The Lenten season is upon us.
Although most folks don’t actually practice it. LifeWay Research found that only 24% of Americans engage in this period of fasting and moderation (even to the point of self-denial). Not only Catholics but other Protestant denominations observe it, however.
Disclaimer! This is not a religious post 🙂
Beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday, the length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century. Basically, it’s a period of self-denial that serves to remind people of the value of repentance.
Most folks I know though think of Lent as a cleansing after Fat Tuesday (although it came about vice-versa). Might as well eat, drink, and practice debauchery when Holy Season begins the next day!
I’m clearly not Catholic. Nor do I belong to a traditional church. And my spiritual practices don’t include dogma, or standardized rituals. But years ago, I did belong to a quite non-traditional, all-inclusive church, and the pastor there, Charlotte Dunhill, was big on practice. Lent was one of the things we engaged in, and it stuck with me all these years.
We didn’t then (nor do I now) practice in the manner of giving up chocolate or wine of any of the things we physically ingest, although lots of folks find spiritual practice in that.
Ours was (and is) of the psychological realm.
I hadn’t really thought of that this year, as I had a litter due just before Fat Tuesday. Which then came 2 days early. And, um, well—we have 13.
Thirteen. Labrador puppies. I’m fairly certain I’m still in my bizarre pre-whelp dream (which I have every time), and I’ll wake up to find a normal-sized reasonable litter.
Keeps not happening though. Every time I look up (as I am now, writing this while sitting with them in the box), I see 13 babies.
Dear Holy Mother of God.
We had some tiny ones. They were just packed in there. Two needed a lot of help. Ms. Purple caught on pretty quick. But the little wee boy, well, he was in ICU for days. Small, weak, not one who would have survived in the wild. As my ex would have said, it’s the law of the jungle. But as I always countered, we don’t live in the jungle. And we’re gonna do all we can to save them.
So, 24/7, we worked with him. I won’t bore you with the details. But suffice to say among the many other things we did, I would open his mouth and put him on a gushing teat and hold him there, as he was too weak to nurse on his own. And he wouldn’t accept formula.
Every time I came down for my shift, my first question was, “Is Mr. Green still with us?”
Yes, we fretted.
The Wednesday after they were born on a Saturday, I awakened and my first thought came: You have to let him go. And I knew it to be true.
If he was still alive, that didn’t mean quitting the help we were giving hm. But rather, letting go of whether he lived or died.
Letting go of the outcome.
Because despite our best efforts, life is often not in our hands.
Not lost was the fact that this day began Lent, and of course, I knew what my challenge was for this season—letting go the outcome in all things.
Um . . . . Surely my Source misspoke . . .
Now, this may not be your nemesis. But I would prefer to control the outcome of things. Even though I know the futility of that!
Yet and still . . .
There are a number of goals I desire—greatly. Dreams I want badly, which I know would make my life better. And the world, a better place. I promise!
And for which I work very hard.
Brass rings, and those such things.
The kinds of ambitions for which saying, “I can’t control the outcome” sounds sane and reasonable. But in practice, the disappointments cut deeply indeed.
Tough to do, that working hard for a dream. Tougher to continue doing so, while letting go of what happens. But so much of that is out of my control. I know that.
Yet and still . . .
Since then, I’ve of course had numerous opportunities to practice. I mean, there’re 46 days in Lent! Come on, Easter! But then, Easter gets here when she damn well wants to, and I can’t hurry that either.
So I sit here grateful for these healthy babies and healthy mama. Appreciating my writing of fiction and non. Happy to have a successful business and roof over our heads.
And letting go, letting go, letting go.
Oh—and Mr. Green? He’s a fighter! Although still little, all supportive care is over and he’s nursing vigorously and thriving.
Even though I let him go, I’m right happy and grateful he’s still with us.
What have you given up for Lent or of late?
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.