Well, it is officially Lent. In the past, I have tried to give up something for Lent, although this year all of my plans have been thwarted. I had originally thought that I would give up staying up past midnight, but then I had to pick my mother up at the airport at midnight last night. I thought I would give up Coke, cold turkey, but my wife will explain to you why that is not a good idea. I considered giving up several things, and one by one, as yesterday progressed, I did them all. Now yes, I technically could just start a day late, but my OCD will not allow me to begin Lent on Ash Thursday. I will know, deeply know, that I did not actually give it up for all of Lent, and it will drive me crazy. And besides, giving things up has not always had the best results for me in the past.
A few years ago (oh gosh, more than a few years ago…), when I was in graduate school, I decided to give up soda and candy for Lent. It went very well indeed. For 40 days and 40 nights I drank no soda or caffeine of any kind, and I ate no chocolate or candy. Success! And then Easter hit. And for the next week, as all of my colleagues, friends, and fellow teachers will tell you, I ate and drank nothing but Peeps and Mountain Dew.
Although I cannot recall much of what happened that week, I am informed by the few people that decided to remain friends with me that it was not a good time for me, socially. It has been said that I am often slightly hyper and excited in the first place, and so going on a sugar and caffeine fast followed by an excessive binge turned out to be a volatile combination. If you think I talk a lot, and too quickly, now, you should have seen me during that week. Or so I have been told. As I mentioned, this is basically a big black hole in my memory during which higher brain function essentially ceased and I was like the Tasmanian Devil on speed.
So is that the point of Lent? To deny yourself something, only to binge consume it later? Had I learned anything from my experience? Had I gotten closer to God? Only in the sense that many people were actively trying to kill me. A much better way to spend Lent would be to try and rid yourself of habits that inhibit you spiritually, so as not to begin them anew on Easter morning. Or perhaps, as some people do, one might add something good to their lives, rather than take something away. But whatever you decide to do, it’s too late now. Lent started yesterday. And if I’ve learned anything from my past, it’s that nobody likes a person who contains too much, or too little, caffeine. And also that I am slightly OCD.