Almost Easter: Results from my Lenten Experiment

Tomorrow is Easter, which for some means frilly dresses, Easter egg hunts and candy bunnies, and for others transcendent celebrations exulting in the joy of a risen Christ. And for some of us, it marks the end of the Lenten season, 46 days (unless you don't count the Sundays) of meditation and contemplation and, ideally, a deeper spiritual walk. Sometimes we fast too, temporarily giving up something that might make us unhealthy or get in the way of a closer relationship with God. One year I gave up diet Coke; one year I gave up chocolate. One year I chose to add something positive, to make sure I was going out of my way to be compassionate every single day.

This year, I gave up facebook. My reasons? Not only was facebook starting to consume too much time desperately scarce this point in the academic year, but it was also, I suspected, holding me back from greater things. It was causing me to think too much about the wrong things and pulling me into too many intellectual skirmishes.

Added to that, there's the problem of my compulsive empathy--something that serves me beautifully as a writer when I need to get under the skin of my characters, but can end up, if unchecked, exhausting. In the early days of my facebook presence, I blurted out any old thing and read almost everything, enjoying the back and forth and rediscovery of friends I hadn't seen in years. But now that the number of my facebook "friends" has climbed to over 700, it's simply impossible for me to be the kind of friend I want to be to everyone.

So I decided to check out temporarily and see what would happen, and I thought Lent would be a great time for me to do this. It was an easy boundary to set, and for the most part, people respected it. What I hoped would happen was that I would find a temporary rest from what had become a constant churn of internal chatter, and that I would be able to grow, both spiritually and emotionally, from the brief withdrawal. I also hoped that I would spend even more time writing and doing what is now pretty heavy market research for my novel. I was already good at fitting in the time--but I wanted to do even more. I also wanted to explore options concerning my day job. I expected it to be a time of growth, meditation, and shift in perspective.

What I did not anticipate was how in doing this one small thing, I opened up so much psychic space. Psychic space not only to write and imagine and grow and dream, but space for God to speak--and speak and speak and speak. Within a week, my car broke down, I got another one, and stressed about paying for the new car, leapt to find another part-time job, which led to several fluke encounters and what is essentially a career change. This has been coming for some time, my shift away from academia, and I've been grieving giving it up. But what's happened in the past 45 days has taught me better how to shape my postacademic life, one that will likely involve several part-time jobs while I piece together a career as a professional writer.

It's a scary step I'm taking, but spending these last few days away from the facebook chatter has confirmed that it's both what God wants for me and what I want for myself. It doesn't mean I won't still teach, but what it does mean is that I'm ready. I'm ready to face this next season in my life, whatever God wants it to be. I used to think it would be a tenure-track job, but now I'm truly open to anything. The last time I was this open was right when I came to UH, as a wet behind the ears 24-year-old, with $186 dollars in cash, no car, and an apartment I had no idea how to pay for. But I heard the call, and I leapt, and within two weeks, had two jobs and a $5000 fellowship. The next semester I got a teaching assistantship.

So now, as I finish out the semester, finish my revisions, and start my new job (yes, oh boy, life is going to be crazy!), I'm looking into a future that's equally unmapped. And rather than feeling anxious, I feel excited. Rather than worrying all the way through my writing sessions as I usually do, I move through them with a new sense of confidence and glittering snatches of joy. I can't explain it, really, except that somewhere in the enclave of silence, I ended up moved by peace. By taking the time out to listen to God, I finally heard myself.

Comments

And man, now I want to sing some Yolanda Adams or something, dang it!
Oh honey I love that you took this time for yourself and your life literally changed. XOXO
Thanks, Rebecca! :)
Loved this post, Kathryn!

Guess I should stop sending you all those Farmville invites! (Just kidding about that. I haven't played it and had to block the application from sending me myriad invitations daily. Shudder.)
I never played farmville, but there were others that were tempting. But what was most tempting was that little chat program at the bottom. I know you can turn it off, but . . .
I like the Bejeweled game (too much) but I've had to turn off the chat program. Way too distracting. And myopic old horndogs give me the creeps.
Ha ha ha "myopic old horndogs"! Just as bad as the biopic-writing young ones. ;)
blossoming said…
Thanks, Kathryn, for inspiring me to spend some time away from FB (and to take a break from blogging as well.) I didn't do it throughout the 46 days of Lent, and I must admit I peeked at FB a few times, but each time I did, I could feel the rush of other people's emotions washing over me and drowning out that small, quiet voice within that had important things to say - when I'm listening out of the silence.
Mira Leighton said…
Power to the people! I myself find that too much FBing keeps me from getting on with the main show in my head. Congrats for stepping off the cliff and really putting yourself out there. Bon courage!
Joy said…
OMG, what a POWERFUL post! I haven't stepped away from FB in the way that you have but I can so relate to the need for some mental space. Hooray for you, your new opportunities and your awesome rejuvinated outlook!!!
Novabella said…
In my field there is a scholar named Thibeault who talks about "occupational junk food"-- those things that we do to occupy ourselves that take up time but don't really contribute to well-being.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the odd foray into junk food but none of us would thrive with a steady diet. Bravo for finding a way to pull your life into more balance, even in the face of some major transitions.