So, we are in the final countdown. Finish today and Monday, make it through “circus day” (no, really, a circus is coming to my school) on Tuesday, and half-day on Wednesday…and then, EASTER BREAK. As a full-time teacher, I am 100% qualified to tell you who looks forward to school breaks more, students or teachers: TEACHERS. I had a terrible cold/virus/ickiness over Christmas break and I lost the second week of freedom from grading and lesson planning, so I NEED THIS BREAK. I want to sleep in, read for hours at a time, cook a big meal for my family, organize my spring/summer clothes, see a movie, spend quality time with my husband, take long walks with my dog, do some writing, and so much more over the 7-1/2 school days I have off.
But, and this is a big one, this year Easter Break is really more about the culmination of my Lent. I went BIG this year. I gave up, I gave in, and I gave more.
First, the giving up. I gave up Facebook and diet soda. Giving up Facebook was like having a paper cut. Periodically through the day, I felt it, but I could easily forget it. Slap a band-aid on it and keep going. After deleting the app from my phone, I really didn’t think too much about Facebook. I don’t think I’ll put the app back on my phone after Lent. I’ll still check Facebook periodically from my laptop, but I’m not going to be on it from my phone.
The diet soda was a whole other thing, though. A few years ago, when I had a health scare, I gave up diet soda altogether. I ordered iced tea (or an adult beverage) in restaurants, or I just drank water. I get my caffeine intake from coffee in the morning and I have hot tea periodically throughout the day, so I never depended on diet soda for the jolt to get going. But, two years ago I changed schools and my current school has a vending machine in the faculty room. Guess who fell right back into the habit of having a Diet Coke or a Diet Dr. Pepper with lunch? Yep, just like falling off a horse. Got right back on with no difficulties.
I didn’t just want to give up things that aren’t really that good for me, though. So, I re-instituted a religious exercise I used to do before marriage and kids, going to Mass every day of Lent. So, every school day (except the school days where we had school Mass at 9:00), I have gone to 6:30 AM Mass. My husband and I go to 8:30 Mass on Saturdays. It’s been really hard training myself to get up an hour and a half earlier than on a normal school day. It’s been even harder training myself to go to bed earlier to make up for that.
The first week of Lent I was exhausted and cranky. I felt like my Lenten sacrifices were crushing me.
Monday of the second week, I told my daughter, “9 is the new 11,” and headed off to bed at 9:00 PM. I got used to being asleep by 10 and wasn’t so exhausted or so cranky. Some mornings I work up just before my alarm (I still hit the snooze the first time, though). I got my favorite parking space. I began to enjoy the 30 minutes or so of quiet time in my classroom before other teachers arrived for the day. I had oatmeal and coffee after Mass while checking email and getting my materials ready for the day.
Most importantly, however, a quiet calm came over me each morning sitting in Mass. I began to view the readings as literature, unfolding a story, one chapter at a time. I’m easily distracted in Sunday Mass, but in a huge church with only 30-40 people spread out in it, I am much less distracted and much more focused on the liturgy. The homilies have been much-needed fuel to help me with the final piece of my Lenten goals: have a more spiritual life. Daily Mass short homilies typically speak only to the liturgy of the word for that Mass, and I come away refreshed and reflective during my short walk to my classroom. It’s sort of like going to a really useful, meaningful professional development workshop: something you can use the very next day in your classroom.
This weekend is Palm Sunday, the official beginning of Holy Week. The blessing of the palm branches, which will be used for next year’s ashes on Ash Wednesday, foreshadows the coming events: the Triidum. This year I’m leaning in (thanks Sheryl Sandburg), observing it full-out, like the way I teach, like the way I cook, like the way I live. After all my work this Lent, both spiritual and personal, I’m not wasting it by being lackadaisical now. I’m ending this Lent with a bang. Easter Sunday will be so much more meaningful to me this year.
May this Holy Week and this coming Easter season bring you reflection, refreshment, and renewal. May God’s blessing be upon you and your loved ones.