I love the season of Lent.  Not only because of all the great hymns associated with it, but because of the new possibilities it opens up.  At face value, idea of giving something up for Lent is a negative one, and a rather poor picture of the one at whose "right hand are pleasures forevermore."  Whether we observe Lent by abstention from something pleasurable, or by some positive action, I believe God's purpose in the exercise is to unshackle us from old habits and open our hearts to something new and better.

Thus I have at different times celebrated Lent in various ways, from a more traditional fasting from sweets to "fasting" from making negative comments (harder than you think!) to making myself listen daily to a genre of music I dislike ("praise and worship songs") to listing, at the close of every day, five things for which I was thankful (a lovely exercise).  Lenten disciplines are much more fun than New Year's resolutions, because you only commit yourself from Ash Wednesday till Easter.  Thus it's easier to experiment, to be more daring, to test new ideas and practices.

Lent came late for me this year.  At its beginning we were in Switzerland visiting Janet, and Mark 2:19 seemed applicable.  For another, even after we returned there was nothing that seemed right to do.  Until now.

About a month ago I read French Women Don't Get Fat; I found it only moderately interesting, but if all I take from it is the author's baguette recipe I am still much the richer.  (Side note: I have a friend who is gifted with the ability to make an excellent summary of the important points in a book.  The down side of this is that I'm usually disappointed when I read a book she has recommended, because I'm expecting more but have already received most of what's there.  It happened with The Power of Full Engagement, and again with this book.)  One of the author's suggestions, which I've heard before, is to keep a food diary, in which one writes down everthing eaten over a period of several days or even weeks.  Similarly, Randy Pausch's lecture on Time Management strongly suggests keeping a time log, for thirty days, chronicling how one's time is spent—for every 15-minute interval!  If the food diary seems daunting, this seems downright impossible.  We're talking about someone who is woefully behind in her personal journal, and unaccountably uninspired to do better.  I can't do this!  It's crazy.  It would require...um...discipline!  Ah, ha!  And look, thirty days brings me right up to Easter.

So I'm attempting both:  keeping logs of both food and time.  You needn't worry that I'll share the details here—for both my sake and yours I'll limit myself to general observations.  One thing I've learned already is that I'm a compulsive multitasker.  I like to read while I eat, work while I'm talking on the phone, scan photos while IM-ing, and write (mentally) while doing almost anything else.  (One reason I don't care for watching television and movies is that I don't knit and there's not much else you can do effectively at the same time.)  Even my 15-minute segments often have X's in two or more boxes!   This may be a natural part of my personality, but I'm also convinced it's a learned behavior, a consequence of my career as wife/mother/homemaker.  Is there any other job more prone to constant interruptions?  Children, of course, but also husbands, friends, neighbors, telephones, and boiling-over pots are all prone to demanding frequent attention—and right now!  Before long, the ability to string two thoughts together is in jeopardy, and one loses the habit of concentrating on one task alone.  Of course, being available when needed is part of the job description, but perhaps we allow it to be taken too far.

The ability to multitask is a useful one, to be sure.  To be able to fit more than one activity into the same time slot enables us to accomplish more, and this is no small achievement.  But it's also true, I'm afraid, that we're likely to do neither activity as well as we could if only we'd give it our full attention.  And perhaps our enjoyment is less, also.  In many cases that may be okay, and "good enough is better than perfect."  But the problem is worth considering.

And at this point, just considering.  The purpose of these Lenten exercises is not change, but observation only.  Change may come later, but it's going to be quite enough at the moment just to write things down!

One other thing I (re)discovered is my perfectionism.  I wasted too much time trying to design the "right" log templates.  It's harder than it sounds to come up with the right categories and labels and deliniations!  But you know what I discovered?  It doesn't matter.  I finally started with very basic logs, almost blank, and have discovered that they are designing themselves as I go along.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 22, 2008 at 1:16 pm | Edit
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Gambarimasu. I think you do sleep and movies marvelously. ;) Funny that the sermon last Sunday included a complaint of when he and his staff were required to log their time in 15 minute intervals. He hated it, but admitted it was a good exercise.

Posted by IrishOboe on Friday, February 22, 2008 at 4:24 pm

You're right about my ability to sleep through movies; I'd forgotten that. In that case I'm definitely not giving at least one of the activities due attention.

If the 15-minute-interval time log is one tenth as revealing as it is annoying, it will have been worthwhile.

Posted by SursumCorda on Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 2:18 pm
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