I’m a cradle Catholic. There have been a lot of Lenten sacrifices. And believe you me…it’s hard to give up something that you really love for 40 days.
That’s why this year, I wised up and sacrificed something I’m not all that fond of: sex with my husband. I’ve really enjoyed my respite in the name of religion, and the hubs hasn’t even noticed. “We do it more than once every 40 days?” he asked the other day when I commented on how well I was doing.
Here is a history of a few Lenten sacrifices past:
I am undiagnosed, but it’s clear that I’m way OCD with certain things. I always say that in very few cases, where my undiagnosed disorder turns into something more like willpower, it can serve me well. For example, I won’t skip a workout unless I’m near death, shuddering in a hospital bed with a tick disease (more on that someday)—and then I will make it up by going even harder the next week, when I’ve stopped seeing blood in my piss.
Lenten sacrifices are another case where my OCD/willpower serves me well. No sweets for my little 9-year-old self for over a month? No problem. I’ll run to the bathroom and spit into the sink if my malicious, heathen older sister “accidentally” drops a grain of sugar onto my lumpy Quaker oatmeal at breakfast.
So it was a shock to us all one sunny Saturday afternoon during Lent when, in the midst of my Lenten Nintendo sacrifice, my pre-teen self picked up a controller to help my younger brother get past one of the bad guys in Kid Nikki.
I had only pushed one or two buttons on that little gray controller when I heard my older sister’s gasp. Suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks—or, more aptly, a ton of charcoal waiting to be doused with lighter fluid and set on fire like the sinner I was.
I looked down, eyes wide, and dropped that controller like it was on fire—which it might as well have been, since I was now convinced I was going to hell for effing up my Lenten sacrifice. This thought was confirmed by my older sister, who, incidentally, hadn’t given a damned thing up since 1977. (She was born in ’75.) She looked at me with wide, innocent eyes that everyone in the family could see right through, and she said this: “Maybe you’ll be able to play Nintendo in hell?”
My nostrils began flaring and my lips quivering, signifying that a pretty good cry was coming on. I felt a little bit better when my Dad reached down and gave her a quick flicky-wrist slap to the back of the head for being an asshole. It made her head bop forward a few inches in the most undignified manner, and I smiled momentarily.
But my face soon fell once again when I remembered I was going to hell.
My happiness had been fleeting.
2.) The Year I Heard that You Can Add Something Instead of Giving Something Up
I thought adding something would be easy, and it wasn’t so bad except that it made me come off looking like more of a damned wackadoo than people already think I am.
I decided I would bring back the art of letter-writing, and each day I would write a letter to someone different, whether it be a family, a friend, or a co-worker.
But I couldn’t just make it that easy, now could I? No, I had to be all Opus Dei about it and make myself suffer a little bit. So I started looking up family members I hardly knew—people like my grandma’s first cousins and shit—to make it harder on myself.
I called my grandma one day and asked her for the address of one of her sisters. This was her reply: “My sister…in the looney bin? How did you even know about her?”
She told me later that she began having to field angry phone calls. “Lorraine, could you please tell your weirdo grandkid to stop contacting me? Does she realize that you’re her grandmother, not me?”
But I refused to give up, dammit. Finally Grams just sent me a copy of her address book and I went to work. Luckily I didn’t receive the letter that came back “Return to Sender: Recipient has been dead for 17 years” until the end of Lent. Otherwise my spirit might have been broken and I MIGHT have been given up.
But dammit, that was one Lenten activity that was completed. (Minus the letter to the dead person, and I forgave myself that because when it came back to me, I read it out loud with my face pointing toward the sky, hoping that that’s where he’d gone.)
I was a pack-a-day smoker in college. I still enjoy a ciggie every now and again, but I shit you not when I say that I will buy a pack and it will last me 3-4 months, as I only smoke when I drink, and I hardly ever have time to drink enough to bring on a cigarette craving.
My ultimate goal is to raise my kids quickly so that I can go straight back to being a bar whore who tastes and smells like a chimney. But for now, responsible adulthood will have to do. SIGH.
Anyway, back in college, I had the same happy-go-lucky attitude that I do now…but who knew that in my late teens and early 20’s, that smiling personality was dependent on cigarettes?
The first day I gave them up for Lent, I’d made it to about 7 PM when I had a break from my sales associate job at Wal-Mart. I headed to the break room with a friend who worked in a different department, and we sat down in the smokers’ room, I with a cup of coffee, she with a cigarette.
