacked if you ask me.

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A Day Later

So here it is, nearly 24 hours later.  I didn’t get to Mass at all last night.  It was about 6 before my crying stopped enough and I knew that going to the last half of Mass wouldn’t cut it.  And I was still crying and had run out of tissues.  So I left and went to the grocery store.  Sat in the parking lot there for about 10-15 minutes before I went in.  Did a little grocery shopping but was still working hard to keep the tears in.  Head still hurt but couldn’t take anything since I had drunk all my water I had with me.  Went home.

I went to bed early hoping to catch up on sleep.  That didn’t work.  So,my sleep schedule is messed up again and I’m still on the verge of tears.

I still have no idea what triggered the crying but at least I didn’t have a panic attack. 

I am, however, giving myself permission to take it easy this Lent.  I’ll be following Church rules for fasting and abstinence, as usual. 

I’m not going completely meat free like I usually do.  I will get to eat meat Sun. – Tues. while the rest of the week is vegetarian.  I figured that would be a good compromise.  And next week will be completely meat free but only because Ash Wednesday and Friday are so close so I figured it would be easier to go the whole week instead of worrying which day it was.  I also plan on adding something, some sort of reading or prayer.  I want to start something I can continue after Lent.

Holiness Smackdown

If you’re thinking I’m going to be writing about Pentacostals or wrestling or Pentacostals wrestling (though somebody probably would pay to see that, I’m sure), I’m actually going to be writing about Lent.

Lent.  Those forty days when Catholics are pressured by other pew sitting Catholics into a competition of holiness.  I’m not kidding.  I hate Lent. Because that’s what I read on blogs and in articles and hear from fellow pew sitting Catholics. 

Now, most are probably just sharing without realizing the consequences of what they write and how people read their words.  But honestly it doesn’t matter.  It’s a competition to see who can do the most penances, the greatest fasting, add the most devotions.  It’s all about the external actions.  It’s all about how miserable and depressed you can be to prove how holy you really are and how much God loves you more than the person sitting next to you.

The Church talks about, well at least emphasizes, three things in Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Yet fasting gets all the hype.  It’s all about what you are giving up.  You might get a few that work on prayer.  But I’ve never heard anyone focus on almsgiving.  It’s always about fasting from some minor food (usually chocolate, sweets, or coffee) or maybe TV.  Always fasting.  Or maybe attending Stations of the Cross. 

And it’s always fasting just to fast.  There is no real purpose behind.  There is no desire to truly quit what they are fasting because they only have to give it up for forty days.  It’s not permanent.  It’s very temporary and has no real effect on the person.  The item they are fasting from doesn’t impede their relationship with Jesus.  It’s about fasting for fasting sake.  Pointless.  This fasting is never about change but about an external indicator of holiness.  There is no internal change.  People know they don’t have to change.  They just have to sweat it out for forty days and then they can go back to what they were doing.

This is how Lent becomes treated as an inconvenience and an interruption rather than as a liturgical season that is meant to help us grow spiritually.   So fasting that is done for form sake rather than as an impetus to change.  Which then becomes a competition of holiness. 

There is just too much focus on pointless fasting.  Too much focus on external behavior rather than on internal change of heart.  And one of the many reasons why I hate Lent.

I can see the point of Lent.  I just hate the practice of it, especially by many Catholics.  That competition of holiness judged by external indicators. 

As someone who can’t really fast (too many food issues aside), fasting also seems to be used as a punishment rather than an aid.  Well, Lent gets used as punishment rather than an aid.  It’s all about how you failed the rest of the year so Lent is the time to make up for those failures by fasting from trivial things so as to punish yourself to make God love you even just a little. 

Yes, punishing yourself to make God love you.  I have yet to see that work.  I should know.  I’ve tried.  I’ve tried punishing myself so that my mother would love me and stop abusing me.  Didn’t work then either. 

You can’t make someone love you.  And you definitely can’t make God love you.  He either loves you or He doesn’t.  You can’t do anything about it.

I wonder if people know that.  Do I know that?  

Cleaning Up

While it mostly involved my living room, (I made my sofa clean and comfy so I will sit in it again; don’t ask, it’s a thing) I also want to cover the last part of Lent.

