Lent 2019

Happy Shrove Tuesday / Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras / Pancake Day / Paczki Day / celebrate indulgence with your Catholic friends day!

Image result for paczki day
Behold: paczki (pączki), full of goodness and served by your local Polish baker

My Lenten tradition of quitting a bad habit has a lot to do with how I build habits. Even though I abstained from a formal Lent challenge last year, I described why and how I started observing Lent as a tradition in my 2017 post:

Although I am not Catholic, I have been observing Lent in my own way for the past few years. Lent is the third time at the beginning of the year that I check in on how I am doing with my self-improvement (with my New Year’s resolutions and Chinese New Year reflections being the first two). I take a look at a bad habit that I really want to address and abstain from it. Completely.

What started as a show of solidarity with my Catholic friends has become an honest admission of a bad habit I have and a commitment to doing something about it in a way that works for how I motivate myself.

This year, I am giving up mindless social media scrolling. While I wish I could give up social media altogether, like I did back in 2011, the main reason I’m not doing so this year is that many of my friendships are sustained via touches on social media. Sending memes and animal videos is a big part of maintaining friendships in this day and age, and more so now that I’ve moved to New York and am unable to see most of my close friends in person anymore. I also find a lot of my conversations with friends happening in Direct Messages in a social media application that I’m extremely hesitant to ghost on.

The problem with how I use social media isn’t that I have conversation threads with people across multiple apps. The biggest problem isn’t even my likes-chasing when I post content. (But that is a problem.)

It’s the zombified state I fall into when I’m scrolling my feed just to scroll. It feels almost like I’m dissociating; I am numb and barely thinking when I scroll Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I am just grazing on information, registering it the minimum amount, and still draining myself a bit mentally. I don’t feel good when I do this, and my partner actually has to physically separate me from my phone when I get in the zone scrolling. (To attempt to put a positive spin on this: I no longer have to have my laptop shut on my dissociative Tumblr-scrolling days anymore…)

My rules for using social media during Lent will be:

  1. No scrolling at all if/when I open a social media site: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram in particular, and includes autoplaying Instagram Stories
  2. No searching for content to discover, in particular Twitter Moments and Instagram Explore
  3. I am still permitted to post original content myself: posts, stories, tweets
  4. I am still permitted to interact with friends in Direct Messages
  5. I am still allowed to interact with friends’ content, but I can only discover that content intentionally
    • E.g. I wonder how my friend X is doing with their new cat, let me check their Instagram to see!
    • If, when I go to X’s profile, I see that they have also posted a Story, I can check that out

The big rule is NO SCROLLING. And if I keep posting content myself (like for the March Disneybound Challenge, which I’m barely doing, or my arbitrarily started March Mask Challenge), NO CHECKING for digital approval. The big goal is to use social media with intention, to close the app not feeling like a shell of a person but more connected with my friends, both my IRL friends and the Internet friends I only have because of these apps.

TL;DR This year, I am giving up mindless social media scrolling for Lent.

Many of my friends also like to incorporate an additive practice to Lent, taking this time to not just abstain from a bad habit but also to embrace a good habit they would like to practice more. One of my co-workers even does “Reverse Lent”, which is based on this concept and culminates with him and his friends sharing what they have added to their lives at the end: many pies baked, a long-neglected room finally painted, a blanket that was knitted over the course of the Lenten period.

So, in that vein, I will attempt to do some additive practices this year as well. My goal-setting may be getting a bit ambitious here, but I am much better at rising to a challenge for a finite amount of time than I am with keeping my resolutions, so it’s worth a try! I will be trying to work out every day of Lent. (Whether I will use those Sundays that Catholics typically do not include in the Lenten period as rest days remains to be seen…) As a backup goal, I will also be committing to doing my skincare every day of Lent. I tend to fall into a lazy routine of just splashing water on my face and slapping on SPF in the morning or moisturizer at night, but I want my skin to look great on my wedding day and I know I have the tools to make that happen. Plus, it’s good for me to take some time and do a routine, to step out of my thoughts and pat my face and do something for the sake of being kind to myself.

Are you observing Lent?
Is there anything you think you could cut back on, and if so, would you do better with moderation or abstinence?
How are you doing with any goals/intentions you’ve set for yourself for this year?

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