I had a friend once, who shall remain nameless, who gave up chocolate for Lent. She urged me to give up coffee. I always laughed at her when she made this absurd suggestion.
It wasn’t until many years later, when I went back to the Episcopal Church, that I came to understand Lent better. I am not a conventional Christian, and I don’t do Lent in a convenientional way. I do it my way.
I had read that Lent is based on the time that Jesus spent in the desert, forty days and forty nights, during which time he prayed and mortified his flesh. In modern terms, he had downtime and did cleanses.
So that’s what I do. I curtail excess driving, try to get more sleep, do a cleanse of some sort, drink more water, and read something that is improving, such as Kathleen Norris’s books. I used to give up trashy novels – and I do love trashy novels. One of the priests at my church used to give up social media. I can’t see that giving up my circle of online friends would improve my life, my health and my way of thinking, so I don’t do it.
It’s worked out well. I have time to rest, to hydrate, to clean out my body and mind, and to prepare myself for spring and the time of new beginnings. I don’t think of January as the time of the new year anyway, except for fiscal purposes. For me the time of the new year is the Spring Equinox, when the day is 12 hours long, and the night 12 hours long; light, the male principle, and dark, the female principle, are equally balanced. By that time, after my time of rest and reflection, I can say, with truth, that I am ready for the new year, the time of new beginnings.
I have a neighbor who is dying, but very slowly. His name is being withheld to protect me, but he could be anyone in the South. I just see him more. He’s been at this for ten years and is still alive.
I don’t judge; I’m not his Maker. I’m just observing. I live in the South too. These are my people. I grew up with this, but it really has hit home to watch his long decline.
The South isn’t like the rest of the United States. Once you get out of the major cities the South becomes the Land That Time Forgot. Diehard Southerners like to refer to “my country,” as being the South. It’s a different mindset.
One part of this mindset is a Victorian preoccupation with death and the afterlife. Everyone’s kind of fuzzy on the details, but there is a great deal of worry about where they’ll end up. It’s not just the Evangelicals who preoccupy themselves with this kind of thing; it’s all Christians here in the South – and most Southerners identify as Christians. All Southerners preoccupy themselves with sickness and death; they seem to luxuriate in it and to not even LIKE the idea of being happy and healthy.
This poor guy was abused by both his father and his mother. He grew up to father a couple of daughters, who have turned out remarkably normal, and then was divorced, presumably because his wife couldn’t handle him and his problems. He married again, and apparently adores this wife – but not enough to get healthy to live a long time with her. Nothing trumps dragging out one’s suffering.
He has a condition where his body builds blood vessels into his lungs, which, when they build up sufficiently, choke him out. He can’t breathe. His wife takes him to boutique doctors who inject pga into the blood vessels to kill them. It dries them up. It buys him some surcease. It is prohibitively expensive and has to be done about four times a year.
I don’t consider spiritual healing as the answer to everything, like the Christian Scientists and Scientologists, because, in this fellow’s situation, he has a real problem – his lungs make unnecessary blood vessels. The blood vessels choke him out, like kudzu choking out a field. But I sometimes think that if he were spiritually cured, so that the history of abuse were cleared of emotion and reduced to filed-away memories, that he would recover. The body is remarkably plastic and can endure a great deal of abuse. He was in counseling, but she washed her hands of him – she pronounced him graduated.
I don’t presume to have answers, and in this essay I have really just raised more questions, but the big question I have is, if this man were not so preoccupied with death, and more with healing himself of the abuse, what kind of life would he have? I don’t have an answer. I visited him during one of his hospital stays, and offered to pray with him. I am an Episcopalian. I took my prayerbook, thinking that I’d read a couple of prayers and then we’d talk about what he wanted to do, and if he felt comfortable ending off this life.
He refused to pray with me. I wasn’t offended, just exasperated. He professes to be a Christian and is a lay minister, but refused prayer, presumably because it wasn’t his sort of prayer; he is a member of the Church of Christ. I am a woman and one of those who has a handbook. I don’t pray long weepy, wailing, morbid prayers, which is what they like here, but it seems to me that if you’re dying, that you’d want help, any help, and, if you’re Christian, you’d want prayer, any prayer. I left, and I didn’t go back. When his wife talks about him, I make sympathetic noises and change the subject.
