Fat Tuesday

image.jpegSeveral years ago, I embarked on a 40 day journey during the Lenten season to try to live life through the eyes of a tourist in my own backyard. Being raised Catholic and having attended solely parochial schools, I was brought up with the concept of Lent. For 40 days, I would give up an excessive pleasure, prove my internal strength of the ability to withhold something desirable, and by Easter I was rewarded. I tried to stick to the stringent time limited vows I made. As I progressed to Catholic high school, I realized I didn’t have to just give something up. I could improve how I was living. Instead of avoiding candy bars for 40 days or later eliminating red meat, I transformed my pact to such things as choosing to be vulgar free.
As I grew older and this concept of making a change in my life for a specified number of days remained enticing, even if it was outside the borders of the Lenten season. I could conquer something time limited. Anything is possible with an expiration date looming over it. I had been known to simplify my life by doing the Master Cleanse for 10 days annually, a 30 day bikram challenge, and undoubtedly the annual new years resolution. All of these were common short paths to a more enriched self.

Since the Lenten season approached during this burned out period, I was eager to start a new transformation of my life. Although I was no longer a practicing Catholic, the preparation and Lenten framework were ingrained in my head, and served as the perfect parallel process. For 40 days I would live life as a tourist.

Travelling was generally my solution to needing a break from my overwhelming life, but I didn’t have forty days off. I planned to be a tourist, but the caveat to this is I was not going anywhere. This would be an internal trip.
This concept of viewing life as a tourist made perfect sense to me. When I have travelled, I have had spiritual moments and felt connected to the world as whole. I felt the universe protected me on my expeditions, even more if I travelled alone. As Tennessee Williams stated, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” who have served as my guides and at times saviors. I have had serendipitious conversations with strangers on trains, in coffee shops, or in a crowded hostel room. Sometimes, I am overwhelmed with awe by the history a city holds in it’s cobblestone streets. Or I felt pure peace in a quiet seemingly abandoned church.

It’s ironic that I was now prescribing myself homework. As a therapist, I was generally the one who guided others in ways to live a fuller enriched life. Seeking help from therapists wasn’t helping me this time around, nor was engaging in a multitude of alternative healings. That year I had tried acupuncture, bikram yoga, massages, crystals, self reiki, feng shui, traditional therapy, physical therapy, master cleanse, and wearing ionic bracelets. Nothing helped. I needed an extended self-induced assignment. I turned the therapist chair around and prescribed the remedy: a staycation.

I did this several years ago, and this year decided to replicate it. If you want, choose to go on your own staycation with me for the next 40 days.

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