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by Jenny Tisi

“What are you giving up for Lent?” Just like last year, one of my choristers asked me this question. She said she has never given up anything for Lent. I grew up with the traditional give ups – junk food, swearing, lying, etc. As an adult, I really never gave up anything for Lent. Instead, I have focused on taking something up, which in turn, makes it so that I am giving something up.

I have tried changing the patterns of my life that are unhealthy. Last year, and still, I am concentrating on undoing years worth of unhealthy choices for my body. This year, I am focusing on ridding myself of unhealthy choices for my mind. There is this great wisdom that they don’t tell you about when you approach 50. This kind of wisdom is a great gift and I am coming into it slowly, but surely. it’s actually quite freeing, and at the same time, it is a big struggle for me.

A few weeks back, I watched this video. Although silly at times, it is brilliant. It got me thinking about how much we all learn through our life-long journey. I was especially taken with the advice that the 47 year-old gives to the 36 year-old. Take a look:

For me, my 20s were years of wrestling with my youth and thinking, “Wait … What the heck just happened to me?” Those next 10 years of my life were years of patching and fixing – with little baby bandaids over gaping wounds that needed stitches or staples. My 20s were years of trying to be a grown up, pushing through, and serious growing pains.

By my 30s, not able to fix myself, I became a class-A fixer of everyone else. Yes, I was cursed with a “Messiah Complex.” I’ve read that people who have come from major brokenness go on to trying to fix others. It’s quite common. It is far easier to put the focus on someone else’s problems than your own mess. Makeovers can be fun … until they aren’t so fun anymore. In the process of fixing others, I lost who I was and put all of my focus onto people who didn’t asked to be fixed in the first place. It’s a hard lesson to see that once you have “fixed” a person, and then walk away, they return to what they were before. I felt as if I had done nothing. I guess the gift from that is that I realized that it was time to work on myself.

In some ways, I feel like I am living the 20s that I should have lived. Right now is time of discovery, being independent, building healthy relationships, examining my faith, being OK with being alone, and being as self-focused as possible. I filter what I take in and have learned to create boundaries. I am learning to own what is mine and let people own what is theirs. I am able to separate and say internally, “This is their problem, not mine.”

I am learning to say, “Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.” I am learning to limit contact with people and things that drain me of what is good for me or people who don’t like me for who I truly am. I am learning to not adapt to what anyone else would have me be. I am learning not to let other’s moods affect my own. Internally, I try to say, “What is my role in all of this?” “How am I responsible?” “What belongs to me?” “What belongs to this other person?” It is breaking the cycle of co-dependency. I am not responsible for anyone’s well-being except my own … and two little wiener dogs.

This thought process is a long time coming, and slow coming. I am taking baby steps forward. Taking the time to think with new thought processes takes time, contemplation and prayer. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert doing exactly that. Mine is going to take more than 40 days … and it is a start.

I’m OK with that.

During the Forty Days of Lent, we will offer daily meditations from All Saints Church. Today’s is written by Jenny Tisi, Director of Children’s and Youth Music.