A friend came up to me at doughnuts-after-Mass yesterday and complimented me on my blog post series chronicling my attempts to defeat gluttony and lose weight. (Now helpfully gathered together under the categories entitled Gluttony and Weight Loss-- if you want to go back to the beginning, here's the page of oldest posts as of today, scroll to the bottom.) She said it got her thinking about the spiritual sacrifice component of ending the habits of overeating and overconsumption.
I appreciated the compliment! And I'm rather fond of that series of posts myself. But the thought in my mind was.... Wish I'd thought of that.
As much as I'd like to say that I entered into the journey (that happened to take off thirty-something pounds along the way) with an attitude of spiritual sacrifice, of offering up the self-denial that it has taken... I can't really say that. It's been a very me me me me focused few months.
Introspection, self-examination, is not necessarily bad, or irreligious or anything. The celebrated Examination of Conscience is, for example, a rather "me-focused" endeavor -- it's done for God but it focuses on "me" and my own faults and sins. Still, you're supposed to do it, once a day or so, and then move on to the rest of your prayer and your life. The last three months have been for me one loooooong protracted Examination of Appetite. Just as I started it by being tired of all the excess consumption, at this point I'm getting tired of all the excess navel-gazing.
I remember C. S. Lewis criticized teachers for trying to cure a boy of one sin, say sloth, by appealing to his pride -- an even worse one. I've caught myself in buffet restaurants trying to cure myself of gluttony by damaging my sense of empathy, telling myself: Look at the plate that woman is carrying. It's piled grotesquely high. And it's her third trip to the buffet. And look how big she is! Aren't you glad you're not like her anymore?
Keeping before my mind, constantly, the particular vice I have been trying to root out was very effective. I do not think it was a bad thing to do. But it's probably time to move on, get on with the rest of my prayer and the rest of my life. I don't mean that I'll stop writing about it here; but I'm going to try to quit obsessing over it between blog posts and between meals. Anyway, as Mark keeps reminding me, at some point I'm going to have to deliberately start eating more, and then I'll be writing about that.
I still believe that something deep within myself has changed -- either because of, or despite, the ME ME ME of the last few months. I will find out whether it really has changed come Ash Wednesday.
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Some credit where credit is due.
About six weeks into the weight loss, I was kneeling in Mass. The people in the pew in front of me were shifting and putting up the kneelers and picking up dropped toys, getting ready to go up to receive. I was composing my heart for a petition -- a small devotion of mine is to save some special petition to have in my heart as I go up to receive the Lord. And as I was searching for what to ask, I remembered something I'd entirely forgotten, which was that a couple of months before -- about a week before I woke up one morning and said "I'm ready to be hungry" -- my Eucharistic petition had been this:
Lord, remove my attachment from all foods but You.
I really had completely forgotten that I'd asked that. When I ask God for things at other times, I know I catch myself "looking out" to see if my prayer has been answered. Not so with these little requests right before Communion; a gift I've received, I suppose, is the gift of letting go of these once I've voiced them. I ask for something on the way up to Communion, and I thank God for what I've already received on the way back to my pew, and that's that. This time... I remembered. In time for me to be extremely grateful.
I know, I know, if I ask for something different every single week, sooner or later I'm going to get one of the things I ask for. I'm aware of this. Still, it was a rather breathtaking realization. There it is; do with it what you will.