About 2 seconds into the break—I don’t even remember what we were talking about—she narrowed her eyes, exhaled a plume of smoke, and said, “You’re a goddamned bitch tonight. You’ll start smoking again or I’ll kick your ass myself.”
Remember all of that OCD bullshit I talked about in number 1? Went straight out the window the next day, when I started smoking again and instead gave up Taco Bell (which was almost as hard). But at least I still had my friends—and had spared myself a good ass-whooping. I had no doubt that she could—and would—do it.
This one was fun.
At work one day back when I was a middle school teacher, I strode to the front of my classroom with a wide smile on my face. “Kids, I’m giving up coffee for Lent!” I announced.
I waited about 5 seconds before bursting into hilarious laughter. “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Just kidding!”
I looked around the room, where several seats were suddenly empty. And it dawned on me that I’d scared the poor little things.
“Come on, guys…it was a joke. You can come out now…” I goaded gently.
One of them had been in the corner of the room, crying, and another had been huddled under a pile of jackets under the coat rack in the back of the room, whimpering “Please don’t” over and over again softly.
I’d always thought they’d been kidding when they’d said that they gauged my mood based on how many cups of coffee I’d had each morning…I guess not?
5.) My Favorite Story about One of My Dad’s Sacrifices
My dad announced a couple of years ago that he was giving up alcohol for Lent.
It reminded me of a boyfriend I had in college whose Lenten sacrifice had been liquor. I remember that when he was telling our group of friends this, everyone had gasped, impressed.
I had gasped, too, realizing that I was going to have to break up with him. I’d already told him the same thing that I would tell my soon-to-be-husband years later: “Giving up drinking is a deal breaker. I don’t need some pansyass breathing down my neck, judging me and counting my sips.”
My husband’s response, when we’d had “the talk,” had been priceless: “Sips? When’s the last time you took a damned sip, guzzler?”
Back in college, the boyfriend had quickly rectified the situation with a cute laugh. “I said liquor, babe. Not beer. I can still drink beer.”
I didn’t mean to be an asshole, but I was a bit skeptical of his choice of sacrifice. “You bag groceries for $5.50 an hour. You can’t afford liquor. The fanciest thing you can buy is Natural Light.”
He put a sweet smile on his face as he looked at me and explained. “I know, but I bet I’d like whiskey. It’s probably a pretty good sacrifice.”
By the way, I’d simply been stating the facts; I hadn’t been making fun of his job. He’d been working to pay his way through college, and besides, I’d always found a hard worker sex-ay, no matter what the work.
It didn’t matter, though, because a few months into the relationship, I cheated on him, he found out, and I was quite unceremoniously dumped, followed in quick succession by a major dumping by the guy with whom I’d cheated for several months.
Ah, well. You win some, you lose some, right?
ANYWAY, the point of the whole story was this: One year my dad gave up alcohol for Lent. My dad’s not even that big of a drinker, but you know how when you can’t have something, that makes you want it even more?
By the time Easter rolled around, one mention of beer had my dad salivating harder than I did during what my family has now termed my collegiate “drunken slobber” days. So when the hubs and I and our son arrived at Dad’s house for our annual Easter festivities, we weren’t surprised to see the elaborate setup outside on Dad’s screened-in back deck.
Not only had Dad purchased 3 additional coolers so that he now had no fewer than 4 vessels in which to safely hold the multitude of different beers, but he had also procured a new printer ribbon solely for the purpose of printing signs—complete with clip art of little beers and wine glasses—on which he’d labeled the types of beer in each cooler with a little arrow, in case we didn’t realize that you reach DOWN into a cooler to grab a beer.
This was before I’d gone back to work, and the hubs had taken the next day off, simply because we’d known something like this was going to happen. We only had one kid back then, and he was easy to take care of. We knew that when my mom arrived in an hour or so, we’d have an on-site babysitter for the night. We dug right in.
When the rest of my brothers and sisters and their kids arrived a couple of hours later, their eyes narrowed as they walked into the yard to find my dad, my husband and I traipsing around the yard, flinging eggs for the annual Easter Egg Hunt.
“Are you guys drunk?” my older sister asked, an amused expression on her face.
“We are,” I admitted, somewhat ashamed. “But blame him,” I said, turning on my dad. “And his stupid printer.”
"Yeah, what of it?” my dad challenged, shooting her a glare. “YOU try giving up beer for 40 days!”
It seemed like all at the same time, our eyes rested on my older sister’s bulbous, heavily-pregnant belly. She was due in about two months.
“Yes,” she responded dryly. “Whatever would I do?”
It was one of my favorite Easters ever.
Happy Easter to all of you. I hope it ends up being one of your favorites.