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Let’s hear it for Lent

February 21, 2012

Though I’m not technically Catholic, I was raised by a lapsed-Catholic-turned-atheist and a lapsed-Catholic-returned-to-church-but-doesn’t-always-agree-with-Rome-kinda person. We went to church on Christmas, sometimes on Easter too, and when my mother remarried, she and her husband had a church service (not a church wedding though) to supplement their civil ceremony. I attended a Catholic primary school until the age of 8 and a Catholic secondary school between ages 12 and 18. All of this is a very roundabout, lengthy way of saying that I am not Catholic (in that I wasn’t baptized or Confirmed and that I don’t believe in Jesus as a the son of God and, you know,¬†transubstantiation) but I was raised Catholic.

I was never a stranger to Carnaval (also called carnival, fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, and so on), but I didn’t really learn about Lent until later in life, when a few of my sisters decided it’d be a good idea to give up sweet things for that period. I never joined them because delayed gratification is not my thing. Nevertheless, two years ago I gave up my own little thing for Lent: excuses.

I must admit, I was quite proud of myself both for having this idea and for sticking to it. It made me a fantastically productive person. What did “giving up excuses” entail? For example, that rain, everyday tiredness, and overall blahs were not a valid reason to avoid the gym. That nerves about how a professor would respond to a request or email did not mean I could avoid making the request or sending the email. That “but I already had a peach this morning” was not a reason to eat nothing but Baby Ruth bars for dinner. That “but I did 75% of what I’d planned to do today” was not a good enough reason to stop what I was doing and gorge on 5 West Wing episodes.

In short, I stopped letting myself get away with stuff. That doesn’t mean that I pushed myself to the extreme. Giving up excuses also meant being aware of what was an excuse and what was an actually valid reason for avoiding something. Because sometimes, especially if you’re an introvert, your brain needs some downtime and it needs those West Wing episodes or some silly (rather than academic) reading or a good lie-in instead of a trip to the gym at the break of dawn. I became both more productive and nicer to myself.

Why did I give up giving up excuses when Easter rolled around? I don’t really remember. Perhaps sticking to my rules 100% was a bit too much after all. But this year I’m giving it another go. I’m giving up excuses again. No more “I’ll return that student’s email after the weekend because my brain is too cluttered now” (*students cheer*), no more “I’ve been so busy at work, I just need one more duvet day before I work on my thesis,” but also no more beating myself up over having back pain that is keeping me away from the gym.

All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

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