I love New Orleans, I always have. From the first time I visited in 1972. I remember seeing the streetcar named Desire, long before I ever saw A Streetcar Named Desire. The food, the architecture, the people, made my heart sing. It still does. I have decades of memories and aspirations centered around New Orleans. My best friend in high school and I vowed to move to New Orleans before college, we would work and become absorbed in the culture and the lifestyle. Our life plans took different paths than that but the thought of it still makes me smile as I imagine how movie-perfect that summer would have been. The reality would most likely have been quite different, not as shiny and bright as the teenaged imagination tends to make things. There are simply some places that immediately connect with our souls. There are simply some people who do too.
Because of my love for New Orleans, I also love Mardi Gras. Now that I have lived in the Deep South for over twenty years I have come to really appreciate the flavor of Carnival. At first it was an excuse to keep my shiny Christmas tree up for just a little longer, swapping out the red and green bobbles for purple, green and gold. Then, although I am not Catholic, I began observing Lent, I’ve successfully lost weight, quit a not insignificant shopping habit, practiced random acts of kindness for 40 days. By Easter, I would come out lighter of heart, of pounds or heavier of pocketbook.
Occasionally, Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday) falls squarely on my birthday, this is one of those years, the next time this happens will be in 2025, so this feels like the year to do something really meaningful. A few weeks ago. I began pondering what I would do for Lent. I began thinking about the things in my life I would like to achieve. Writing, house projects, art projects, focusing less of my mental energy on things that don’t serve me or my loved ones. I began thinking about the things that take so much of my mental energy, things that suck up so much time, things that make me feel like a hamster in a squeaky wheel that gets no grease. I’ve taken a hard look at the things that have become gap-fillers, I’ve forgotten how to be quiet with myself and with my loved ones. I’ve filled every moment with some type of visual or mental stimulation. There is no mental and very little emotional bandwidth going spare.
This year I am giving up distraction for Lent. Whatever that means. I am re-dedicating my attention and my focus on the things that matter. The evenings being so tired from work and commuting that we vegetate in front of the television, or absorption into our various electronic gadgets, the things distracting us from each other. We are going to focus on our home, our health and our hearts for the next forty days, allowing ourselves one hour a day for devices of distraction, but no more hamster on the squeaky wheel syndrome. We will be focusing on being present. I’m excited and curious what we will be able to accomplish in the next forty days. I’ll keep you posted.
Happy Mardi Gras everybody!