I had a little bout of insomnia the other night, and when I finally did fall asleep in the wee hours of the morning I had the kind of dreams that make you wonder why you bothered to go to sleep in the first place. For example, I was dreaming that I was frantically trying to catch up on the laundry, but that every time I threw the last load of laundry in the washing machine my laundry hamper magically refilled itself. Well, that's no dream--it's just life.
Another such dream involved Lent. In my dream, everybody else and their dogs and cats already knew in exquisite detail just exactly what they were doing for Lent, except for me. (Note to self: quit reading Catholic blogs at bedtime.) Desperately trying to come up with the Perfect Lenten Sacrifice, I decided to learn to sew and to make two skirts for my youngest daughter who is growing by leaps and bounds these days. Anybody who knows me knows that my sewing anything is not a Lenten sacrifice but a violation of the Geneva Conventions, but in my dream it made perfect sense--I would obviously suffer quite a lot, and even provide an opportunity for suffering to my dear sister-in-law who in my dream agreed to teach me even though I don't actually own a sewing machine.
Boy, was I glad when I woke up. "It was only a dream," I told myself, shivering in horror.
Of course, the part about Lent looming closer and my total obliviousness as to what to do was true, as I realized later when I was awake enough to consider it. But upon further reflection, I saw that I had no need to panic. One of the soberly funny facts of life is that Lent is much easier when you've been backsliding.
Take food, for instance (please, I mean that; you can have the calories instead of me). We've had a rather long post-Christmas pre-Lenten Ordinary Time this year, which is also known liturgically as the Season of the Stretchy Waistbands. Gone was the motivation to give away or toss the superabundance of sweets and goodies accumulated by the graciousness of friends and family during the course of the Christmas feasting; gone was the quick shift from feast to fast. Instead, the feasting lingered rather. There are still bits of red licorice in a container in the kitchen. And some caramels. And too many cookies. And ice cream left over from Thad's birthday. And all of it starts singing out to me at about 9:45 p.m., chanting, "The kiiiids are in beddddd....you're noooot setting a baaaad exaaaample..."
And then there's the rosary. I love the rosary. I miss it, when I fall out of the habit of saying it. My last habitual daily rosary practice lasted more than five years. So--where did it go?
Alas, it went through the Five Stages of Devotional Meltdown:
Denial: I've only missed a couple of days. I can pick up the rosary again at any time. It's fine.
Anger: Why can't I get fifteen minutes of peace and quiet around here before midnight? How am I supposed to concentrate on my favorite devotion with all this noise and confusion?
Bargaining: Surely it's better to say one good decade a day than to cram in a hasty, discombobulated rosary in between folding loads of laundry and completing nonexistent sewing projects.
Depression: I can't even say the rosary properly. What is wrong with me? What the heck kind of wimpy selfish Catholic am I, anyway?
Lent: Hey, this would be a good time to get back to the daily rosary!
So what with the focus on a more suitable adult diet (both in quantity and in quality) and my need to resume my all-too-intermittent rosary habit, I'm good to go for Lent.
Well, except for spiritual reading, though perhaps the Holy Father's new book will take care of that once it becomes available. It sounds absolutely wonderful!
I guess if I have any more unsettling dreams in which I am attempting, perhaps, to construct a scale-model version of the Great Wall of China using a glue gun and sugar cubes (which really would be a penance for me, as I am a danger to self and others in the presence of anything involving hot melted glue), I'll be okay, once I wake up. Lent: the backslider's edition is nothing if it is not beautifully simple in concept and perfectly doable in execution.