When various blog-friends began talking about an internet fast for Lent, my first reaction was, Whoa! That is a *great* Lenten penance! In every word they wrote, I recognized myself, but I felt sure that I couldn’t do it myself. After all, the reason I began blogging was to develop a “platform” (if you’re not a writer and don’t know what I’m talking about, spare yourself the pain), and although the purpose has evolved, platform-building remains important. I can’t just take a break from blogging for “forty” days. Besides, I have assignments and deadlines—articles, and a second book of flute pieces to finish and send, not to mention the neglected novel that I am determined to submit this year. I have to use the web.
If that sounds like a string of excuses, it’s because it is.
In the end, I settled for a compromise. I decided to fast from checking blog stats. I knew how hard it would be, even though it sounds so trivial. But I wasn’t counting on the persistence of temptation!
I begin the day by posting, which is accessed through the dashboard, upon which the basic hits counter resides. I thought, at first, that I might be able to sneak an “accidental” peek in the morning while opening up my blog. (So much for good intentions.) But it is just below the level of the opening screen. Any peek would require a deliberate breaking of the fast on my part.
The full “stats” page is an easy click, a bright blue link, cheerily taunting me from the left navigation bar. On the blog proper, the total hits counter beckons. All I would have to do is glance at the number and do a little math, and I’d know my daily hits.
I resist, but oh, it’s hard. My whole consciousness strains toward the vain affirmation of those little numbers. Numbers that, in the grand scheme of things, are so very unimportant. How did I get so attached to them? Is this withdrawal?
As Michelle at Graceful points out, it’s amazing how much time is freed up. I am doing more dishes, more straightening, more playing with the kids, and getting more writing done. I’m not sure that’s really the point; I have this feeling that I should be spending that “free” time in prayer and reflection. In fact, I’m almost sure of it. But unlike Advent, I don’t have a plan for Lent yet, to help me achieve my spiritual goals—only an idealized vision. It’s a vision that’s based on my own experiences, but the years in which I really embraced the great, holy emptiness of Lent most powerfully were the years I spent in Iowa, far from home, without transportation on a suitcase campus, where life was focused pretty much entirely on me. Obviously, that’s not the case anymore. I have to grow into a new way to experience the emptiness. And it may not be realistic for years to come. I mean, silence and stillness are just not things that mesh well with parenthood.
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Yet somehow, I have to find them. I need to walk through that desert. I wonder, is this fast of mine actually accomplishing anything useful in terms of closeness with God?
Maybe I’m too close to it to know, right now. Maybe the answer to that question will be revealed in time. And maybe I’m just floundering. But I guess that even a failed attempt is a step along the path.