“So I think I’m gonna give up soda for Lent,” Doug said today.
I think this is just about the best idea I’ve ever heard. First, because Doug’s dental work officially started last week, which makes cutting out soda more than appropriate. (I may be more excited about finally seeing him with perfect teeth than I am about the prospect of him proposing to me soon, but don’t tell him I said that. Oh shit, he reads this, huh?)
And second, because, ridiculous as it sounds, I love the Lenten season. I love things that are rooted in tradition, and the next 40 days hold some of the most beautiful traditions I can remember from my Catholic upbringing. The giving up of a vice – or taking on of a virtue, which has been more and more recognized and encouraged in the Church lately – is only the beginning.
For a while, I called myself a twice-a-year Catholic; but it wasn’t Christmas and Easter on which I was attending Mass; it was Christmas and Ash Wednesday. I love that physical marking of faith, or history, or even just perspective: “To dust you shall return,” the priest would say, and I would think, “Fuck. This is about so much more than just me.” One year in college, I had to give an oral report in my French class, debating the wearing of burkas, and I purposefully scheduled my report for Ash Wednesday, just so I could deliver my whole speech with a religious symbol on my own head.
I loved fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, which, in my family, meant we ate about one meal’s worth of food during the day, and then we ate a normal dinner. (Nevermind that, as an adult, that’s pretty much how I eat every day.) I loved feeling hungry and knowing it was on purpose, for a purpose. And fish-on-Fridays was even better. My parents’ Church puts on the best fish dinners – seriously, they’re gourmet. Schedule allowing, I’m going to every single one of them this year.
Then there was Good Friday itself, when at exactly 3 p.m., we would turn off the TV (or put on whatever movie about Jesus’s life existed before The Passion of the Christ – and I know there was one) and reflect on the magnitude of what it meant to have such a perfectly imperfect Savior withstand torture and death at the hands of the very people He was trying to save. And every year, I could swear that the sky went dark at exactly that hour. Some years, it even rained: God using His most obvious sign, the weather, to pour the reminder of His sacrifice directly onto our heads. (I’ve mentioned before that I was an incredibly perfect little Sunday School student, right? In high school, I had a history teacher who called me Miss Theologen after I’d corrected him on what the Immaculate Conception was… My parents probably wonder what the hell went wrong later in my life, as my moments of true faith are now few and far between.)
But, ever since I outgrew giving up candy – and after one disastrous Lent when I tried to give up cussing – I have never been able to come up with a good Lenten sacrifice of my own. Soda is perfect for Doug. Nothing ever seems perfect for me – or if it does (cough cough facebook cough), it’s too perfect: impossible or impractical.
One year in college, I wrote a poem,* based on a conversation I was having with Carrie one day, about this exact debate. It’s kind of silly, and I feel like I need some silliness in my life and my blog right now, so I’m sharing it:
“What should I give up for Lent?”*
Coffee or chocolate, not both.
then watch more TV.
Wearing a color of your choice.
IM before a certain time.
Swearing in English.
(but you don’t really do that anymore).
or taking up surfing.
Staring at the ceiling.
like in that film.”
“We’ve found a winner: Joey taxi.”
Joey, later that night: “You should give up Carrie for Lent.”
*a conversation with Carrie Murphy
**The act of driving my little brother to and from the train station so he can go home every single weekend.
*The book of my college poetry, which I had to dig up to find this, is full of some amazing teen-angsty poems, some pretty intense sex poems, some more silly poems, some poems so cryptic that even I no longer understand them, and a few poems in French. It’s like this incredible window into my history: I want, in equal parts, to post all those old poems here so they can have readers again, and to write new ones, so I can call myself a poet again.