Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Twelve Months of Lent

I don't know if it was because 2008 felt like a huge let down, or if it was my new obsession with simple and sustainable living, but by the time the year was drawing to a close, I was beginning to reevaluate what I was doing, and more importantly, what I wasn’t doing. I realized that it was time to start living better and the start of the new year seemed like the perfect time to do so.

I sat down and made a list of the things that I wanted to work towards in 2009 (and in the rest of my life, really). Overall, it seemed like I was interested in minimizing my consumption, being more mindful of my eating, really devoting time to the things I care about, saving more money, and just living a more simplistic, minimal and fulfilling life. The list was so long that it became more intimidating then inspiring. I needed somewhere to start and a way to break everything down so I could feasibly start to make progress. That’s when I thought of combining my goals with the concept of Lent.

Every year since I can remember my family has practiced Lent. It’s sort of a Dzenawagis family tradition. For 40 days we’d give up candy or junk food, anxiously awaiting the Easter Sunday binge where we could resume our bad habits. When I was little I did it because my mom made me—for her it was a good way to teach me personal sacrifice and willpower. Although I no longer affiliate myself with any religion, I still give something up for Lent every year. I don't do it to emulate Jesus' 40 days spent in the desert, I do it to push myself. I do it as a very defined and specific personal challenge.

The goals I had outlined for myself for 2009 were all just that; specific personal challenges. I decided to define 12 of these individual challenges and focus on each one for a month at a time, essentially completing 12 months of Lent. Ideally, by the end of the year I will have retained bits and pieces of each month’s challenge, leaving myself with 12 new, positive habits.

I came up with the month by month list one night with my friends Jenny and Amanda (both of whom are participating and will hopefully be blogging as well). They might be switched up a little along the way, but as of right now, here’s the breakdown:

January: Half hour of journal writing daily about whatever you want. It can be a defined topic or free thought, just as long as you’re devoting time every day to getting your thoughts out.

February: Detox month. No dairy, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, or alcohol.

March: Choose something that you’ve been meaning to do or try and actively make an effort to learn it every day. For example, I’m going to take up rock climbing.

April: Pick up every piece of trash you see. Newspapers blowing around, fast food packaging—if you see it, pick it up and bring it to the nearest trash can.

This month was chosen to go along with the launch of Amanda and I’s Delitter Bug project (more on that later).

May: I’m really excited about this month. You can’t make any trash. Yes, it’s going to be very difficult. Everything you use must be recycled, reused, or composted with the exception of bodily trash (there’s no way I’m giving up toilet paper).

June: Communicate with someone everyday whom you don’t speak to on a regular basis. It can be a handwritten letter, email, phone call, text, whatever…

July: Make a list of 30 things that you’d like to do, i.e. go for a bike ride, take a bath, make your own soap, and do one thing each day.

August: Exercise month. Do a different form of exercise each day: running, hiking, biking, kayaking, Tony Little workout videoing.

No unnecessary spending. I’m going to have to define what “unnecessary means” later on, but basically you should only be purchasing food, paying your rent and utility bills, and maybe a few other little things that come up along the way.

October: Choose some sort of volunteer activity and devote as much time as possible to it all month. You can choose a specific place to volunteer, or create your own project i.e. design a website for a non-profit, clean-up your neighborhood, and etc.

November: No eating out. All food you eat must be prepared at home. Try to make as many new recipes as possible and introduce new, healthy foods into your diet.

December: Wild card month! Choose whichever month you liked best, a combination of a few different months, or something new. Whatever you think would be the most beneficial to you.