Jasper got home at mid day on Sunday after a whirlwind weekend trip with 8 other high school students. They traveled to Boise (getting on the road at 5 am on a Saturday!) to give voice to their concerns about education reform pending in the state of ID. I stayed home. I went to a swim meet. I went out dancing afterwards at Moscow’s annual Mardi Gras celebration. As we were sharing our weekend experiences at the dinner table last night, he asked what Mardi Gras meant. He had enough French to know the Tuesday, I added the Fat. Fat Tuesday. The last night of reveling before the onset of 40 days of Lent. Having not grown up Catholic, we also discussed the traditions of Lent. I did not grow up in the Catholic faith, either, but I certainly had plenty of friends that did. My recollections from childhood were that it was a season of “giving up something”. Chocolate, or pop. Potato chips or booze. Biting your nails, or picking your nose. It was a way to ponder addictions, a time to kick bad habits. It was a measure of will power. I promised I would eventually write about addictions. Perhaps this is the season to do so.
My online dictionary says that addicted means to be physically and mentally dependent on a substance and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects. A habit is defined as a settled or regular tendency that may be hard to give up. Addicted can also mean enthusiastically devoted to a particular thing or activity. Dependent, a tendency, or devoted? One bad, one not so bad, one good…or is there a bunch of gray area here?
I am a coffee addict. I am physically and mentally dependent on it. I get up at an ungodly hour in the morning, and I need my coffee. It I don’t drink it, I get a headache. I get crabby. I can’t even sleep if I know there is a question about where my coffee will be coming from in the morning. I am addicted.
I like a glass of wine or a shot of scotch when I am making dinner. The end of the day is a hard time for me. Work is done, family time is beginning, and it is when I feel the emptiness of loss the most. The alcohol numbs that pain a bit. If I have an evening meeting, or something that must get done that night, I skip the wine. I don’t think I am addicted, but it is becoming somewhat of a habit.
Jim was enthusiastically devoted to exercise. However, there were definite adverse effects if he did not get regular physical activity. He spent a lot of time and money on gear to lengthen the seasons of rafting and biking and was not fun to live with when the snow did not come. I understood this devotion. I had a running habit when I met him, and had a hard time modifying that when I was pregnant.
I run 2 mornings a week, and swim 3. I get outside for some fun every weekend. It helps to stabilize my mood, regulates my appetite, and makes me feel good. Am I addicted, is it a habit, or am I just enthusiastically devoted?
Lent is a season of will and will power. Again, these mean different things. Giving something up for Lent makes me think of will power, the control deliberately exerted to do something, or restrain one’s impulses. I prefer to think about will. Will is the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action. Living after the loss of Jim has nothing to do with the strength of my will power. It is just managing to hook together the wills every day. I read another widow’s blog, and I stole this idea directly from her. Here is my current list of “I wills”:
-I will wake up at 4:30 am M-F to Josh Ritter’s “Edge of the World”. I will try to sleep later on weekends.
-I will come downstairs, I will let out the dog, I will drink my coffee.
-I will run or swim in the morning. Even if I am tired, I am always happy and awake when I finish.
-I will shower. I will wash my hair, or not. I will shave, or not.
-I will eat a good breakfast. I will touch my teenage son.
-I will make and keep work appointments. I will guard against being too busy to think or feel.
-I will eat lunch, or not.
-I will make sure there is food in the house, and dog food in the bin. I will celebrate the fact that my son loves leftovers.
-I will put on music when I am making dinner. I will cry when certain songs come on. I will have a glass of wine, or not. I will call or text a friend if loneliness threatens to consume me.
-I will set the table, I will light a candle, I will sit with my son for family dinner. I will eat, sometimes a lot, sometimes very little.
-I will put on my pj’s. I will read in bed. I will cry, or not. I will sleep well, or not. I will remember my dreams, or not.
As the 4 month benchmark approaches, I will look up, see where I am, where I have been, and be grateful. I will keep living.