I told our community group in an email today that, a week into Lent, I've already renegotiated a little w/ God, had some slippage, gotten back on the horse, and find myself most days alternately optimistic and just barely hanging on by my teeth. I'm drawn again and again to a passage from a book Fr. Conner recommended I read a couple of years ago.
No progress in Christian life is possible, alas, without the bitter experience of failures. Too many people start fasting with enthusiasm and give up after the first failure. I would say that it is at this first failure that the real test comes. If after having failed and surrendered to our appetites and passions we start all over again and do not give up no matter how many times we fail, sooner or later our fasting will bear its spiritual fruits. Between holiness and disenchanted cynicism lies the great and divine virtue of patience -- patience, first of all with ourselves. There is no short-cut to holiness; for every step we have to pay the full price. Thus it is better and safer to begin at a minimum -- just slightly above our natural possibilities -- and to increase our effort little by little, than to try jumping too high at the beginning and to break a few bones when falling back to earth.
Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent: Journey to Pascha
(Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's, 1969): 98-99.