Project for Lent

I’ve always loved the Church Year. I like having annual rhythms, knowing that cold weather will bring Christmas, an abating of the heat brings Hajj, and that the sun’s return brings Spring Break and road trips. I like feeling that my life is connected to the earth and its seasons. So although I question the authenticity of Easter and Resurrection, Ash Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, and you eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and get the ashes on your forehead Wednesday night. Forty days later, Maundy Thursday is for footwashing the day before Good Friday, the Saturday is the Harrowing of Hell, and Sunday you celebrate spring and the renewal of all things. In between, Lent is a time of self-denial and contrition; we examine our lives, think of ways to make them better, and put those plans into practice. Early spring, a better time for resolutions than mid-winter, when we have the energy to stick with them.

At church the last several weeks, the pastor’s been talking about transformations; listening to this every week helped me get out of a relationship that wasn’t doing anything (good) for me, and it’s helped me think through how I want to change. I want to be happier. To get there, I need more confidence — that I can be happy, that I deserve to be happy, that if I go out into the world looking for happiness it can be found. This matches with the research I’ve been doing into training teachers; the strongest determiner of a teacher’s ability to reach a student is that teacher’s self-efficacy beliefs, or self-confidence. I’ve thought about what would help mine, and I’ve worked out a project.

Four and a half years ago I hated myself. I knew that I was attracted to other men and not to my wife, but I was afraid and conservative and unwilling to be gay. Now I’m out and proud, though I’ve moved past the phase where I have to tell everyone I see.

The problem is, that self-hating religious conservative is still inside my head. So is everyone else I’ve ever been, like the little kid who can’t stop crying — it gets crowded and hard to focus in here sometimes. I’ve been rejecting thirty-ish-year-old me, though; I refuse to listen to him and the poison he spreads. He does this because he was rejected so dramatically by the ex, her family, and most of his friends, and himself.

I want to bring him peace. I mean, I was married for eight years, which is something like 22% of my entire life. It’s too big a piece to keep ignoring. My project for Lent this year is to reconcile who I was then with who I am now. It may be too ambitious for forty-five days, but I think it’s a worthy goal.

As a sign, to remind myself, I’m shaving. I like my bearded face — I like bearded faces in general — so if I can reconcile myself to the sight of my own hairless face, I should be able to make peace with anything.

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