The Christian liturgical season of Lent began last week on Ash Wednesday, when believers all over the world received black ash on their foreheads to remind them of their mortality.
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Indeed, the whole of Lent is directed at repentance and self-denial in light of death--Jesus's, on the cross, and the believer's, when it comes.
A friend--a devout believer--asked a question right around this time last year:
Why am I forced to be sad?
Why designate time to seek out the sad and, let's admit it, morose? Why allow any unpleasant emotion lengthy residence in our hearts?
Once, when Theo was small, he announced he wanted to cry. It was time for a good cry, he said, and so he did. I held him and he wept.
On the other hand, at the homeless shelter where I worked, women often reminded each other to brush off what came their way. Nothing anyone says to you changes who you are. I heard this principle again the other night at the boxing gym. It was about the personal, but directly related to boxing, too. Because in boxing, you learn to take what's coming and keep moving. Instinct makes you want to close your eyes when a glove is coming at you, but you train yourself to face it, take it, and fight it.
In her book On Boxing, Joyce Carol Oates writes
A boxing trainer's most difficult task is said to be to persuade a young boxer to get back up and continue fighting after he has been knocked down... The boxer must learn to inhibit his own instinct for survival.
I learned Wednesday night how to breathe so my opponent can't tell. If she sees you breathing, she knows you're struggling, and she'll come after you. You inhibit your survival instincts, and cover them, too. You take the blows any way you can and stay standing; the bruises and blood become your ashes.
In boxing, that is. So what do we do? Wallop, or wallow?