Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Lent Well Spent

Although it feels awfully early this year, the cross-shaped ashes on my forehead can mean only one thing--it's Lent, baby!

For the uninitiated (er, unbaptized?), Lent is a 40-day period of fasting in the Catholic liturgical year, when all good Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays and attempt to stick to a personal sacrifice as well. For a slightly more detailed explanation of Lent via fake church signs, click here.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, a day when Catholics smear ashes on their forehead to represent human sinfulness. The byproduct of this outward sign of religiosity is the fact that everyone in your workplace and daily life notices that you are, in fact, Catholic. Well, that's assuming that they already know what Ash Wednesday is. When I came into work ashen-faced today, I had the following encounter with a co-worker:
Co-worker: "Matt, are you OK? You've got something running down your forehead."
Me: "Oh, those are ashes." [assuming that would clear it up]
Co-worker: "Huh?! Ashes?"
Me: "Today is Ash Wednesday."
Co-worker: "Oh, sorry!"
Me: "No, it's OK."
Co-worker: "It looks like you ran into a tree! It's kind of scary! You look like you're a member of a gang or something!"
Tee hee.

This may sound strange, but Lent is actually one of my favorite things about being Catholic. While I am a voracious omnivore and thoroughly miss my meat on Fridays, Lent is a great psychological device for improving your life. You have to make Lent work for you! The next 40 days are an all-inclusive opportunity to kick a bad habit or make a better habit stick.

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down!The old saying is that it takes 28 days to form a new habit, so Lent gives me 12 extra days to be completely sure that my new workout routine is a permanent part of my life. (Just an example...not a promise!) Lent also helpfully arrives when I have long since fallen off the wagon of my New Year's resolutions, but close enough to the beginning of the year that I'm still committed to making some sort of self-improving change.

This year, I have decided to make the same Lenten sacrifice that I have made the past three years: I'm giving up Facebook and Coke. Now I know what you're thinking: "Matt, how can this be a difficult sacrifice if this is your third year in a row?" Good question. The answer? It never gets any easier. I have successfully avoided Facebook for 80 days during the past two years (and I'm not alone), but I always manage to become just as reliant on it as a procrastination tool by the time Lent rolls around again. The invention of Scrabulous has only worsened my addiction.

Somehow I managed to get by without Facebook for more than 20 years and I know this technically shouldn't be a difficult sacrifice. The fact that going Facebook-free for 40 days is such a tremendous stretch for me means that my Facebook habit is bordering on a full-blown Facebook addiction. It's time for Lent to step in and save the day!

Now I just need to figure out a productive way to spend all the free time I'm going to have in the next 40 days. Maybe I'll run into a tree or something.


ericaislands said...

Hilarious and thanks for using my link!

Charles said... least my ash cross looked like a cross. Yours could legitimately be mistaken as the result of some unfortunate mishap.

Matt said...

Maybe some priests practice making the ash cross on paper before the big day. I guess mine didn't.