This week marks an official halfway point for the “season of sorrowful reflection” otherwise known as Lent. These particular 40 days and 40 nights—not the 2002 teen-comedy flick with Josh Hartnett—started Mar. 1 this year and will end Easter Sunday, Apr. 16.
Now, I’m not a practicing Christian. Nor am I a non-practicing Christian. But I do find the tradition fascinating. In ancient times, this religious custom included a strict regiment of penance, which included increased prayers, decreased eating—or fasting—and abstinence from all festivities in general, including the sexual kind.
Conveniently, there are exceptions made for Irish Catholics on St. Patrick’s Day.
Nowadays, the Lent tradition seems to have relaxed somewhat. From what I can tell, most folks simply give up something they regularly enjoy—a favorite food or activity—a sole but meaningful sacrifice that some Christians refer to as a kind of “redemptive death” meant to satisfy the perfect justice of their spirituality.
All that sounds pretty heavy, I know. But my friends seem to view Lent as a fun choice—something to test their ability to let go of things. I have to admit, the number of people I know who actually practice Lent has diminished significantly over the years. But every spring, without fail, the topic comes up and I yearn to hear what, exactly, people would be willing to give up for the seven weeks (apparently Sundays don’t count) of Lent.
“Hmm… 40 days and 40 nights, hunh?” asked one. “I guess I’d give up fast food. And yelling at my computer.”
“Are you talking about that one movie where the guy gives up sex?” asked another. “Yeah, I wouldn’t do that. But I could give up alcohol.”
“I couldn’t give up alcohol,” said another. “But I could give up coffee, chocolate, meat and my cell phone.”
Still others would give up air conditioning, but not video games; contacting ex-boyfriends, but not flirting; sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, but not petroleum; and one even went so far as to say, “I don’t have nothin’ to give up, I’m still tryin’ to get stuff!”
I’m surprised no one said hookers. But not cocaine.
And what would I give up?
Alcohol is an easy choice, but I’d do that without so much decorum. Television would be a good idea. Chocolate, sugar and carb-heavy foods could be another, if only for the intense gratification I’d feel after stuffing my face at Easter with a basketful. Same goes for sex.
Hey, I’m all for delayed gratification.
Come to think of it, for 40 days and nights, I would easily give up reggae music, dating, going to the same bar/restaurant/grocery store/porn shop twice in one week, small town gossip, the effects of living so close to the ocean—namely rust—on my Jeep, the likelihood of running into the same people over and over again, trying to find somewhere to eat late night, the notion that I’ll ever buy a house on Maui, thinking I’ll never do enough and that there’s not enough to do, wondering if he’ll call—annoyed if he does/hurt if he doesn’t, the idea that I can have my cake and eat it too.
Yes, I am talking about things I normally enjoy… giving it all up… for 40 blissful days and nights of peace and redemption. Doesn’t sound so heavy now, does it?
But I’ll tell you what I couldn’t give up: Defending my groove. Being able to make strangers smile and my friends double over with laughter. The appreciative moan of that first bite of dessert and the satisfied sigh of the last. Music. Movies. Reading anything. Late night drunk dials from friends I can taunt the next day. The smell of Kim’s lotion. The way Sasha always takes over my couch. BJ’s giggle. Tommy’s thinking he can beat me in a drinking competition, and me finally realizing nobody will be the winner. That first whale breach of the season. The Sly Mongoose. The friends and family of the Goose. Little Jen’s stilettos. Sonja’s Scandal-labiasness. Elan’s energetic, impromptu gourmet meals. Readers of this column. The intense weekend of my grandmother’s goodbye cocktail party. My mother’s embrace. My step-dad’s patience. Getting endless pictures of friends’ babies. My job. Making my editor blush. Every night’s sunset on the west side. Driving my Jeep anywhere. My other boyfriend, Tony. The sound of ice being stirred in a cocktail glass. And hope. That I can one day have a career I love, a family and a dog. That’ll I’ll figure it all out in the end, mainly. And that I’ll have enough happiness to share.
Did I say I would give up chocolate? Okay, I so wouldn’t give up chocolate.
What would you give up?
Samantha Campos has done nothing and everything wrong for as long as she can remember. MTW