I’ve started writing on Tuesdays. Very little of it goes beyond my journal or to a core group of friends who lovingly tolerate my ramblings, but the rhythm of unloading my soul once a week has been therapeutic and, at a time where my own therapist is still on maternity leave, (seriously, Jules, come back) it’s become a necessary time. Most recently I have begun heading to an Einstein’s Bagels down the street from my in-laws’ house where I drop Levi off every Tuesday for a few blissful hours. This particular bagel shop is a haven for older people and I have discovered that every Tuesday morning a group of four retired women show up and play Bridge for hours at a time. I always try to sit where I can look up and glance at them from time to time. There is something strangely soothing about the cadence of their cards hitting the table and the lilt of their voices as they chat and call out their plays from time to time. This is where I sit and explore the nooks and crannies of my life and sometimes, something comes to the surface that seems worthy of repeating to the world.
As you may or may not know, Lent is upon us. If you don’t know what Lent is, google it because honestly I’m not sure I understand it myself. I didn’t grow up participating in Lent and aside from knowing that Mardis Gras intentionally runs right up to Lent, my experience with it is shallow. I don’t typically give anything up and have only recently started realizing that a great many people in my life do actually participate in Lent. I have one friend specifically whose personal Lenten season is challenging my own life in leaps and bounds. This one friend has chosen to give up excuses for Lent. Yep, excuses. I’ll be honest when she first mentioned it to me the thought crossed my mind that “excuses” was just cerebral and out there enough that it might actually turn out to be pretty easy. Isn’t there a fine line between an excuse and a reason, anyways? But as I have watched her live this sacrifice out for the last few weeks I have been astonished to see how huge of a sacrifice it really is. And even more so, I have started paying more attention to my own life and the excuses that I make along the way. “I don’t want to get up early to work out because then I’ll be tired and cranky and a mean mom all day.” “I can’t make time for that person because my time is valuable and I am trying to lead a more balanced life…i.e: I want to watch TV instead.” “I don’t want to make dinner tonight because I’m too tired.” And on and on and on. I make excuses for myself all the time. It’s a little embarrassing when all is said and done at how many excuses I make for myself.
But then I moved a step further down that thought process and asked myself how often am I blaming others in my excuses? None of us wants to think of ourselves as being lazy or unreliable or cheap or any other negative character trait that is usually exposed when we give excuses. And so, hidden within our excuses, at least my excuses, I usually find myself shifting blame from myself and my own shortcomings to those I can find in others. So for example, my excuse about not wanting to work out early because I will be tired and mean…that’s really me blaming Levi. He needs me to be on my game and ready to tackle the day and so, he becomes the target of my excuse. I’d rather watch TV than hang out with a friend? Well, that’s not me being lazy, right? That’s a friend daring to ask to encroach on my valuable time. How dare they?! (To all my friends, please hang out with me. I need you so much more than you need me…and I definitely need you a lot more than another episode of Pretty Little Liars…but for real, who the heck is “A”????) If I follow my dinner excuse all the way to the end, I can easily become annoyed that Greg just assumes I will make dinner every night. Even though I love cooking for my family and Greg has never expected me to stay in the kitchen, when I don’t want to do it and start making excuses, he becomes an easy target of my pseudo-feminism that fits my situation quite perfectly at the time.
With every excuse I give, I pass the blame around a little more. An excuse somehow gives us permission to pass the buck. It’s never my own shortcomings that lead to the excuse, it’s the flaws of someone else in my life causing me to have to give an excuse in the first place. So I am calling a spade, a spade. That is ridiculous! When I feel the urge to use an excuse (and let me be clear, an excuse is NOT a reason. Reasons are legit.), I need to start taking a step back and look at why I am making that excuse and then immediately replace the target that I am attempting to assign blame to for making me use that excuse with myself. And in the process, some of these negative character traits that I fight every day might start to lose the battle a little more often. I might become a more active, more reliable, loving, gracious person. What a novel idea! (But for real, people who know me in real life, keep hanging out with me! I spend my days pushing little trains around little tracks. I need you!)