Lent 2022: Growth & Gratitude

            I was hesitant about Lent this year. In the weeks following the death of my cat, I wasn’t doing well and wasn’t sure how sacrificing something for faith would actually benefit me. My meals were sporadic, and my appetite was small so food didn’t make sense. I’d already given up on my Squishmallow habit so last year’s promises would only be an empty gesture. Still, something about the ritual called to me and I eventually found my compromise. I wanted a task that would remind me of positivity, love, and the good things life has to give.

            Once again, I decided to listen to a podcast every day—something that would give me a chance to reflect or bring joy. I also saw an image circulating around Lent, quoting Pope Francis, and it included: “Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.” In my bullet journal, for every day of Lent, I wrote down something I was grateful for.

            I listened to five different podcasts, and tried to go for an episode a day or half an episode if it was more than 30 minutes. I returned to my favorite from last year, The Self-Love Fix, and reflected on validation, people pleasing, and codependency. I dove into Ologies with Alie Ward and learned about dinosaurs, monkeys/apes, and crystals. I listened to the first episode of The Food Seen, which has some cool perspectives on professional food photographers versus amateur Instagram hobbyists (like myself). My friends and I started following the newest season of Newcomers: Marvel; I think it’s refreshing to get a non-obsessive perspective on the MCU since I’ve been in it since 2008, and the comedy is hilarious. Lastly, I usually listened to Make Your Damn Bed, because it’s the perfect bite-size motivation (especially once you fast-forward through all the ads) and the topics often aligned with my life.

            Am I magically transformed into a podcast person? I wouldn’t say so, but I’ve certainly discovered more things that I love and how this genre can create community and fill so many purposes. I laughed. I learned. I had some deep thoughts. It was a Lenten observation that I had to work toward so I wouldn’t forget and accidentally skip a day. I won’t guarantee that this is a habit I’ll keep up with, but there are enough shows now I want to keep listening and stay updated with the hosts and what they’re discussing. In which case, I can keep this reflective attitude going for most of the year.

            The gratitude journal, on the other hand, sometimes required more work. When much of life is monotony or that dull edge of sadness, it can be difficult to dredge up “a nice thing that happened today.” However, it became easier the more I observed the habit, and some days were better than others because my gratitude was obvious. When Lent was over, I read through everything I’d written and noted that, for all the unique events, I was most grateful for good weather, beautiful nature, and the relationships I had with other people or animals. I think we often get bogged down in those Big Things™ we’re meant to be doing and those milestones we should be hitting, but most of life is the little things. They’re still precious and worth celebrating, too, and I’m going to try to do that more often.

            Some highlights from the journal include:

  • Not being hit by a Jeep with Florida plates that ran a red light on my way to work.
  • The opportunity to travel to Vancouver and meet Soleil.
  • Buying lots of fruits and veggies from Safeway. Pretty flowers.
  • Blooming trees. An unplanned nap. Health insurance.
  • Wine walk with friends and a good milkshake.

            I’m probably not going to keep the gratitude list going in my bullet journal, but it has helped me appreciate more about the everyday. Even a day full of nothing can still have something a little special about it (not necessarily the lack of dying). A lot happened this Lent and I’m glad to have this little list as a snapshot of the happy moments and what I have to be thankful for.

            Have these Lenten observances cured my depression? Not really. I’m still sad and burnt out. However, they have helped me find sources of joy—big and small—to bring some light to my life. I’ve used this time to reflect on what makes me happy and what I need to do to bring more positive change into my life, and now I’m ready to move forward. I just needed a little faith that I could.