Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What graces of Easter can you unpack?

By Simcha Fisher

This morning in the shower, I reached for the wash cloth, and realized that I had left out my Special Soap -- a bar of expensive, creamy, scented stuff, pale pink, molded into proportions that would make a tubby bar of Ivory weep and vow to join a gym. This bar of soap was part of set of four. It was a thank-you gift from a dear friend, and it had come in a decorative box, which I had been storing, unopened, on the highest shelf in the house. I had been saving it.

But last weekend, after a very, very long week of cooking, sewing, cleaning, scheming, shopping, and general festive berserking, I decided to take a real, live bath. A bath at home, without any rubber duckies or Barbie mermaids involved, in a tub that wasn't specially designed for women in active labor. I was going to take a bath, for as long as I wanted, and I was going to use my special soap, which I had been saving.

So that was a few days ago. It was a wonderful bath. But today was just a Monday morning, nothing special planned. There was no emotional significance attached to today's shower: I just needed to get unstinky. I wouldn't even see my husband again until we were both dead tired. So my first thought when I saw the soap was, "Oh, I can't use that -- I need to save it."

Then I realized how silly that was. It's just soap, after all. There's nothing wrong with enjoying a nice smell for no particular reason -- nothing wrong with feeling like my skin is especially well-hydrated, even if it is only a weekday. And besides, I have three more bars of it on the high shelf! Good grief, woman, just use the soap. Which I did.

Now, this is not going to be one of those tedious essays about how plate-spinning supermoms need to slow down and pamper ourselves occasionally. That sentiment may be true, but it gets said quite often enough! I work pretty hard, but I'm also pretty nice to myself pretty often. If anything, my life reminds me uncomfortably of that Onion article, Woman Constantly Treating Herself For Once.

No, this is more about this idea of saving.

Saving is not bad. It is a very good thing to think of the future, to be prudent, and to be thoughtful in how we dispense gifts to ourselves and to people under our care. We enjoy treats more if they're rare and longed-for; and people who gobble up all their inheritance as fast as they can end up fighting with the pigs for scraps.

Still, it's equally disastrous to get into the habit of never partaking -- of putting off joys, packing them away, or parceling them out until there is no pleasure left. Of saving just for the sake of saving. I'm talking about mundane things: like when I buy a fresh new set of paints for my kids, and have to fight the urge to hover over them to prevent them from using them up, even though that is what they're for; or when I roast a chicken and unintentionally serve small helpings because I'm already thinking about what I'm going to do with the leftovers. Or fretting so audibly over the budget that my family feels guilty and nervous every time I green-light some minor luxury.

The last time I went to confession, the priest counselled me to ask the Holy Spirit to help me unpack the graces He was giving me in the sacraments. That really struck me: yes, God gives us graces, but in some degree we have to decide to use them. They don't do much for us if we leave them on the shelf in their pretty box, waiting for a special occasion.

Now that Easter Day has come and gone, here we are in the Easter Season: the perfect time to keep the celebration going, even though it's not a Holy Day, but only Easter Tuesday. What graces of Easter can we unpack? What can we use today?

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