I started giving up things for lent long before I became a Catholic -- I can't say why except that the idea appeals to me on some deep level. Make no mistake, I never gave up chocolate or Dr. Pepper or alcohol or anything that would really make me miserable. But I did give up small things hoping they would change me. After all, I'd been selling pieces of my soul to others for years -- doing things I didn't want to do to look okay for others or to not incur their anger, staying in dead-end relationships way past the expiration date, telling myself it wasn't all that bad, that people do far worse. And they do, of course. I didn't have any bodies under the crawl space in my house, hadn't, as I'm fond of saying, pulled the bullet I'm wearing around my neck out of the heart of my last beloved, or even minor crimes like stealing. I'd ignored the no free refills policy at a few restaurants but that's hardly a hanging offense. And still I knew -- I'd done some shit that I was not proud of and that perhaps if I could sell my soul, perhaps I could buy parts of it back.
It's very easy for me to add things to my life -- jobs, friends, work, more work. What I find difficult is to give things up. When I became a Catholic, I had a special love for lent, the season of loss. The first year of my conversion, my mother and best friend died. I went to an evening service, got the ashes, and the next morning boarded a plane for Hank's funeral. The plane left at six in the morning -- I hadn't showered or washed my face and my sweater was on inside out. Most of the people on the plane were drunk and on their way to Mexico, and I wanted to kill them because they would not shut up. One had a sticker that said Inoperative and kept putting it on different parts of his anatomy and laughing hysterically. This joke did not grow old to him in the way I hoped it would. I went to the bathroom and took a look at myself in the mirror before landing. I realized how bad I looked -- ashes smeared on my forehead like the print from a newspaper I'd fallen asleep on, my clothes all fucked up, my hair that hadn't seen a comb for a few days. I wasn't sure what I was going to give up for my first lent, but my vanity had fled already. I put my sweater on correctly, but I didn't bother with my face. It was my face, you see, and I loved it even though it wasn't beautiful.
Michelle's Spell for the Day
"The wise man knows at the commencement of a matter what its end will be." Talmud
Drinking writing book suggestion: The Forest for the Trees Betsy Lerner (I'm a creative writing book junkie and this one is fantastic for writers who are interested in the publishing world.)
Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Ash Wednesday! And check out the return of R's Musings (new R's Musings blog). She's back and better than ever!
47 Days until The Sopranos airs!