It’s Holy Week.  While there is much to be said about Holy Week, like how I have a small collection of palms (yes, I have many and added another Sunday), I want to review my Lenten resolutions.  It is interesting that I have started hearing them referred to as resolutions because it implies more than a passing fancy.  Not unlike New Years resolutions.  Though people tend to be better at keeping Lenten resolutions, go fig.

Anyways, out of the things I did on my list, which to review are:

Give up meat
Give up pizza
Post here about Catholic topics
Go to Confession
Search for a job

I have followed through without issue on items 1 and 2. 

I went to Confession, twice even (love my priests because they are so caring and loving and you can feel it and see it). 

Posting here about Catholic topics not so much though I did try to post helpful things.  Though posting here about how I no longer visit a certain blog anymore due to it’s members’ and owners’ behavior was important to me, largely in regards to exposing myself to material and ideas that are harmful to me.  I would end up angry and hurting, mostly at myself, trying to convince myself these hurtful, even heretical ideas were things I needed to do and believe.  They weren’t.

I had to eventually ban myself from Catholic Answers Forum  years ago because of all the garbage I was picking up (personal ideas that people were spouting off as if it were divinely revealed dogma that came straight from Jesus’s mouth).  I had to the same with this Christian blog because there was no difference in the behavior they supposedly condemned from their own behavior.  And I thought they were just a couple of people who thought blogging was a good idea to stop behavior they found appalling and then got in over their heads. Or just don’t care how they write and what they write has an impact on people because they feel entitled to write what they want, how they want, consequences be damned.

Well, enough about that.

The one thing I really didn’t do this Lent was look for a job.  Up until last Saturday, I had only looked once, maybe twice and I definitely hasn’t applied to any.  And probably the only reason I am doing so now is because I’m low on food, the credit card company and student loan company keep calling, and I’m not sure where I stand with a friend, though that last is more me.  What hasn’t helped is having my depression flare up.  Last week was not a good week though Thursday and Friday were in that I was up before noon.  That’s huge for me.  My sleep is again messed up.  I feel lousy.  And empty. 

My friend saw me a week ago and was saying I should get on the state health plan so I could go on meds again.  And I’m thinking that all I need to do is find a job because I don’t think the depression could be affecting me that much.  No way.  Heck, I can still read books and I blog.  So I’m still functional just not as much as I would like or had been in the past.  But then I started thinking about it.  I suppose I could be more affected by the depression than I thought but would I really know.  How could I tell?  I don’t know.  But I’m functional enough I guess.  I just haven’t got a job.  Or, much food.  Or money.  Oh well.

I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

Lent: It’s NOT Punishment

I think that’s where I’ve failed in the past.  Seeing Lent as a time of punishment, of castigating myself, to make up for all my failures.  I had never heard Lent as anything other than as doing without, sacrificing, giving up, abstaining, faster.  Always loss, no gain.  There was no going towards anything, no journey, no path to travel.  Lent was always about wallowing, being stuck, never moving on or letting go.  It was always about being a sinner in the hands of an angry, capricious god who was just waiting for failure.

Everything, everyone was bad.  There was no fun, no laughter, no smiles.  Only tears and it’s too lates and I’m sorrys that were ignored.  It was always gloom and doom and somber and bleakness and failure.  Always failure.  Always never enoughs.

But that’s not what Lent is.  Yes, there is sobriety but not despair, not blackness numbness joylessness unhappiness dull tediousness. It’s one thing to correct one’s course after reflection.  It’s another thing entirely to self-flagelate oneself over tiny, insignificant things to make somebody else happy at your expense. 

Lent is a journey towards a specific destination and specific events: the Tridiuum. Otherwise known as: Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter.  I knew that these days come at the end of Lent, that they are a liturgical season into themselves but I had never heard that Lent was a journey to these days.  They were always separate.  They may be next to each other on the calendar but never the twain shall meet.

It want until recently, as in the last week or so, that I heard of Lent as a journey to Easter.  And that changes things.  Lent becomes less about what we give up and more about how we are related to Jesus.  I never knew that.  Lent was about empty sacrifice, not sanctifying relationship.  There was always doing, never being, especially not in a relationship.

I mean, I’ve heard that Lent is before Easter and that it leads to it but it was always off hand or secondary, never the main thing.  It was always about sacrifice and punishment, always punishment for me.  As I’ve written before, I have this belief, this need to punish myself out of this idea that if I punish myself then God will finally love me.  Punishing myself will make things right, with God, with my mother.

