Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Spring Cleaning

The impulse toward spring cleaning must run in my blood, as deeply embedded as the other familial quirks: building stone walls, lusting after houses, ecstatically sniffing spices. (We also have an inherited propensity toward sawing the legs off furniture, but I try not to give in to that temptation.) I woke up Saturday with an ungovernable urge to organize and clean and sort, and by God I did. I hope the urge lasts another few weeks. The work done on my office was deeply satisfying, and there are still more boxes in the garage.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, also the signal for a kind of spring cleaning. I haven’t always followed a Lenten discipline, but this year I plan to. Nothing as simple or (alas) as easy as giving up chocolate, but a discipline that will help me focus on the spiritual and psychological issues I need to work on. Probably a form of walking meditation — I desperately need the exercise, and I hope I am ready to start dealing with body issues. What better time to do that when we are considering the meaning and effects of the Incarnation?

Walking? Doesn’t that reduce Lent to a New Year’s Resolution, and the Passion of Christ to an exercise program?

It’s petty, yes, but this year, for me that’s the point. I was born into a body. Caring for the spirit has always taken precedence; I’ve had almost a Gnostic contempt for my own flesh. I had excellent reasons. My body has never worked particularly well; I was clumsy, physically slow, maddeningly uncoordinated. (I couldn’t tie my shoes until I was in third grade. I read Gone with the Wind in second grade.) My body was the source or conduit of pain, the locus of shame and rape and uncontrollable rage and fear. I always had digestive problems, and I developed chronic bronchitis at seven, lethal food allergies in my thirties.

Now, when we celebrate and mourn the earthly life of God, the strange episode in which the Almighty took on flesh and became a humble carpenter, now is the time for me to consider what my body means. It’s going to be a long journey, much longer than the forty days of Lent. Wish me luck.

"There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation."— Madeleine L’Engle

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