Thursday, February 23, 2012

lent: new year’s for procrastinators

Since AK has been in school, our church-going has gotten way less frequent. This became extra clear yesterday when I saw a guy walk into Starbucks and found myself thinking, What is on his forehead? An extra eyeball? Some kind of medical implant? He doesn’t look like the kind of guy who’d be rocking a face tattoo. Don’t stare! Don’t stare!

Then I realized it was Ash Wednesday. Today being, what, Freshly Scrubbed Thursday?, I’m a little late to the Lent game, but I’m going to play anyway. Here’s what I’m giving up.

1. Changing the subject to myself. This is an extension of my “listen and lurk” New Year’s resolution, which I’ve been plugging away at with mixed results. Did I ever tell you about the time my favorite college roommate Amber told me I had a habit of interrupting people to tell stories about myself? (I realize I just told you a story about myself, but you clicked something to get here—I’m not interrupting anything except whatever you should be doing instead of fucking around online.)

Like most insults, it stung because it was sort of true. In my mind, stories are beautiful vehicles of empathy. I’ve had amazing conversations that consisted entirely of trading stories back and forth. “X happened to me” + “Really? Let me tell you about Y!” = “We understand the shared, fragile human experience.”

But it turns out that not everyone feels that way all the time. A few weeks ago, our couples therapist more or less told me the same thing that Amber did, but in a much nicer, more therapist-y way. Apparently I need to give AK space to figure out how she feels before I jump in with an articulate and self-aware, yet utterly smothering, one-person show about How This All Makes Me Feel.

So far it’s been working pretty well. So I’m going to take it one step further for Lent: I’m going to find ways to relate to all the people in my life that don’t begin with, “That sounds like the time I…” or “What I think about that is….” I might end up being very quiet. And if I’m at a party and desperate to make small talk, you can be sure I’ll grasp the nearest Cheryl anecdote as a life preserver. But if it weren’t a tough goal, it wouldn’t be Lent-worthy, right?

2. Cereal. Sort of. In her blog about this hardcore health challenge she’s doing at her gym, Keely wrote about trying to eat eggs for breakfast instead of cereal. I am such a lifelong cereal addict that I have long refused to believe it’s not the healthiest way to start the day. Part of a complete breakfast? Add a banana and it is my complete breakfast. I’m like a smoker who says, Well, more studies are necessary before we can really conclude anything about that whole lung cancer thing.

Okay, cereal is not cigarettes. It’s not even donuts. But it’s also really carby and usually includes “a touch of honey.” At least the kind I like does.

The problem is that, in the morning, I’m sleepy and vulnerable. Cereal gets me out of bed in a way I’m not sure eggs and fruit can. I want to eat an egg-white-and-spinach omelet and read the interview with Sherman Alexie in The Believer. But what I’m able to do is eat Honey Nut Chex and read about Soleil Moon Frye’s workout secrets (spoiler alert: it’s some sit-ups and leg-lifts) in Self.

So I’m going to be realistic and say that I’ll try to cut my cereal intake down to four days a week. Let’s see, since the beginning of Lent yesterday, I’ve eaten, um, two bowls of cereal. Not small bowls either. Tomorrow: eggs, dammit! But maybe I’ll let myself read about the Best Jeans For My Body Type as a consolation.


Claire said...

Never have understood the point of the forehead ash but fortunately did not tell my 10th grade bio teacher she had dirt on her forehead.

There was a church that did drive-by ashes here. An appalled letter from someone actually religious showed up as a letter to the editor.

Good luck with #1. I'm prone to that myself sometimes though I'm more likely to get drowned out by the more aggressive talkers around me. Ah, the beauty of the written word. (Good thing I didn't give up #1/anything for Lent, eh? ;)

I could probably use a refresher read of Nonviolent Communication. It's a guide to making it not about you essentially.

Raardvarks said...

I'm lurking...

My #2 would be to eat cereal. I have two boxes unopened, being passed over every day for weeks in favor of chili or nothing at all. Healthy!

Cheryl said...

C: Uh-oh, does this mean I've been communicating violently? And I didn't even commit a drive-by ashing!

R: Hey, chili is high in protein.

christine said...

i eat cereal every day for breakfast, too! there was a short stint in high school where i switched to eating two toasted but otherwise plain eggo waffles; that didn't last.

Una said...

Does oatmeal = cereal because I find that it's filling and a slightly more healthy option than an egg everyday.

Cheryl said...

C: I have really appreciated the fact that you travel with a box of Honey Bunches of Oats. :-)

U: As the official Cereal Decider, I will say no, because it doesn't have that "touch of honey"/processed factor. But I eat so many carbs--most of them whole grains, I swear!--and so little meat that eating an egg or two everyday might be good for me. Until they discover that eggs cause cancer or something. But if they discover that cereal causes cancer, I'm already fucked, so at least this will mix things up a little.

Jesi said...

this is a late comment:

but do all Christians participate in Lent? because I thought that was a Catholic thing. and if it is just a Catholic thing, then why do non-Catholics practice it?

i'm really starting to think that americans are masochists. anything we can do to torture ourselves we're down for. ????

i really try to practice moderation. so i never feel the need to have to give up anything. also i take things day by day. i have adopted a vegan diet but depending on the situation will eat vegetarian (if i don't have any other choice). so if i splurge and eat cheese or something i will try to eat vegan the next day. just my two cents.

Cheryl said...

I'm definitely no expert, but I know that Episcopalians participate in Lent. Episcopalianism is sort of halfway between Catholocism and other Protestant denominations.

I think Lent is an opportunity to reflect and try something new. I'm probably as masochistic as any other American, but for me Lent doesn't feel like a manifestation of that tendency. Also, if you're a vegetarian/vegan--unless you've been one since birth--you *have* given up something (meat).