This Lent, I am Fasting From Autopilot Mode (and I’m Saving on Milk)

Tea and Milk CapIt was but one short year ago when I first noticed a disturbing trend of confusion and absent-mindedness as I went about my daily affairs. One afternoon I poured myself a delightful cup of English Breakfast tea, added a little drop of milk, and then smoothly tossed the 3/4-full carton of milk into the trash. I then placed the solitary milk cap back in the refrigerator– as if that were a normal thing to do.

Another afternoon, after picking up a few things at the drug store, I carefully inserted the receipt into the card slot of my wallet and casually tossed my debit card into the garbage by the exit. That’s right: a second trash-related mix-up. Thanks be to God when I returned home I realized my mistake and managed to recover the card, forty minutes and several receipts and cream cake wrappers later.

I’ve also experienced the myriad ways in which one can mess up the simple task of keeping one’s car keys on one’s person. As it turns out, the options are not limited to the classic “locking keys in car” scenario. That stuff is for amateurs. One time I left the keys on top of the vehicle, where they somehow remained, untouched, for well over three hours. I guess the Paulist seminary really does need new cars: people won’t even take ours when we’re giving them away.

After various tests and and other consultations of the like, it has become clear that my problem is something other than medical. In review of my life as it is, I have also come to the conclusion that it is more than busyness, or of the need for mindfulness; those are superficial diagnoses.

Sometimes, especially in the midst of routine, I feel like I’m living someone else’s life, momentarily looking on from the outside. I wonder how a kid from New Brunswick (Canada, not New Jersey) came to be a Paulist and priest-in-training, living and serving in major cities I once only dreamed of. I want to stay in that moment of curiosity and ask myself – and God – how I got here. I want to set aside a special time and effort to confirm with God that I am in the right place. But I can’t. Not as deeply and as purposefully as I’d like. Everyday life demands my attention – though evidently it doesn’t have all of it.

These are big things I am contemplating. What I need is a desert.

If only there were a time to hit the pause button, reflect deeply and intently on who I am and what I’m doing; a time to look to the beginning(s), to see my life from the perspective of its author.

If only there was such a time to do this kind of stock-taking in the Church calendar year.

Forgive the cheesy setup line. It’s Lent that I’m talking about. Lent. And it’s come just at the right time.

This Lent I am fasting from autopilot. I’m taking account of my life, and I’m going to look at it from the ground up—the clarity, the doubt, and the moments of grace.

I hope you’ll join me as I reflect throughout these hallowed 40 days. But if you’re reading this on your phone whilst pouring a lovely cup of Earl Grey, then please…mind your milk cap.