Lent and spinning plates

Today is Ash Wednesday.  In many ways, it isn’t any different from any other day.  But, for so many of us, it is a special day.  It is a day of fasting and abstaining from meat.  It is a day which includes Mass and being reminded that from dust we came and to dust we will return.  And, it is a day that many of us begin a Lenten process of dying a bit to ourselves and turning more of our attention to our Lord and the sacrifices He made for us.

Maybe it was the fasting part that got me started thinking of plates. 🙂  The image of spinning plates popped into my head early this morning as I drove to the hotel where the annual conference I was attending was being held.  That image has stayed with me and has developed over the course of the day.

Many years ago, I heard a talk from Dave Durand where he discussed a time management/life management concept and used the imagery of a juggler who had many spinning plates on the ends of sticks.  The juggler’s job was to keep moving from one plate to the next, keeping them all spinning, and not letting any of them slow down enough to fall.  That was the image in my mind.  I remembered how Dave described how each of those plates stood for the different areas of our lives that we all need to keep spinning.  Health.  Finances. Physical.  Spiritual.  Intellectual.  Emotional.  All of these areas and so many more need to be kept in a perfect balance within our lives for us to achieve happiness and a sense of peace and balance.  Sometimes certain plates need more attention.  At other times, we put too much focus on one plate and forget to watch the others and they flounder and fall with a crash.

But, as I thought of all of these plates, the image of one, filled, dinner plate came to mind (as I said — I was hungry).  On this dinner plate, there were several items in different quantities.  Each of the items had different weights.  Each of them took up different amounts of space.  On the dinner plate I imagined this morning, half of it was filled with a serving of steak, one-third taken with a pile of mashed potatoes and then the remainder taken with a serving of string beans.  I couldn’t help but wonder — would it spin??

Nutritional balance is, of course, important (and one of the areas I need to focus on during Lent as many of my old eating habits are creeping back in).  But, the question that kept popping into my head was –  would it spin?  Was the plate balanced enough so that it would spin?  An ideal plate would be well-balanced among the different weights of food so that it was evenly proportioned and the plate would spin smoothly.  My thought was that the plate described above would not spin evenly.  It was too heavily weighted with the steak and the potatoes and would tip in that direction.  A healthier and more balanced option would be a smaller portion of steak and potatoes and a larger portion of string beans. Once the weights were more evenly divided, the plate would probably spin.

Isn’t life a bit like that?  Rather than imaging many plates all spinning by their lonesome selves on those sticks, I like this new image of one plate evenly balanced and spinning smoothly.  The items on that plate are in healthy portion sizes and balance each other out.  Items like work, play, prayer/spiritual life, friends/relationships, physical health, and emotional health all need to be evenly proportioned in order for our plates to spin properly.

Sometimes, one item might be a bit heavier in our life.  So, counter balancing with other items needs done so that the plate doesn’t topple before it can even possibly spin.  Life for me has included a huge shift in weight of one item — specifically work — in recent months.  My plate has gotten out of balance because I haven’t spent the time I should have to shift the other items around to counter balance this new weight.  With the balance off on my plate, life has been spinning pretty roughly.  My weight has gone up. My stress level/emotionalism has been much too high. My prayer time has shifted and in some cases dropped. My physical health has decreased as I haven’t taken the time to exercise. And instead of setting up the counter balances, I have rationalized all of this with an ‘Oh woe is me’ attitude.

Thankfully, Lent is here and I’ll get the kick in the pants I need.  I can’t change the weight shifts that have occurred on my plate.  But, I CAN change how I arrange my plate to adequately counterbalance this heavier weight of work in my life.

So, here goes 40 days of a new balancing act.  Broken plates will be part of the act.  If you want to watch this circus show, tickets will be $1 a piece. 🙂  The collection basket for your ticket fee is at your closest church.  You will probably see me there mending those plates in the confessional…

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