For Christians, now is the time of Lent: a penitential observance leading up to Easter. For many of us, that means giving up something, some little vice or luxury: sweets, alcoholic beverages, TV viewing.
I'm taking a different approach. Instead of giving up something, I'm trying to gain something.
It's so very easy to get into a rut. I get up each morning, I go through the same routine; I go to work, taking the same route each day. Work is (barely) controlled chaos, herding cats all day, trying to keep all the balls in the air - but I'm pretty good at it, and have a certain comfort level with what I do for a living. I come home, and have the same routines each night.
Somehow it seems even more rut-like in winter, when much of what seems available to do is indoors. By about this time in the season I'm feeling rather boxed in.
My goal this Lent is to gain a clearer view. To see what is around me. Turn off the auto-pilot and truly observe and interact with my life.
Some of this is simple stuff. Always make sure that I give the person I'm speaking with the courtesy of my full attention, and be an active listener to them. I know better than to glance at my email or fiddle with my phone, but still I do it.
And some of it is not so simple. Sharpen my focus. Truly see and interact with my world, not treat it as background noise to be tuned out.
Have you ever had the experience of coming home after being gone for a period of time, say for an extended vacation or business trip, and when you walk in the house everything looks almost new and strange? You see details that normally remain oblivious to you. (Oh - so that's what my living room looks like!)
It's that "aha!" experience that I hope to regain.
Socrates famously commented that the unexamined life is not worth living. My goal this Lent is to begin examining again. Focus on living instead of existing.
This is my Lenten goal: to work toward being a more engaged person in the world. Time will tell how successful I am. I think it's harder than giving up chocolate.