My block party Lent

Don't be fooled by the parka; it was 60 degrees out. March 2022.

Earlier this month, I experienced the most celebratory Ash Wednesday service of my life. The outdoor prayer service at our church—the first service we've attended as a family in two years, and the first with the baby—felt like a block party. Friends reuniting, children playing, a gorgeous sunset glowing ... all we needed were hot dogs and a face painter (beyond ashes, obviously) to complete the experience.

Truly, I've never felt like partying on the first day of this somber, sacrificial liturgical season. But such are the strange and topsy-turvy times we live in, where unusually warm temperatures (thanks climate change!) and intense cabin fever (thanks global pandemic!) have combined to give me a thermometer-busting level of spiritual spring fever.

I don't want to do any of the customary rituals over these 40 days. My added practice of praying the news has been scattershot. I haven't given up anything except the pretense of attending Mass online. I'm barely fasting on Fridays, using breastfeeding as a cover for my typical calorie consumption.

And honestly? I don't feel one whit of guilt. After two pandemic years of near-perpetual Lenten feeling—cycles of anger, grief, and exhaustion in which I face my mortality regularly—I'm not only welcoming a reprieve, I'm inviting it. To differentiate this Lent from ::waves hand:: life, I'm sucking the marrow out of the tiniest experiences. Extra bedtime snuggles with the kids, bagels for dinner, random texts to friends, spontaneous date outings, handwritten mail, feel-good novels ... each time I choose joy, I pair it with presence and gratitude, and the results are deeply satisfying.

I won't lie; sometimes my choices have carried a whiff of desperation as I make frantic bids to remind myself that God did not intend our sojourn here to be a vale of tears. I imagine (hope?) that hearing the Easter redemption story again in a couple weeks will relax me and illustrate how solemnity is not the only path to contemplation. Enjoying a long-desired, long-overdue moment of jubilation—rich with discovery and contentment—can achieve it too. So for now, I remain committed to my fight for the right to party.


Prayer #376: Block Party

I have cordoned off my heart with yellow sawhorses and handpainted signs at all entry points blaring, "For Residents Only!" For compassion and strength, for patience and tenderness, for any quality that wants to bring a cheesy potluck dish and make a home in a welcoming soul. Together let's revel late into the night with live music and yummy noshes and tipsy conversation because the mood is ecstatic, the neighbors are all here, and the only person we will awaken is me.