Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lenten Lesson: Balance and Moderation

Remember how frazzled I was the day before Lent began because I had poor time management and was "too busy" with life? Yes, I'm going to talk some more about being busy. No, this isn't another "being busy is bad" post. I do, however, still think that we've made an idol out of being busy and that sometimes we just don't know when to let some things go and take care of ourselves.

This is the first in my planned series of my Lenten lessons blog posts. I'm not sure how many I'll do (at least four total; this post and three others that I have in my drafts) but this is one of the biggest lessons I learned this Lent: balance and moderation.

Where to start? Hmm... Oh! Anyone remember how I had every intention to only read Catholic books this Lent? Yep, it didn't happen. I had (and still have) too many books on my LAPL holds list; being "in line" to borrow a book for weeks or even months at a time. Because I didn't want to wait for them again, I decided to read them. I'm glad I ended up letting go of this particular Lenten intention because, thanks to a couple of those non-Catholic books, I realized that a balance was needed between being busy for the sake of being busy and being beings with a (good) purpose. Not only that, I finally figured out the balance that works out best for me between being too plugged in and not being plugged in at all.

When I started my recovery break (from school) in mid-December of last year, I wanted to do nothing after being ridiculously busy for (what seems like) ages. I wanted a vacation from having long to-do lists. I know I tend to take on too much and spread myself too thin. This leads to me getting completely burnt out after a while. It's a horrible, vicious cycle I've had for at least 10 years now. Seriously, I can pinpoint it to 2006, which (interestingly enough) was also the year I reverted to the faith. For years, I've wanted to do it all... and in as little time as possible so I could move onto the next thing on an impossible "goals" list. Then the accident happen and my health declined even more than it had in the past. Looking back, I'm grateful that I was basically forced to slow because I was close to burning myself out again. However this "want to do nothing" ideal didn't exactly work as I planned. I became busy with a redundant cycle that was a waste of time thanks to having too much free time. Oops.

How did my average day look like?
- Turn off iPod touch alarm.
- Check email.
- Check Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and check email again.
- Get up and make breakfast.
- Check social media again.
- Pray.
- Check social media again. Lose myself for hours on this.
- Lunch with mom; distracted by checking social media at the table.
- Netflix and more social media.
- Evening/nighttime prayers.
- More Netflix and social media.
- Sleep.

Repeat. Every. Single. Day. Sundays would include Mass and the odd day would include grocery shopping or errands but that was what my day usually looked like. Completely unproductive but still busy because (as y'all know) you get sucked down a rabbit hole and it's hard to get out of it. One YouTube video leads to another. One link leads to 10 more. A conversation turns into something more. Basically, I was still busy but instead of being busy with something like schoolwork or something productive, I was "busy" with stuff that was fleeting and, really, a waste of time. I've already written about unplugging here and here so I won't repeat myself.

"Well, what am I going to do now?" I asked myself. "I think this is how I've always been." And, yes, looking back at my life, I've always done something. I'm rarely ever inactive, even if that busyness is all mental. In fact, in the 6th grade I was given the "Busy Bee" award from my teachers. The certificate said "Always reading, always doing something." It took some soul searching (and a couple of solid books that got me thinking about making changes) but in the end I've come to understand that not all "busyness" is bad. In fact, I found myself more busy after I unplugged but it became busyness with a purpose.

I agree with this Verily article in which the author talks about how being busy with things that fulfill your life doesn't stress you out. Though I'm busier now than when I was in the endless virtual cycle of nothingness, I find myself a lot more calm and happier. My prayers have not only increased but the quality of them has gotten better. Sure, I still space out and my mind wanders but I'm still at a better place than before. I also found myself being less selfish and being more charitable with my time, actions, and words. What I busied myself with was done for a greater good, not just because I was bored and did whatever appealed to me to entertain myself.

I'm glad that I was also "forced" to slow down with my grad school load as well. As I had previously mentioned, a few weeks ago it was decided that bring my course load to half-time instead of full time was necessary. Instead of graduating next year, I'll be graduating in 2018. The rush I felt about finishing and starting work isn't there any longer but a) I know that that will be the speed that will work best for me so I don't feel overwhelmed and b) because I realize (and, finally, know it in my heart as well) that letting go of my own timeline and letting God slowly reveal His plans for me in His own time has been working well for during this season. With Spring quarter about to begin on April 4th, I'm feeling excited but not stressed out like I had been before.

As for being plugged in, I didn't want to go from one extreme (being too plugged in) to the other (not being plugged in at all). I think that's why I'm still doing what I wrote about a couple of posts ago; it gives me a nice balance. I can make time for friends who find it easier to communicate online while still having my time away from the all the craziness and drama (llama dama-da-ding-ding-ding-dong...) Towards the end of Lent I've gone one more -- I log out completely from FB because I don't want to see the notifications first thing in the morning when I wake up and turn off the alarm (since I currently use my iPod touch for it; I'll get a physical alarm clock when I have a little wiggle room for a good one). My relationship with my mother has gotten better and I find myself in a healthier place (mentally, spiritually, emotionally) being unplugged. We'll see how the balance continues after I start the Spring quarter since my entire degree will be online. Still, I have faith in myself (or, at the very least, faith that God will help me during moments of weakness) and am optimistic that it'll all work out.

Oh! One more thing: if you didn't know (and I don't think I mentioned it on the blog): I've gained like 7 lbs since the start of Lent. Seriously! I think I may be out of the underweight category (I won't know until I get weighed again and I'm guessing that may not happen until the following week) but, well, I was eating too much. Like, TOO much. 'Sup, gluttony? Yeah, I didn't think I would ever have an issue overeating (though I've been known to eat pretty well despite being naturally athletic/thin; super fast metabolism, I guess) but it happened during Lent and it was corrected during Lent thanks to some priestly advice. Balance. Moderation. Repeat.

So, there you have it. Some of the things I had to find a balance for during the Lenten season. There's more but it'll come in future blog posts. ;)

Anyway, I really don't want to be online too much today (I feel so great when I can ignore laptop AND cell phone) so that's it for today. I probably won't post again until after Easter Sunday so I hope y'all have a fruitful Easter Triduum.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

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