Yesterday was the last day of holy carnival. Today is the beginning of keeping, as directed, “a holy Lent.” These two families, Mardi Gras family and church family, pull me in two directions in a way that is familiar. For many years, I had a mom and a dad who did not get along.
Mardi Gras family I see annually, during the season, and various wigs and masks and capes have become familiar. Dancing, drinks, walking together in a funny inside-out version of the protesting I haven’t done for a long time. Educating the neighborhoods about glitter and sequins and brass instruments instead of fur or animal experimentation or the war in Iraq.
At Ash Wednesday church today, I sat in the back, where I could see everyone’s hair: brown or grey or black or everyday blonde. One short, modest mohawk. No pink today. No rainbows.
My mother’s, basically, was Mardi Gras, and my father’s was church. At my mother’s we were expressive, and at my father’s we followed. My Dad’s was safe, and my Mom’s was free. Now that my parents are older and get along great, it’s easy for me to see that these ideals were never in opposition.
Some people in your Mardi Gras family you know well, talk to, and some you don’t. Some people you go to church with you know and suffer alongside, and others you only kneel next to and sing along with.
My Mardi Gras has certainly been deeper and bolder as years have gone on, from shy sideline participant to organizer and float driver.
Float driving is quite a responsibility, luckily one that I shared. Our hop ons, this year, called up to me, “You aren’t going to kill us, are you?” I never saw them. I was driving very carefully, so as not to run over anyone’s toes or squash the people perched on the truck bed in front of us. “Not tonight,” a passenger replied.
Walking through one room that was mostly civilians– people not sequinned or masked– a grandmaish lady reached out her hand to shake mine, like I was a politician for the Sequin Party. Her eyes were so joyful. That the celebration happens on the same ground as Kansas City’s jazz nursery, where people turned exclusion and hardship into great art, that it happens across Troost and includes all kinds of people, is lovely.
Mardi Gras isn’t safe. There is always a moderate amount of lawbreaking, traffic disturbing, open containers, and so forth, although I see an even greater portion of people looking out for each other and respecting each other’s creations. I did, after all, allow an unknown number of strangers through my home during our party, and every time I think about that, I feel better about people.
A holy Lent has meant different things to me. Lent isn’t so much about self denial as it is about getting real. Taking some time to face up to things and not run away. On “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” my favorite drag queen reality show competition, they frequently use the word “realness,” and by “realness” they always mean “convincing.” What makes you feel real, and what you need to face, could be quite different for different people.
Lent is about committing to some healthier boundaries around things that are temptations to compulsive distraction. But not all compulsive distractions. Being too strict with yourself is just another compulsive distraction, another way to avoid the truth of who you are and what’s going on.
Limiting facebook, which I can use compulsively to distract myself or find something to be jealous of, that worked well last year. I’ll stick to compulsively looking at the New York Times website.
I also know I need to change how I keep track of my money, or at least update my current system. The app I used on my old iPod was great, but I have never set up the new one so that it would be as accurate.
I could commit to meditating. Meditating is so hard right now. I may be able to go back to guided meditations.
Noticing my internal dialogue and not taking myself so seriously, that is always valuable. When I’m in an awful mood, taking tiny steps and talking to myself very gently– aloud, if necessary.
Once that’s squared away, one more task: making Easter more Mardi Gras-like. I haven’t figured that out yet.