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  • Darra O'keefe

The Party is Over

What now? Mardi Gras is over. All of my New Year’s resolutions made with high hopes and great expectations had been shelved during the chaos we call Mardi Gras. I always feel a little bit of a let-down until the Lenten Spirit takes over as Lent also signifies a time of abstinence where people give up some of their favorite yet somewhat unhealthy indulgences (e.g., alcohol, smoking, sweets, etc.) as a way of physical cleansing. I also use this time to not only measure how I am doing with my fitness goals but my spiritual ones as well.


As I was walking the dog on Wednesday morning, I saw people of all ages making their way towards the nearby Catholic church. “Ah, yes, it’s Ash Wednesday,” I thought. I then used that moment to reflect, revise and renew my own goals. I began to reflect by asking whether I had made any progress on achieving any of my own goals. Of course, I had the generic goals to lose weight, get fitter, eat healthier, etc., etc. But then I realized that while I wasn’t exactly moving the ball down the field towards the goal line, I hadn’t lost yardage or worse, committed a turnover. But it did feel like the drive had stalled.


I then started to think back to when I was a young mom. I had two very good and close friends who also lived in the subdivision with kids about the same age as mine. We soon began to jog together almost daily trying to stay reasonably fit. It was our collective opinion that we were all a bit frumpy and needing to take off that extra 10 pounds of baby fat with our “babies” then about three-years old. We were very dedicated and ran together for years. That is until Cindy had had enough.


“This is ridiculous,” she blurted out one day. “I hate this and I haven’t lost a single pound this whole time. It doesn’t make any difference whether I jog or not so I’m not doing it anymore.” Undeterred, Nancy and I pressed on and kept our running routine while missing having Cindy with us. About a year later, and during one of our jogs, Nancy stopped dead in her tracks and began laughing. She then said to me, “Now we know.”


“Ok, I give up. What do we know?” I asked.


“That this works. Poor Cindy has gained about 15 pounds since she quit running with us. This does make a difference.” We ran a little further and a little faster that day buoyed by our new motivation at the expense of our frustrated friend.


Sometimes, status quo is a goal and can be really good but maybe if we had reflected on our goals and our progress (or lack thereof) and revised our plan we might have been able to keep Cindy in our circle. After Nancy’s observation, we began interval training with sprints woven into our runs. It worked as we both saw positive changes in our bodies and fitness levels. And that is why to this day, I remain mindful of goal review, revision and dedication.


Watching people come by me with ashes on their foreheads caused me to reflect on my spiritual goals as well. I realized that although I did set spiritual goals for this year, I hadn’t correctly prioritized them. They had not been given priority over my physical body. I told myself, “The world and its busyness had not allowed me to attend to prayer and spiritual study. I recalled a quote from Martin Luther:

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”


My physical and spiritual goals had required reflection, reprioritizing and revision and the onset of Lent was the perfect catalyst. The process wasn’t formal. It was as simple as mindfulness during a dog walk.

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