A Walk in the Desert

I realized, after perusing Facebook this afternoon, that today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I’m “sort of” Catholic. I was raised Presbyterian, but converted to Catholicism when my kids were young. My dad had been Catholic, as a youth, and so had my husband. It seemed so natural, I loved the ritual and the routine, the seasons and the celebrations.

In all that has transpired in recent years, honestly, my faith has been shaken a bit. I do still “believe”, but, what, exactly I believe in is kind of loose, a little vague.

Whether a practicing Catholic, a Protestant, or a pagan, I think there is value to taking a walk in the desert, which is, loosely, what Lent is symbolic of, the forty days that Jesus fasted and wandered in the desert.

In years past, I have given up all sorts of things for Lent. Keeping in mind, that it is supposed to be “a sacrifice”, something that we will struggle with fasting from. One year, I gave up beer, Diet Coke and coffee. That was the longest forty days of my life. I was, at the time, preparing for a ten-day backpacking trip where indulging in beer would definitely be out of the question, as would Diet Coke, and coffee would be difficult. As soon as Lent was over, I enjoyed a beer. Coffee, I continued to fast from, and, truthfully, I felt fantastic. The day after coming off the trail, I headed right for the Coke machine and had an ice cold Diet Coke, downing it in about two gulps. Then belching. It was divine. I have considered giving coffee up again, perhaps permanently, but I usually come to my senses. Coffee is something I enjoy, just one (large) cup, every morning. I lapsed immediately back into a daily Diet Coke habit after the backpacking trip, but knowing I could live without it gave me the strength to finally give it up for good, a few years later. Its really just a chemical cocktail that affords us absolutely no nutritive value and that our bodies have no idea how to process.

Another Lenten fast of note was giving up bread. This I accomplished a couple of years ago. I. Love. Bread. I had just embarked on my life altering journey towards fitness, catalyzed by reading Jillian Michaels’ book Master Your Metabolism: The 3 Diet Secrets to Naturally Balancing Your Hormones for a Hot and Healthy Body! I gave up bread for forty days and learned that I can live without it, and the ten pounds that immediately fell from my body. To this day, I only eat “traditional” bread about once a week, and only if it is extraordinary bread, like at a nice restaurant. I do eat “sprouted grain”, flourless bread, a time or two a week, usually for a piece of toast or half a sandwich. A loaf of “sprouted grain” bread, at $4.50 a loaf, lasts me well over a month.

One year, believe it or not, I gave up audible burping and farting. No. Really. My kids were older teens at the time, and the family had always found humor in such “expressions”. Upon leaving my husband, I decided it was kind of gross to be so brazen with one’s gastric occurrences. I decided if I ever allowed myself to enter into a relationship again, I would refrain from this activity, out of respect. I theorized, that to be so comfortable with someone as to be so violently disgusting was really quite disrespectful. So, I gave up belching and ripping off farts. I, of course, must occasionally pass gas, it is part of the digestive function, after all, but I make every effort to show some respect and keep it quiet. And, if an audible one slips, it is followed by a blush and an “excuse me”. I am usually afforded the same respect in turn.

Last year, quite honestly, I think I just gave up Lent. Have you noticed, that for each year I gave up something for Lent, I benefited for far longer than the forty days? I’ve successfully used Lent as instigation for self-improvement, year after year after year. With the exception of last year, and for this I feel repentant.

So, as we are about sixteen hours into the Lenten season, I am a little behind in selecting what it is I should fast from for the next forty days, what it is I hope will become a lasting fast, something that I will benefit from. Chocolate? No! Beer? No! Wine? No! Butter? No! Sex? No! I had a couple of friends mention caviar and sit ups, but as I have not actually had caviar in quite some time, nor have I done sit ups, favoring plank work instead, I don’t think these are actually good choices, other than being totally “doable”.

I thought about, maybe, nose picking, which I only do when I’m alone. Don’t laugh! You know you do it, too! At least I don’t do it my car! But, I don’t know, I just can’t bring myself to respond to the lively conversation on Facebook with “I’ve decided to give up nose picking!” So, then, what?

I’m certainly not out of bad habits, I’m just having a really hard time identifying any that I am prepared to forsake for any period of time, chocolate, beer, wine, butter and sex, and, really, none of those are BAD habits, especially sex. And wine. And chocolate. And beer. And butter. Perhaps moderation rather than abstinence is what I’m favoring. Except for sex. Perhaps, for Lent, especially after the alcoholic and chocoholic escapades of the last couple of months, I will limit my intake. And chocolate. And butter. I do enjoy these substances immensely, and probably a bit more than I should. Hence that sneaky ten pounds that is bulging out over the top of my jeans as I sit cross legged on the couch writing this.

Okay, then. That’s it. Moderation with wine, beer, butter and chocolate. Let’s be clear.

Wine and beer, my goal has always been to limit alcohol to one beverage per night. I can do that. In fact, I’ve been pretty good about that since about Sunday.

Butter. I probably consume two tablespoons per meal, including what I use for cooking. I will halve this. So, no more than three tablespoons per day.

Chocolate, which I do eat daily. I did manage to move from milk chocolate to dark chocolate a couple of years ago, so that is a positive development. I will limit myself to one square a day, plus the one tablespoon of cocoa powder required for my workout recovery drink (chocolate milk made with coconut and almond milk and raw turbinado sugar).

Anything else? Yes! I do seem to have developed quite an affinity for peanut butter. I spread it on apples, which is both delicious and nutritious. I have taken to just eating it out of the jar with a spoon. Organic, of course. I’ve refrained from it for a few days now, which has been good. I think we’ll put a limit of one serving per day, serving being equal to whatever the jar says. And I will measure. And I promise I won’t shop, deliberately, for a brand of peanut butter where the stated serving size is larger than the others on the shelf. You see, I know me, that is how my mind works.

Done. Lent is in progress. I am walking in the desert, fasting. Time for a slice of coconut cream pie! A walk in the DESSERT!