And yet punishing myself only results in me being punished.  I never get loved, nothing ever turns out right.  But I keep punishing myself hoping this time that it will take, that God, my mother will finally love me.  That I won’t be a failure, a mistake.  That things will turn out right.  But they don’t and I keep on punishing myself even though it never works and never will.  It’s all I know how to do.

Being merciful to myself is bad.  Punishing is good.  I deserve to be punished.  Being nice and kind to myself only sets me up for failure.  I can’t trust nice. It’s wrong.  It’s not for me, never for me. 

So Lent isn’t about empty sacrifices and cruel punishments though that is what I learned and accepted for years.  Lent is about the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.  Yet those crucial events in the narrative of Jesus’s life aren’t really emphasized in Lent, not really.  Most of us have only heard about giving up things or adding more prayers or about going to Confession more.  Never about Jesus and what He did for us on the cross.  Or at least very little is heard.

Will things change? I don’t know.  But Lent is not about punishment, about a sinner in the hands of an angry god. God is merciful even if too many people want a god that hates and punishes rather than a loving and merciful God.

The Good and I Needed a Nap

Well, I did though it ended up longer than I would have liked. Oh well.

Weather was very nice today sunny and warm enough that I opened my bedroom window.  I’ve also turned off the heat but that was more due to the electric bill.which was the highest it has ever been for February.  So I had been thinking of turning the heat off early instead of my usual April 1 St and with the electric bill, it was decided.  Ah, at least it’s above freezing at night so it’s not bad.  And if it does get too cold I can layer or even turn the heat back on.

Creepy from downstairs is gone and has been for several weeks now.  Apartment people kicked him out which is so nice.  Let’s hope the next tenants are better.  We’ll see.

Ran into a former coworker at Walmart today.  It was nice running into her.  Evil security company is still evil and hurting people.  At least some of the really troublesome ones were finally fired.  Boy am I glad I’m out of there.  I also saw a former, nasty supervisor as I was walking into Walmart but she refused to see me so I’m happy because I didn’t want to deal with her.

Also at Walmart, I got to educate a checkout lady on malt vinegar. If you’re from the East Coast or England or Ireland you know what malt vinegar is for: fish and chips.  The checkout lady had never heard of malt vinegar so I had to explain it.  Having to explain that it goes on fish and chips (and whatever else you want) felt sad and people didn’t know their own history and culture. 

As a kid, I remember fish frys at Church on Fridays during Lent.  Some places probably still have them but I remember them.  Also remember being extremely bored till we could go play out on the playground but still remember our parish hall and all the activities we took part in/were a part of in that hall.  That was the first parish I was ever in, the one I was baptized in and received my first Confession and First Communion.  We then moved but I’ve remember that hall.  Though the playground (the parish also had a school and I went there for K-3) was I remember best, after the awesome climbing tree we had at the first house we lived in in Phoenix.

Have found that Dawn dish soap and baking soda are good for getting pit stains out of shirts.  Really good, especially since my shirts really liked to absorb my deordorant and that sticks around.  Not anymore.  It  probably helped that I’ve been washing many of my clothes in the bathroom sink since I just don’t have quarters for laundry.  Now I’m down to towels, socks and my jeans which will be one load instead of two so I don’t need as many quarters. 

I did finally go to Confession on Sunday and ended up staying for Spanish Mass.  I didn’t quite understand what Father’s homily was about since I don’t know Spanish that well, though I can follow along in the Missal and can understand some words.

So five more weeks of Lent (thereabouts)  I’m glad I didn’t give up sweets.  That just makes Lent even longer. As I’m sure many can attest.

It’s Begun

Lent, that it.  I still have many other posts I should finish and post but part of my Lenten observerance this year involves updates and posts here.

This year for Lent I am:
Going meatless (I do this every year)
No pizza (something I’ve done the last few years)
Apply or at least look for a job every day during Lent (well I need a job and I wasn’t putting in the effort or work I needed to to find one)
Weekly posts to this blog, on Wednesdays, on a Catholic topic
Go to Confession (okay, that’s been on my to do list for a while and just needs to be done)

So all in all not doing a lot but I shouldn’t do a lot.  I have problems, which I may or may not have explained before, where I think, even believe, that I need to do more and do it perfectly.  Actually, I believe I just need to be punished and everything will finally be all right.

