Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Season of Loss

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
Cocktail Hour
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!


Maddonna said...

Good. Keep your bullet necklace. I've still got my bullet bra and I'm not giving it back to that old Jewish producer guy who gave it to me in the first place. Even though I'm more into the Talmud than the New Testament nowadays. Have a happy Lent anyways, Michelle!

Charles Gramlich said...

I did once give up alcohol for lent. But I was young and foolish. I think about 18 at the time.

Jingoistic said...

You're miserable with doctor pepper? I'd be miserable if I had to drink it!

the walking man said...

In ancient days The Lenten season was much like the Islamic Ramadan, a time of fasting, the forsaking of meals. In Christianity you were allowed one regular size meal and two smaller meals that when combined did not equal the size of the larger meal and it was from that which evolved the philosophy of giving up something but even though this is old testament and really does not aply to Christians i find it more applicable to what a fast should be.

Isaiah 58...

4Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.

5Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?

6Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

7Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

8Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward.

9Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

10And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:....

Yes i use the KJV for reference because it is the one most honestly translated but that is for another day.

Peace during your fast and may those of you of that persuasion find ways to give of yourselves rather take something from yourself.


realbigwings said...

"I didn't bother with my face. It was my face, you see, and I loved it even though it wasn't beautiful."

Powerful, and lovely. This line made my lips twist.

Steve Malley said...

I never have much to say about them, but I do love your essays.


paul said...


JR's Thumbprints said...

Why practice Lent if you don't give up something that gives you withdrawals, something that's really painful to you. All else is just going through the motions. At least that's my take on it--the non-practicing Catholic that I am.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Michelle. This post is mesmerizing...charming. I like it. I hadn't been this way in a while and loved seeing your smile when the page popped up. You're the greatest! -Jill

Anonymous said...

Your face is fine, but the eyes have it. Especially that unique shade that only you possess. A gift from your father?,,,,Biljan

John Ricci said...

My cherished dear Michelle
One thing I will not be giving up is your lovely Spell. Nor your lovely views. I think your whole being has it, eyes smiles writing and everything as a whole. Your humour vigour and Catholic determination are so marvelous. Champagne wishes and caviar dreams and may you not have to give up too much ever again. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Hey Miss M, thanks for the shout-out! As for giving up things, it feels like spring cleaning to me, a good feeling once I've let go. But fasting has gotten more difficult in the past few years. I don't know why. Happy Thursday!