nilesite writes


New York, New York, USA
January 08
The Backpack Press
Pilgrim, writer, photographer, mom, singer - author of "A Marshmallow on the Bus: A Collection of Stories Written on the MTA."


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FEBRUARY 7, 2013 5:05PM

I Just Don't Believe in Lent

Rate: 6 Flag

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?


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I used to give up liver...which I refused to eat on any day in the year. When serious, I'd give up candy, only to increase the intake of my real true lover, YoHo potato chips. Oh, the games people play. I love your idea. Forget Lent, let's make it a daily habit!

I know people who give up alcoholic beverages for Lent. Egad, their saints!
@Gerald, if I gave up wine for Lent the alcoholic store would go out of business! HAHA
Nile, let's just be kind every day
I hadn't realized that fasting wasn't real fasting during Lent. All these religious rules make me tired and bored. I don't like them. I want things to be real and important. Religion seems to skirt around it all.
Then for this new Snow Storm predicted - I guess there's no Peanut Butter - but plenty of Spam? R
See, no one told me that Sundays were exempt. If they had, I would have had a much easier time in 1995 when I gave up sugar. I almost attacked someone for a soda, but stopped myself before I actually moved towards her. On the flip side, that's when I learned to read labels.
I just sit back and enjoy all those fish sandwiches that show up on restaurant menus.
toritto - if you can imagine, my kids love brussel sprouts. Go figure.

L - I loved that old classic song: I hate liver, liver makes me quiver, liver makes me curl right up and die!

GA - I have never known anyone to give up the hooch. But I come from an Irish family. It woulda been sacrilege.

Christine - I agree. Nobody ever regrets being kind.

zanelle - it's only when you start laying it out that you see all the holes in the argument. Tired and bored indeed.

Marilyn - I could easily give up Spam, but it wouldn't increase the karma.

JP - Sugar?! What were you thinking?

jlsathre - I love them too. I grew up with what they call AYCE fish fry suppers. "All You Can Eat."