A week after Lent began and although she’s not Catholic and never was, that whole Catholic Lenten thing seems to have filtered down through the air and water so that it’s a part of her. The idea of it anyway, the idea of giving up something for six weeks.
Each year she carefully considers giving up something, something that means something to her, but has she? Ever? Honestly, she can’t quite remember.
Way back when that photo was taken – she’s on the left there, in the baggy bathing cap – she was more committed to the idea. Six weeks isn’t a long time and it seems entirely possible to give up virtually anything or 42 days, doesn’t it? And yet did she?
Consider for a moment the little girl in the upper right, one of her sisters, the one in that cute plaid bathing suit. That little girl did indeed follow through one year on a major vow: Give up all desserts. For six straight weeks not a bite of dessert touched her lips. And yet on Easter day the stone was rolled away from the freezer, and from the freezer did issue forth 42 days’ worth of desserts, carefully tinfoiled away and frozen until the day of dessert resurrection.
Can that possibly count as a Lenten sacrifice? She thinks not.
It is already one week into Lent and once again she is mildly tormented by the thought of sacrifice and what, if anything, she should give up. Because there is so very much to give up.
Refined sugar, that’s always a big one among her friends. She herself doesn’t crave it enough to make it seem like a big enough sacrifice, though. Her one small cup of strong coffee with heavy cream in the morning, that would be a true sacrifice. But she doesn’t want to give it up. Therein lies the problem. She may be too wedded to her vices to give them up.
Is one small cup of strong coffee with heavy cream in the morning a vice, though? A vice implies harm, and is the coffee truly harming her? She thinks not.
She could give up painting her toenails, but that wouldn’t work because she almost never paints them anyway. She could give up Milky Ways, but they’ve gotten too sweet lately, so that wouldn’t work.
She could give up her Wednesday Powerball purchase, but then she would also have to give up the many dreams that accompany the weekly purchase, and that would be a sort of death-in-life, would it not, which seems antithetical to the nature of the sacrifice. Besides, she won $3 in last Wednesday’s Powerball, which must mean that she is inching ever closer to the pot o’ gold.
She could give up her dream of being an Olympic speed skater, but that wouldn’t work either, for too many reasons to go into here on this humble blog.
Maybe a sacrifice can mean not the taking away of something for 42 days, but the adding in thereof. She could do yoga for one hour every day for the next six weeks. She could practice meditation – focus on the breath, return to the breath – for one hour every day for the next six weeks.
She could give up cussing – not one single swear word will issue from her lips for the next six weeks – but she knows damn well (see?) she wouldn’t be able to follow through, and how self-defeating to attempt something you know you will never succeed at.
She returns to the photo at the top and gazes upon the little girl with the baggy swim cap drooping off her head. Tell you what, little girl: Let’s give up swim caps! Let’s give them up not only for the next six weeks, but for all eternity. Now that is a sacrifice not only worth making, but possible.
We applaud you. Go forth and be bareheaded, my child.