My takeaway was that it’s so much more fun to die slowly to garner sympathy. This is hogwash; if you’re going to live, live. If you’re going to die, die. Life is meant to be savored, and, if you are a Christian, if you don’t enjoy and savor every minute of the life that your Maker has given you, then you do not respect the work of the ancient of days. But enjoying life is so un-Southern, and dying is.
Self care, strictly speaking, is the care of the self, of your self. It is acts of mindfulness for your own well-being. You are being mindful of your self, in the care of your self. It’s care of both the physical and the mental self.
If you like yourself, or you love living, it seems that you would take care of yourself. If you don’t love yourself or love living, that you would not bother to take care of yourself. Anything else, by this reasoning, is suicide.
Suicide can take many forms; it seems apparent that if someone’s killed him/herself with ricin, cyanide, carfentanil or a gun to the face, that they mean it. They really want to get it over with. They have made up their minds and want to exit as fast as possible. It seems that they who take fast acting poison or a bottle of sleeping pills want to get it over with as quickly and cleanly as possible with the least amount of suffering. It seems that persons who do the deed with a gun want to leave a mess for others to clean up. But many people let themselves die inches at a time over 50 years. There doesn’t seem to be much difference between death by passive-aggressive or death by poison or gun, except that passive-aggressive takes longer and makes everyone miserable along with you. You can’t ruin everyone else’s life miserable if you eat a microgram of carfentanil and die instantly.
I’ve known many people who say, very nastily, “That’s good for you. I can’t be bothered with that.” One person, who shall remain nameless to make life easier for me, said that every time I mentioned anything that would help her to feel better, be healthier or lose weight. I stopped trying after awhile. It felt good to stop. These people will drag you down with them.
Self care isn’t just the care of the body. It’s the care of your mind. Saint Paul cautioned his followers to guard their thoughts. Evangelicals like to take this as a directive to not think about sex, but they have that, as everything else, truncated. It’s not just sex, it’s everything. You have to continually guard your thoughts about everything. You have to make an effort to think happy thoughts. You have to “keep on the sunny side of life,” as the gospel song says. Persons who think themselves to be sophisticated like to make fun of those old songs, but they have a simple truth to them – you really do have to keep on the sunny side of life.
Self care is like everything else; you have to do it all the time. You have to have a care for everything; it’s universal to the universe of you. You have to care for yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will.
Here’s the first essay in my blog. I hope you enjoy it. They’ll be short, but frequent: I’m going to post once a week. I’ve saved up many essays just for that purpose, until I get used to posting. I don’t have great ambitions for this blog, not right now. I’m just getting started with blogging. People have said for years that I should blog, but I never thought I had much to say that people would like, so I didn’t bother. So, here it is, and I hope you like it. Let me know, and let me know if there is anything you’d like for me to write about.
I have friends who say that they don’t understand the point of Facebook or other social media. I’d like to share some of my thoughts on the nature, use and abuse of social media. It has its uses, but it can be abused.
Here is it is, in a nutshell: Facebook and other social media are open, worldwide, ongoing conversations. The reason why some persons can’t grasp social media is because they can’t grasp the point of conversation. They are too controlling to carry on a conversation. These are the persons who always have to keep the upper hand in the conversation, who can’t have for their friends and family what they want, who want them to want what they themselves want for them, who second guess their friends and family, who say, frantically, “Upupupupupupupup,” when you attempt to talk to them, who accuse their friends and family members of talking too much, when really what they mean is that they can’t do all the talking because someone else is getting equal time. They can’t do that on Facebook; they’ll be reported and shut down, blocked, or if the irritated person is a Snacktivisit, the trolls will be summoned and everyone will have a good time at the control freak’s expense.
Persons who don’t have a need to control the minutiae of their surroundings, friends and family, can have a good time. Social Media is a good way to keep up with friends and family who aren’t close by, or with whom for one reason or other you’ve fallen out of communication.
Empaths have a better time on social media than anyone else. They have a hard time in real life because they soak up all the energy of everyone around them, but not with virtual communication. They are freer to communicate. It’s a way to keep in touch and to have friends, but without the distress of feeling what they feel.
Asexuals, if they are careful, can have a good time on social media, because, if they are beautiful, they are not hounded for activities in which they have no interest, and if they are plain, are not tormented for not getting something they don’t want anyway. If anyone gives them grief, they can just block them.
That’s the right way to use social media.
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton