In my school days I got involved in the Christian Union, a group of young Christians in my school. I got seriously into my Bible and all things God-dy. Every morning, before everyone else in the school was awake and the bustle of hundreds of other children echoed through the drafty old building, I’d sit on the stairs doing Bible study.
When considering this piece on Lent, I thought back to those days, reading about the forty days and forty nights Jesus spent in the desert and trying to figure out what was it all about? To be honest, I was a little jealous that Jesus had ALL that time to himself!
When I was reflecting on that story, I thought about being in a place without the company of others, without basic necessities among thorny prickly plants? For three days and nights, during a trip to India, myself and a friend went on a camel safari in the Thar Desert. Scorching in the day, the sun beat down on us and freezing in the night, we got tucked up in our sleeping mats.
But for people with MS there are always reminders of a desolate place- I’ve never been so alone than on the days and months after my MS diagnosis. The uncertainty, the devastation, the morbid thoughts of a life un-lived and then there was all the choices I had NO clue how to make. MS is my barren desert; that desert represents to me what life is like in the first few months and even years of life with MS. But I eventually walked out of that desert. There are still some thorny parts of me and one of them is distraction from myself.
I’m prone to sitting surrounded by books, gleefully sitting alone for hours, absorbed or turning on the radio first thing to get a dose of politics or sitting scrolling, scrolling, scrolling through my Twitter feed. Distraction and denial of what was going on in my ‘real’ life. My phone is always with me, I’m rarely uncontactable and there’s always a source of information (wanted or otherwise), close by. This is really useful for us if we want to be distracted from what really matters and I’ve been distracted from what really matters.
In my early life, I learned that Lent was a time to give things up (chocolate, sweets, my Granny’s butterfly buns!) but also a time to make some new habits like being kinder to my siblings or being more helpful. The habit of sitting in the quiet of the early morning is something I’ve returned to in recent years. The habit isn’t easy but the simple process has subtly helped me deal with issues in healthier ways. It helps me deal with vagaries of MS, the depression, the fatigue, the balance issues, the cognitive issues. There have been times when my belief system has been wrung out, left to crisp up in the pounding noise of MRI scanner or when my dignity flowed down the leg of my trousers as my damaged/very sensitive bladder emptied before I could even pretend to be near the facilities.
I protect my mornings because it is in this sacred space I connect with my inner strength and power. No matter what is going on in the day, how bad my MS is playing up, when things get too much, I can tap into that peace and strength. The morning time I spend on my own, meditating, reflecting on a piece of writing, has given me greater understanding of myself. I think this is where this Lent thing started. Someone had a great idea to get away from it all, to find peace and to listen to their inner power. For the next forty days, I’ll go with doing something every day that makes my or someone else life, a little bit better.
“There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening we shall hear the right word... . Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life. Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to perfect contentment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.