I’ve always believed, had it in my head, whatever, that Lent is not a fun season.  Not only that, it was a time where you had to absolutely miserable and suffering.  I needed to not only give up sweets and meat and not eat all day on Fridays but give up more and add heaping penances on myself.  If I gave up sweets, I couldn’t have even jelly or jam on toast.  I could not have anything that was remotely sweet in anyway or I would be sinning.  I had to go above and beyond and yet that still wasn’t enough.  I had to suffer.  I had to be punished.

Being punished was all I was and am good for.  If I was punished, things would go back to normal.  Would be the way they were supposed to be, not what reality was.  I had it my mind that if I punished myself then my mother would finally love me.

It doesn’t work that way.  Just replace mother with God and you’ll understand how messed up my thinking is.  I didn’t figure out that I wanted to punish myself to make things right until about two years ago.  But I still think it and believe it, to an extent. 

I understand that I can’t make my mother love me.  She never has and never will.  She’s not really capable of loving someone beside herself.  She’s just too self-centered for that.  And I can’t make God love me but then I don’t believe he loves me either.

You can tell me until you’re blue in the face that God and Jesus loves me and that the Bible even says it but I don’t believe it.  I don’t get it either.  If you grow up not being loved or at least not loved very much or loved very conditionally, being told you are loved and by a person you can’t really see or hear,or touch is unbelievable. 

To me, I’m not loveable and cannot be loved.  I need this to be true which would then explain how my parents treated me and how others saw and see.  How can I be loved if I’m not loveable?  I’m not loveable, therefore I am not loved. 

Love is conditional.  I can  only be loved if I meet certain conditions.  I don’t meet those conditions therefore I am not loved.  I have never been able to meet those conditions so I have never been loved.  I am exceptionally good at doing things wrong and terrible at doing things good.

Just look at where I am now: unemployed, broke, in major debt.  Nobody liked or loves people who are those things.  They are people to be pitied, looked down up, cast aside, and ignored.  You must be successful to be loved.  Nobody loves a loser.  Losers are pathetic and deserve condescension, not help.

Not everybody deserves love, hence conditions.  Everybody has conditions to be met before they will love someone, even parents for their children, even when they deny it parents still only love their children conditionally.  Love is too precious to just give out unconditionally.  There has to be conditions and they have to be properly met before love can be given out and even then it must be in small doses.  Can’t go overboard otherwise they might get the stupid idea they deserve to be loved and they can expect that love whenever they want.  And without conditions.  That cannot be allowed, not at all.

I don’t know the conditions or at least the ones I’ve know I haven’t met therefore I can’t be loved.  I was never able to make my mother happy or do what she wanted.  And she was always changing the rules, which didn’t help, but then she was allowed to change the rules since she made them up in the first place.  And as she repeatedly told me, I was going to Hell.  And since Hell was full of people God didn’t therefore God didn’t love me.

I have no problem with God loving other people.  That makes sense.  Other people have always has it easier, had fewer conditions, if any, to meet.  Me, like I said, am not lovable.  I’m used to that, in a way, though probably not as much as I should be.   I don’t believe it fully but I do believe it.  And in my head I believe I need to fully and completely accept that 100% for everything to be alright.  For everything to be as it should be. 

I’m under a different set of rules and conditions and I know that.  I’ve always been under a different set of rules, a different set of standards. 

I’ve always had to go to extremes.  Normal, average wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t good enough.  I had and still don’t have anything  that sets me apart, makes me unique.  I could die tomorrow and nobody would notice.  Or care.  That’s how worthless I am.  And unloveable.  Too many says I deserve going to Hell.  Too many days I’ve thought my mother was right and deserves to go to Hell.  Too many days I’ve thought of suicide.  Too many days I’ve thought if I just accepted fully and completely that I am not loved, that I am useless and worthless then things would finally work out.  Too many days  I’ve thought punishing myself would make things better.  Too many days I’ve thought killing myself would finally make everyone happy.  Just too many days.

I just don’t believe God loves me.  And I’ve told Him to punish me and He isn’t doing that either.  Therefore, I’m probably not even on God’s radar, which is probably a good thing or a bad thing.  I don’t know. 

I’m not sure what to believe anymore. There are many says when I want to walk away from the Church.  I don’t know why I haven’t.  There’s no real reason for me to stay though I suppose there’s no reason for me to go.


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