It’s that time of year again. It’s the week before Ash Wednesday, and it’s suddenly a dash to self-evaluate habits, priorities, and routines and, through some spiritual introspection that probably should be a daily occurence and not a 4th quarter scramble, figure out a game plan for the next forty days.
Oreos magically appeared in the breakroom this morning, so naturally I began thinking of giving up snacking between meals, mid-chew of a happy birthday Oreo that just wasn’t worth the energy it took to put in my mouth. I dumped a french vanilla coffeemate pod into my mug, and while deciding that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with non-refrigerated cream, thought maybe I should start drinking coffee black. I walked back to my office, upset that I was sleepy even though I re-set my alarm and missed early morning Mass, and decided I needed to relocate my alarm clock across the room so that my bed was easier to exit at 5am.
So what is the game plan? I need to figure it out, and soon. I know I need to give up something that is hard enough to make me really desire Easter. I know it’s been a lazy Lent when it goes by quickly or when Easter is just another Sunday to me. At the same time, I need to do something that’s doable, or it’s not going to last. That year I tried to give up electricity after sundown? Yeah, didn’t work.
I know I need to be creative. Elizabeth Scalia has some great points about how our brains are turning to mush and how Lent is our opportunity to begin to change that. I agree 100%. Reading more and staring a screen less would definitely make me a better person. The idea of a social media fast is aluring, but not practical with my job. Perhaps I need to tweak it a bit to make it useful.
I’m all about giving up the normal things… chocolate, alcohol, etc etc etc. I don’t buy that whole “don’t give up something, do something!” thing. That was a fad when I was growing up, and it’s just not Catholic. Being Catholic is both-and. Yes, do something. But give something up, too. I’ve learned the beauty of the fast-feast interplay over the past several years, and while it’s material for another post, suffice it to say that Judeo-Christian tradition for the last 3,000 years knows what it’s doing.
So I’ll be fasting from something good. That’s important. Self-discipline is definitely a virtue I need to work on these days. But maybe I also need to give up something whose complete absence would actually make me a better person. Maybe something I won’t splurge on come Easter. You know, actually develop virtue over the next 40 days, that might sustain into the next fifty or a hundred?