Natalia Naman Temesgen: Turning your heart toward sacrifice

April 19, 2014 

Happy Easter! How many are eating meat or desserts again, or logging back onto Facebook or Twitter after a six-week hiatus?

I didn't give anything up for Lent. I skipped out on New Year Resolutions, too. My attitude wasn't in the right place. I had fallen prey to what seems to be our cultural obsession with extremes.

Younger readers may know this trendy call and response:

"Turn up!"

"Turn down for what?"

Shout "Turn up!" at someone when they're doing almost anything and that very activity will become extreme. Jogging becomes sprinting, sipping becomes chugging, nodding your head to the music becomes a YouTube video of you dropping that NaeNae.

Other extremes can come in the form of diets, exercise plans, cures for disorganization or even efforts toward a promotion at work. A well-known synonym to "Turn up!" is "Give it 110 percent!" How many times have we heard that and thought, why not?

I tried my hand at post-baby diet and exercise plans. The diets lasted a week or two each. My gym subscription lapsed after a few months. Each restrictive plan seemed to have a bad come down. I'd fall off the wagon and feel like a failure. And then I would slide to the other extreme and binge on movie popcorn and Raisinets.

So on Jan. 1, I simply resolved to give my best effort every day. And on Ash Wednesday, I thanked God for another morning and carried on as usual. I didn't want Lent to become my next attempt at perfection.

The tradition of the Lenten sacrifice was conceived to honor and commemorate Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness, during which he kept his fast -- and holiness -- while being tempted by Satan. In that case, failing at your Lenten goals might just be another opportunity to admire Jesus -- not to kick yourself for weeks.

In February, I went to Manhattan for a weeklong writing retreat. My goal was to write a first draft of a new play. I would be off work, away from husband and baby, and able to fully immerse myself in the writing.

I wrote 80 pages, but still felt low at the end. My goal wasn't met; the play wasn't finished. Then on the flight home, I realized the focus of the retreat wasn't on the end, but the journey. I had written more efficiently than I had in my life and made great friends in other writers. Who cares that I hadn't left with a full script? It will get done in its own time. I should be glad for the opportunity.

It's all about attitude. If your goals or sacrifices help you appreciate the journey or edify your spirit, keep setting them. If they make you feel bad about yourself, forget them. One thing we may all agree is worth doing is appreciating the present moment: it's all we really have, after all. And with that, enjoy your Sunday.

Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent correspondent. Contact her at nataliadian1@gmail.com or on Twitter@cafeaulazy.

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