(End of) Lent 2020

As I’ve explained in my annual Lent posts, my lack of religious adherence has not prevented me from taking the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday to reflect on my life and my habits and try to change things for the better.

In the past, I’ve always eliminated a bad habit that I have trouble doing in moderation. (I’m an abstainer, not a moderator.) I’ve done this with a lot of success in the past but was having a hard time connecting with a bad habit to eliminate this year. I’ve seen folks do an additive Lenten practice rather than a subtractive one, but a former coworker really sold me on the idea when he told me he practices Reverse Lent every year. Every year, he commits to adding a new habit or practice every day of Lent. One year it was baking, and he committed to being a better baker (specifically of pies).

Originally, I thought I would try to add meditation as a Lenten habit this year. It’s something I used to be very good at but have gotten a lot less good at as I have gotten older and, to be frank, would benefit more and more from meditating. But it just didn’t quite stick. I told myself I would purchase a meditation app but got some analysis paralysis as to which one would be best for me.

One habit that has stuck, however, is daily journaling.

person holding on red pen while writing on book
Photo: fotografierende

I think I have only kept a daily diary once in my life for more than a few days at a time, and that was the semester that I met my now-husband. That timing is pretty fortuitous because I can look back in my diary at my entry from the day I met him, and all the circumstances that came before and after. I’ve always wanted to do daily journaling so that I can revisit my old thoughts with fresher eyes, but I never was able to prioritize doing it every evening before sleeping. I always thought I would fare best with a digital journal, since I type much, much faster than I write, but I find that I don’t really trust a digital tool with my thoughts. Plus, typing journal entries didn’t eliminate the awkwardness of trying to journal before bed when I wasn’t in the mood to, especially if I was trying to keep it secret from my husband.

But on Ash Wednesday, I opened a new notebook that I had sitting around, grabbed a pen, and started jotting some notes. It wasn’t a special notebook and it wasn’t a special pen, which I think helped a lot. In the past, I would feel a lot of pressure with a beautiful notebook and a gorgeous pen. My handwriting had to be perfect and I had to make it pretty. But this is just a notebook and a free pen with no pressure and no obligations. I write in cursive so that I can write faster, which has the added benefit of being a bit trickier to read if someone was shoulder-surfing while I was writing.

I brought the notebook with me a few days later when I went on my friend’s bachelorette party, and I stayed up in my cruise ship cabin scribbling away. I can look back and read my earliest entries to see how I wasn’t taking the coronavirus threat seriously at all, and visit the posts chronicling my husband’s fever.

Some days, I don’t have much to write, so I just try to note what happened that day: what I ate, who I talked to, where I went. But other days, I find myself furiously writing and writing and writing and filling pages. Those days feel really gratifying, and they make the more succinct entries feel a bit disappointing. I don’t use my journal as a space for free-writing or planning or things like that. I know there are a lot of journal prompts, but I have been keeping it as a log of what happened that day, what I was feeling that day. It feels less natural for me to try to inject thoughts that had to be inspired by some sort of prompt for my daily thoughts and feelings.

I actually hesitated a lot on doing BEDA because I wasn’t sure what I needed to write here now that I’m doing daily journaling. In the past, this was where I recorded my daily goings-ons for posterity, to look back on years later. I put a lot of feelings here, too, and I was always pretty honest. Lately, I don’t feel as comfortable being so open and honest and raw on this blog, because it no longer serves me the way it used to. I am content with pouring my heart out into the pages of my journal and with logging the more mundane details of my daily living there, too. Which begs the question, what is the purpose of this blog, if it’s no longer serving as a journal?

I guess we’re finding out together.

Did you give up/add anything for Lent this year? I was originally going to try to do Whole30 once I returned from the bachelorette party but… with shelter-in-place, that was no longer practical. I also tried to swear less but… I don’t know why it was so much harder than I anticipated. I think because it was difficult for me to enforce with myself.

Do you journal? If so, what does your journaling practice look like? My routine is to spend some time before I sleep, scribbling about my day in cursive until I run out of things to write. I use a notebook that I received as free swag and a pen that was free swag form a different company. Sometimes I think about using the materials I bought for bullet journaling, like colored pens and highlighters, but… I don’t want to get in my own way.

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