Great, Lent's coming up next week. I get uncomfortable just thinking of all those cheery folks who hunker down like the groundhog, waiting for the end of 40 days and 40 nights. And don't get me started on ashes on my forehead. I did that a couple of times and it creeped me out.
For starters, Lent means slow, and I move at a pretty good clip, age and weather notwithstanding. So I don't want to keep thinking slow, even if it's only for a while. I wouldn't mind allegro, or even andante, but lent slows me down.
Then there's that fasting thing which I never got. When I was in grade school, I took wonderful, sticky, peach jam sandwiches for lunch on Fridays because I never acquired a taste for peanut butter. At night, I'd eat my favorite meal of all: fish sticks and tater tots. So where was the fast, I ask you? And how does "fast" go with lent which means slow? That stops me. If I can eat my favorite foods, how is it any kind of sacrifice? If fasting meant you had to eat peanut butter, I would understand completely, but not when I'm feasting on mac and cheese, or tuna casserole, or Velveeta sandwiches on Kreamo. Those were my Lent mainstays and I never felt the pinch of fasting.
Past fasting, where you eat less or stop eating meat, there's the whole giving up thing. My mother found out sometime in the 1950s that Lent doesn't technically include Sundays, so she would give up her favorite snack, fresh, homemade popcorn, and make huge batches of it on Sundays. I got really confused by this because we ended up eating way more popcorn in Lent on non-Lent Sunday afternoons than any other time of the year.
I have known people to give up TV shows, chocolate, desserts in general, and riding in cars, in favor of walking. Over the course of my more observant Lents, I have given up all those things and more and I have nothing to show for it. It's dumb to sit over a nice lunch with friends comparing Lenten give-ups, or whatever they're called. "Oh, I can't wait until Easter to eat chocolate again," or "I never thought I'd be able to give up Twinkies for more than a few hours." And now, everybody has to give up Twinkies. What a waste.
So, I decided years ago that I would take Lent on my own terms. I don't give up things, I don't fast, and I shun all guilt associated with it. I do things. During Lent, I slow down to see where I can spread a little genuine kindness. I figure if I can do that successfully, at the end of the 40 days and 40 nights, I will have accomplished something that no amount of chocolate fasting or popcorn rejection will match. I will have increased my own karma by a tiny percentage and that's all fine, because everyone else will benefit as well.
So here's to all the pancakes and scrambled egg suppers ahead. What can I get for you?