I'm hardly Catholic anymore. Still, I wear the idea of my Catholicism as a romanticized badge of honor, taking pleasure in the idea that I once was a part of something truly controversial -- and it wasn't even by choice.
In fact, I'm only now able to write about being Catholic in the past tense because my very Catholic grandmother has not been on this planet for eighteen years. So she has no clue that I chant and do yoga now, and wear the rosaries she made me in rosary club as jewelry. But while those things are secrets I will always keep from Julia, I know she would be happy to hear that I still observe Lent. And why do I observe the Catholic tradition of deprivation? Because as with all awesome challenges, I take these forty days each year to fucking own it -- and prove that I can go without.
First, an update on my last personal challenge, New Year's Resolutions for 2012: I failed. The no-sugar-for-ten-weeks resolution lasted a whole thirteen days -- and then something traumatic happened in my life, resulting in a stress-eating session involving a pot of spaghetti noodles, half a Tres Leches cake and an entire box of coconut popsicles from Mi Pueblo across the street from my house.
The Spending Diet also failed three weeks into the year because I love makeup and clothes and Starbucks and hair thingies and lunching with all my favorite people in my usual booth at Racines (where I'm pretty sure all servers and hosts think I'm an escort, because I meet a date each visit and never dine at the restaurant with the same person twice in one month) more than I like saving money.
It's only February; I could just get back on that old, boney, already worn-out resolution horse, right? But in typical Virgo fashion, I find there's no going back. It's all or nothing with these overreaching commitments. So that's where Lent comes in -- or, as I call it, New Year's do-overs!
Like New Year's resolutions that start on New Year's Day, Lent dives in with a ceremonial bang: Ash Wednesday. This is when we Cafeteria Spirituals roll over to the nearest church -- since most of us probably can't remember our "home" parish -- and get a cross smudged on our forehead in ash.
Then we wander around Whole Foods like proud puppies fresh from the dog show, showing off what baller Catholics we are, because we went to church on an important day and got some sooty stuff spread all over our faces. I call it "Catholics Club" -- it's one of those special times of the year when my two remaining Catholic friends and I can commiserate over our weird childhoods. (There's a non-Catholic friend in our group who says we should drop the archaic, institutionalized rituals of Catholicism, since by now we're either gay or have had an abortion or just a lot of sex out of wedlock. But I think he's just jealous he's not in Catholics Club.)
Once the pageantry of Ash Wednesday is over, that's when the real fun starts. Lent begins, and it's like New Year's all over again -- except this time, I only have to stick to my ridiculous promises for forty days. If you're not familiar with stuff Catholics do, Lent is like any other holiday for us: It's all about deprivation, sacrifice and pain. In fact, we like to end each Friday during Lent by living through each horrific moment before Jesus died with the fourteen Stations of the Cross, also known as the birth of Catholic guilt. (Examples of stations: "Station 1: Jesus is condemned to death. Station 2: Jesus accepts the cross. Station 3: Jesus falls for the first time. Station Whatever: Jesus gets acid, vinegar, bleach and perm solution poured in his eyes." Okay, that last one was fake.)
Since Lent is all pain no gain, I like to pick things to give up that are especially hard for me to kick. (I know some cop-out Catholics who will give up Oreos or coffee, knowing full well they don't even consume those things. Bullshitters.) After calling an impromptu meeting with my Catholic-teers at Shirt Folding Store, I decided to give up/cut down on three things in my life: soda, complaining about working at Shirt Folding Store and Facebook.
The first two are fairly easy. I wasn't always the biggest carbonated-beverage drinker, but soda is definitely something no one should consume. (Did you ever do that test where you put a piece of bologna in a bowl with Pepsi and the soda eats through the faux meat? So gross.) The second, not bitching about my super-easy, super-awesome job has also been cake, except when I'm at work and my co-workers are whining about Shirt Folding Store and I have to stand there like a teacher's pet with my mouth closed. But life goes on.
The final challenge was to only update my status on Facebook three times a day. (If this Lenten promise doesn't show how bad my addiction to FB is, then you might want to seek professional help about your own status situation. Better yet, just admit to any person in real life that you update Facebook more than six times a day, and the shame should set in immediately.)
On this seventh day of Lent, I'm doing pretty well...thanks to 40 Days, my Lent tracker! Yeah, someone invented an app that lets us good Catholics keep track of our Lent goals. I can't pretend I forgot my Lenten promises or act like I thought Lent was over -- nope, now I have to be accountable to Jesus and my iPhone. And there's nothing we're more devoted to than our Lord and Savior and that thing that does everything for us except make bowel movements and kiss our wife goodnight.
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The coolest part? When I log a negative Lent score -- like, I drank ginger ale because I thought it wasn't classified as a "soda" or I whined about not getting my fifteen-minute break in time to take my allergy pill -- I can choose a penalty amount. Then, at the end of Lent, I get to pick a charity to donate my Lenten eff-ups to.
I wonder if I'm allowed to donate my Lent money to Planned Parenthood?