Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In a Handbasket

As you are probably aware, today is Ash Wednesday, marking the first day of Lent. As a recovering Catholic, Lent in particular is a strange time for me. I'm not sure why but the guilt, the infamous Catholic guilt always wants to poke out its slimy, blob like head and seductively whisper, " Are you SURE you want to eat meat on Fridays? Really? And are you SURE you're not giving anything up for Lent? REALLY???"

Its obvious to observe that this is most likely related to something in my childhood. My parents, especially my father, were extremely Catholic and Lent was Important- Capital "I." We attended Mass on Ash Wednesday, got our foreheads smeared with the requisite dirt (I mean really, ashes are pretty much just dirt), ate fish on Fridays (in fact, I think my parents straight up fasted on Fridays during Lent) and always sacrificed something we loved for the 40 day period. For us kids it was usually candy, soda, or a favorite TV know, something that would make you SUFFER. It IS supposed to be penance. And how better to show contrition than by giving up your beloved Saved by the Bell back to back episodes on Saturday mornings???

Anyway, this time of year, even though I have been free from the church for my entire adult life ( I left when I was 15), I get this nagging feeling in my I should be observing it somehow. And really- if I put aside my resentment towards most aspects of being raised Catholic, I can grudgingly acknowledge that taking time out each year to count your blessings and perhaps work on bad habits is not a negative thing. According to wikipedia (sacred in its own right...right???): "The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigour during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbour). "

I get it, I really do. Its like a spiritual colon cleanse. Get rid of all the shit that is plugging up your life so you can focus on digesting the really important things- like being focused on the good things in your life and helping others. Check.

Trouble is, this is not how Lent was presented to me as a child. It was all about denying yourself because you were some how not deserving of things that gave you pleasure. If you liked candy bars or Cherry Coke or New Kids on the Block, you were supposed to feel guilty about it. And a way to please God was to give these things up for show him that you were willing to suffer for your wicked, wicked ways. Bullshit, I say.

I know that there is a lot more to it. Really, I do. This is just one (jaded) woman's experience and opinion. If I didn't have the experiences of my childhood to look back on, I would probably see Lent as the logical, detached part of my brain wants to see it: a beautiful, interesting ritual.

As it is, there is so much baggage attached that it just pisses me off and makes me want to go eat a dozen Snickers, drink a fifth of Jager and watch What Not to Wear for two days straight.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's funny because I have been going through this ,I miss being Catholic thing that is driving Bryan nuts. I think I just miss the traditions mostly. I loved Ash Wednesday when I was little, I thought it was cool to walk around with ashes on your forehead. Weirdo I know.

If it wern't for all the hypocracy of the church and hatred that they spew I would totally be Catholic.I just can't reconcile it all. To repent, I guess I should give up something really good this year, like my kids. Ou I know, I have to go to a resort somewhere and be alone for 40 days. That would be torture. :-) DO you think I sell that to Bryan?