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7 February 2008

i’ve toyed with the idea of giving something up for lent for several years–ever since i lived in boston. i remember walking to the T on ash wednesday and being mystified by the smudges on my fellow commuters’ foreheads. although i’d grown up in southern california with lots of catholic classmates, i’d never seen (or at least never noticed) ashes on people’s foreheads for ash wednesday. it took me a while, that cold february morning in boston, to make the connection between the smudges on foreheads and the beginning of lent.

i’m not much for making apparently empty sacrifices–giving up chocolate or soda or whatever simple indulgence and then returning to previous habits once you’ve fulfilled the barebones of the sacrifice. but i like the idea of using this kind of structured sacrifice as an opportunity for reflection and change. and if the change needed is giving up soda or sweets–that’s fine by me. in fact, i could probably do with consuming less of both.

but the change i need? i need to get out of my damn bed in the morning. i’m not talking about getting up early or about not sleeping in. nor am i talking about not taking a few minutes after waking up to cat-stretch and then curl back up in my bed and enjoy its cozy warmth while i think about my day.

here’s what i am talking about: when i get overwhelmed by all of the things going on in my life–things which i’m not really managing well–little things become obstacles to my acting. stupid little things. like what i’ll wear. or what i’ll eat for breakfast. or the fact that there’s laundry piled on my floor. and too often i react by laying in my bed stewing. sometimes i stew over the stupid stuff. other times i stew over the big stuff. either way it’s incredibly unproductive. and it usually means i don’t eat; it sometimes means i don’t shower; and occasionally it means i don’t make it to appointments.

obviously this is not okay. the thing is that i know if i’ll just get up and take care of those little things, i’ll have a good start to my day. and it will take me less time to shower, eat, and start a batch of laundry than i spend stewing. and i won’t have the hunger-headache to deal with or the guilt over not getting something–anything!–done.

so for lent i’m giving up my bed–or rather the self-flagellation staying in (or getting back in) bed represents. time to simply do the things that need to get done.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 February 2008 1:15 pm

    I never saw the ash on the forehead thing in high school in Orange County, CA. And was puzzled the first time I saw it in college.Of course, my conversation was something like, “Oh. What’s Ash Wednesday?”I can’t think of lent without thinking of my mother’s lentil soup. “Oh. What’s Lent?”

  2. 8 February 2008 1:31 pm

    i am curious about the absence of ash on the forehead in OC. my student body was about 45% latino and i imagine many if not most of those students were catholic. and i really don’t remember ever seeing ashes on their foreheads. but in boston, where there’s bigger populations of catholics with irish and italian backgrounds, i saw ashes on tons of people’s foreheads. your mom’s (or should it be moms’s) lentil soup is yummy….

  3. 11 February 2008 8:59 am

    I have kind of been thinking about the whole ashes thing as well. When I was growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland lots of people had them all day, at least a lot of my teachers did.This past ash Wednesday the only people I saw with them were in the Food for Less in Santa Ana near my work. A friend of mine mentioned that several people at her work in Irvine went, got them, and wiped them off by lunch. You are not supposed to remove them before the end of the day, but I wonder if people in South Orange County are a little bit more self conscious and don’t want to be seen with them all day.Also the Ash Wednesday mass is not a required one for Catholics, so maybe a lot of people don’t go…Anyway, I was kind of wondering why you don’t see more ashes here too.

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