Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Problem with Sublimation

Lent is supposed to be a holy time. Only two weeks old, my children have found ways to game the Lenten system. One son was being especially irritating to his sister. When I asked why he kept trying to provoke her when she'd decided to offer up her annoyance with him as part of observing Lent, he responded, "Mom, I'm just helping her with her Lenten promise." Another has helpfully marked all the "days off" on the calendar. A third has opted for a legalistic interpretation, indicating that he need not put himself out too much for Lent just yet. As one of his first two spiritual teachers, I over ruled, "You have to at least try something." but I understand and even sympathize.

I keep pointing out that Lent is hard.  I've asked them for help with my resolution.  Happy to comply with the opportunity to correct Mom,  I've had to freely acknowledge when they've pointed out, "I know I'm not following my resolution. I know it." and smile with my gritting teeth. Correction does not come easy for me, even sublimating the rest of the thought, the "yeah but" part of the phrase that follows in my head after being rightly called on my grouchiness requires a lot of wrestling.

Lent is hard in the way that exercise is hard, it is hard when we do it, while we're doing it, and equally irritating when we fail to do it because we have no one to blame for our failure but ourselves. For the better part of a year, I've written exercise down on the list and it keeps not being done. The same holds true for sublimation except I haven't written it down. Writing down "Sublimate Yourself" sounds sort of odd; like "Up with People" only Lenten style. It even looks funny on the planner.
The problem with sublimation is I want the credit. I want the "A" for not losing my temper, for not blowing off my obligations and relationships and all the things I'm supposed to be doing, but sublimation is supposed to be baseline, not the achievement. Like qualifying for the Olympics, it's big and it's important, but it isn't winning the gold, it's only a step towards the gold. Writing it down to remind myself is a bit like asking for credit particularly if I do somehow manage to check it off for a day. I'd admittedly want to show the check mark to someone, to show it off. Look! Look today I sublimated!
When you sublimate your personal will, that includes letting anyone know so you can get credit for being good. "I sublimated myself by doing the dishes." "Yeah, well I sublimated myself last week by cleaning my room." doesn't really fly. True humility means sublimation isn't even part of the thought process, it just is; like breathing. Then I thought, I could argue that having always had trouble with breathing, I could say, my sublimation is working just about as well. But if sublimation is supposed to be like breathing, then I know that there are only two things I'm supposed to do tomorrow or today; breathe in, breathe out.

1 comment:

MightyMom said...

what day number is it??


it's so very hard. but the HARDEST Lent I've ever had (so far) was the Lent that I made something for someone.....anonymously. I realized that to keep it anonymous, not only could I not tell that person....I couldn't tell ANYONE otherwise that person would find out about it and where it came from.

it was then I faced the depth of my pride....and haven't been able to look squarely at it since.

keep on oh fellow Lenten sacrificer.

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