Hey, kids, it's Ash Wednesday; let's go to the beach!
That's what I did yesterday, anyway. Like all my best ideas, it wasn't an idea, or mine. I had dreamed of the seashore the previous night, and then missed my stop on the homebound B train after getting ashes in downtown Brooklyn. In 4 more stops, I realized, I could be in Brighton Beach, on a February day when it was nearly 60 degrees.
I was still in a muddle about what spiritual thing to do for Lent. I'm working on weight loss anyway, so I decided not to drag in fasting with its history of failure. (Easter, the Feast of Unvanquished Fat Cells.) Last year I tried to quit Facebook; that lasted about 48 hours. And I already felt a sharp ache of deprivation: the Daughter is on a school trip to a distant shore, providing me with a painful preview of the "empty nest."
I was in another muddle about the future of this blog. Crazy Stable, begun on a whim, now forms a ragged five-year chronicle of our joys and struggles in this old house, along with lots of other stuff I've cared about. But it feels (as the Sunshine Boys would say) as if it's time to Freshen Up the Act. My identity as a cranky but passionate Catholic is no secret here, and to my mounting horror I have felt Crazy Stable asking to morph into an explicitly Catholic blog.
Why the horror? Because the Catholic blogosphere makes the bar scene in "Star Wars" look like a Zen garden. First, it's too crowded. There are too many good writers...brilliant, holy, funny, inspiring writers, more than I can hope to keep up with. And there are way too many exhausting extremists, at both ends of the spectrum: from mommy-bloggers who cannot get through a single post without rhapsodizing about cervical mucus measurement (if you get that reference, you are very Catholic) to ex-nuns who go around ordaining each other and bashing every word from the hierarchy. One quick spin through a Catholic blog ring is enough to make me want to be a Unitarian.
Well, no, not really, but you get the idea.
After seaside pondering, I decided on two Lenten disciplines. One, I would try to be more like my Beloved Cousin, who left this life one year ago. A light penance: to try to complain less, garden more, and share only love and enthusiasm and goodness with those around me. And two, I would pray more, because I suck at praying. I am so bad at it, and do it so seldom, that God mercifully resorts to just whacking me upside the head as I go through life.
The trouble is, I will instantly forget both these resolutions as surely as the tide will go out at Brighton Beach. So I decided to hijack this blog for Lent and put up one prayer a day—good, old-school, red-blooded prayers, not "Deep Thoughts with Jack Handy." This shouldn't be too mortifying. No punditry or polemics, just a walk along the beach with God. You are welcome to join me, or to flee.
Let's start with my favorite prayer for times of utter confusion, from the writer and Trappist monk Thomas Merton:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that my desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.