Lent is almost over, not that it signifies much of a change for me. I didn't give up coffee, or social media, or eating chocolate. My only spiritual practice of late is committing to a small daily reading of Scripture, in hopes that all those small chunks of reading will equal up to the entire Bible by year's end.
Though I haven't been practicing, for the last 40 days I have been wondering. About simplicity, in particular. In the place I crave for more, I've started to ask myself how I might create less.
Can I be satisfied with a single serving of cookies?
Would one coffee/lunch/Skype date a week meet my desire for intimate conversation?
If I checked my Twitter feed this morning, at lunch, and during a meeting, is it necessary for me to check it before I go to bed?
There are so many places right now in my life where I would be better off carving away insulation and self-protection in order to reveal more of what's essential to who I am. But I'll be honest: in the snowiest winter in Boston's history, I've been spreading that protection on thick.
One frozen morning a month or so ago, I was craving a good real-life story and I found myself watching a YouTube video of Oprah interviewing Alanis Morisette. There's something about an interview that pulls out the core of a person, and Oprah is the Queen of that delicate art.
In case the 90's weren't your scene, Alanis Morisette used to be a rock goddess with no center or source, an icon for expression and anger-particularly of the female variety-who burned out about as quickly as she ignited on to mainstream music's radar. Oprah's interview focuses on her healing from the cataclysmic rise and fall on her wave of fame.
I can't relate in any way to Alanis' exposure or notoriety, but I am always curious about how a person can maintain any sort of purpose or direction after moving off such a high platform, and so, at sometime around 2 in the morning, I found myself hooked on her story.
As she walked Oprah through the darker seasons of her life and into her spiritual awakening, she stated, without a touch of pretentiousness: "I like getting to the essence of what's going on. I hate my own lying, lying to myself, lying to others, so I like getting to the bottom where there's no lie left."
That struck me as a unique definition for simplicity: the act of finding and staying in the place where there is no lie left.
Oh, mercy. I could wax poetic on the multitude of times in my life when I lied to cover up the essence of who I truly was. I'm sure we've all shined up a presentation in class, a resume to a prospective employer, or even a retelling of a particularly funny story at a party. Yet I've lied not only in words, but in presence.
Showing up just because it would look good to be seen. Spending nights with someone who I knew in my gut was not good for my soul. Leaving a room when it was too difficult to stay. Selling gifts, strengths, and talents to the highest bidder or the most effective opportunity.
I think the only way to check this sort of lying at the door is to know the truth about ourselves.
Discovering the truth is a journey I've been on for about 4 years now, and it has been equal parts amazing and terrifying. It all started with a forcible move out of people-pleasing and into being; I have my l'Arche family to thank for fueling the fledgling courage that allowed me to let go of some heavy baggage with deep understanding and compassion.
And that work continues in me to this day, as I fight to resist the egoism in me that flaunts qualities solely because they are valued in my particular community. To be busy, because everyone seems to be busy. To produce a lot, because everyone seems to be producing. To adhere to a certain belief, because it seems to be the one that everyone's believing.
Yesterday, a woman wearing a small blue stone around her neck asked me to choose a bridge from a children's book, assign words to a climbing vine in her office, and color a picture with my eyes closed.
"So this is it," I thought as I felt the page for the place where my last marking left off. "This is how I'm going to get over." After so many misfires, it was a woman who offered me goldfish crackers and a sketchpad who would help me look for what I've lost.
The freedom of being nothing and no one but me.
The courage to tell the truth with my words and with my actions.
The hope that there are places on this good earth where honest love lives.
This Lent, that is the sort of simplicity I seek.