I’m not Catholic. By all rights I should be, given my parents’ background, but they weren’t religious and gave up even baptizing their kids after the first one. Bizarrely, I did make my way to Congregationalist Sunday School on my own in third grade and continued to be a steady churchgoer through college and beyond, including weekly mass at my Catholic university (hey, all the kids were doing it). But the story of my finding and losing religion is one for another day.
One thing that has stuck, however, is the practice of giving up something for Lent. I find that it is a great way for me to be more mindful of habits I’ve fallen into and to break potentially bad cycles of behavior. Generally, it has been pretty easy for me to decide what to give up; something just made sense, whether it was meat, processed foods, or alcohol (although most people just thought I was pregnant).
This year, however, I struggled. There wasn’t an obvious food issue. Plus, I’m going on vacation with family soon and that could pose a lot of problems. Television? If I did that, I might have to revert to the “cheating” version of Lent that doesn’t count Sundays.* Something Internet-related? Getting to work on time (something that started slipping during the World Cup and has never really righted itself)?
No one thing stood out.
In the end, I realized that the change I most wanted to make was to get back to my stairway walks. Although I walk to work for 30 minutes every day, it’s over perhaps the least hilly terrain in San Francisco and not very challenging physically. So I decided to give up laziness, which would potentially address a number of smaller problems as well. While concepts have never worked very well for me (giving up gossip at work was an epic failure), perhaps this year will be different. I’ll get back to you in forty (or rather, forty-six) days.
* Lent is forty days long to represent the time that, according to the Bible, Jesus spent in the desert denying Satan’s temptations. In Western Christianity, the Lenten period begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Saturday. A quick check of the calendar reveals this to actually be 46 days. Sort of how people say pregnancy is nine months, but in reality it’s forty weeks—a technical, but big, difference, as I’m sure any woman who’s actually been pregnant can tell you.