It is still Lent. For two more weeks I am attending to the business of not criticizing, forgetting to attend to it, refusing to attend to it, and again attending to it. I expected my attempts would make a nice Lent for others. (I have longed to point out the rudeness of not thanking me for the blessings of my sacrifice, but I withheld the criticism.) At times, I have taken myself down off the ledge by thoughts of a list. Perhaps, I have told myself, if I had a tiny notebook, I could quickly note unspoken irritations. I imagine Easter morning, arising notebook in hand, to toddle down and mark at long last on a poster.
Coffee container lid left off: 12
Coffee grinds on counter: 29
Cupboard doors open: 231
Outdoor voice in church: 2
Laughing at myself has so far prevented the move to record keeping. When the notebook idea fails me, I imagine exercises to commit the crimes to memory. It would be, I tell myself, rather like memorizing Bible verses, but slightly different. A liturgy of infractions one could sing softly at intervals.
If I’m not mistaken, Lent is a little longer than usual this year. I’ve had time to analyze. Misdeeds are occurring at the usual rates; my silence has not impacted them for better or worse. The usual pattern of things has held. There are days virtually free of transgression, and there are days on which felonies are committed so closely together as to appear continuous.
But some things are different. No-criticism Lent is making itself known, despite imperfect execution. The house is more peaceful. I am more peaceful. At the moment I hold my tongue, chewing banana peels would be preferable, but later, even minutes later, the world has not ended and I can smile again.
My speech diet is helping my eyes. I notice unfinished projects, but keeping my mouth shut is buying me enough time to see the good intentions waylaid by interruption. I feel more grateful, more patient, less irritated.
On the bad days most of this is thrown in the garbage while I go back and live like I’m used to. This is the mystery I have wondered about the most. If withholding criticism and practicing generosity of spirit yields such positive results – which for me it does – why do anything else ever again? Why even want to?
Maybe everyone has known the answers to those questions since they were five. I realized the answer while I was driving last week. It was the kind of thing that made me want to stop the car and sit with my thoughts, but the stopping part wasn’t possible. I used my kilometers to think.
Naked revelation: I criticize because I am afraid. If we don’t get it right, we get it wrong. When you get it wrong, bad things happen. If no one messes up, everything will be ok, nothing will fall apart, no one will get hurt.
More on this tomorrow.