Lent, or the art of giving up
The key to Lent is choosing something interesting to give up. This isn't like New Year's resolutions, where you're explictly trying to better yourself-- as I understand it there isn't really a morality angle to what you choose to give up for Lent. I mean you could give up something that's bad for you, something good for you, or something neutral. The only thing that matters is it should be something that's difficult for you to go without. It should be a challenge.
Past Lenten give-ups for me include:
- Dressing Like A Slob
- The Snooze Button
- Movies Made After 1965
- Processed Sugar
- Playing Dr Mario
- Reading More Than 2 Books At Once
None of these are things that I decided to give up forever, I mean obviously I'm still dressing like a slob, engaging in hyperbole, and reading more than 2 books at once. Sometimes I use Lent to reset my tolerance levels for things. Sometimes I use it to check if I really need the crutch that I've been leaning on (and sometimes I do need it, a little bit, or I need it but not as a crutch). Sometimes I use Lent to just warp myself into a different world to see what it's like. Sometimes that world sucks and I'm like "wow, I actually love dressing like a slob".
Other inspired choices from previous years:
- Matt Coe - wearing a jacket
- Maren - saying "whatever"
- Grace - "I gave up dessert one year but that just meant I ate sweets before all of my meals instead of after them"
I got into Lent via my old roommates Mike Leslie and Matt Coe, so I reached out to Mike and asked for some insight into his favorite Lents. Mike's always been abstemious-- he was the first drug free adult I knew (even though I met him when he was like 17) and has a generally rugged classic New England character. So with "opposite day" logic, his Lent style over the years drifted into "not not doing something". I mean that makes sense if abstaining from certain things becomes a crutch that you lean on too much. Honestly I'd have a hard time accepting this method from anyone else-- Lent is for giving up, not taking on. But for his unique case I think it works. Anyway here's his notes:
Most memorable Lent give up:OK I honestly feel like giving up "not drawing every day" shouldn't count, that's not really "a thing" that you give up-- maybe this is splitting hairs but I would rephrase this as giving up "drawing only when I feel like it", with the practical effects being the same (drawing every day). I'm not a Bible lawyer but I think defining things in terms of a crutch cast aside is helpful to the process. I would even accept the idea of giving up on "dust on the sketchbook".
Probably giving up "not drinking." I bought a bottle of whiskey and sipped it every night before bed, at this point in my life I didn't drink. There was something about the ritual of before going to bed that I liked, that fact that it burned, and it was a spirit. It was ridiculous and the opposite of most Lenten practices so it was fun to talk about too. It culminated in drinking a six pack on Easter while Xander (vegan) ate Mozzarella sticks. It was my first time truly drunk and was a fun ritual to go through.
Giving up "not drawing everyday". It's always hard for me to do this, but I think it's good? Probably why I want to revisit it this year. Sometimes it's like anything, if I just start I feel better, but convincing myself of that isn't very easy.
I'd say giving up all beverages except for water. This actually changed how I consume beverages and made me appreciate just water. I drink a lot less soda and shit now because of this.
I guess I never really thought about it growing up Catholic, we just gave up "meat" on Fridays, so we had fish and chips during Lent. Matt Coe brought it to my attention in my twenties and it became our competitive answer to late winter boredom. I like being ridiculous and creative with it, and having grown up around the religion, it seems to be the only admirable holiday. Giving something up and taking breaks is important and makes you appreciate or question your habits.
If you're thinking about participating in Lent this year, here are some ideas. You don't have to be Catholic (I'm not Catholic) but if you do it you have to commit to doing it until Easter (which is April 4 this year).
- refined sugar
- swear words
- internet on your phone
- shitty weed (good weed OK)
- good beer (shitty beer OK)
- looking at social media metrics (favs)
- buying lunch
- saying "actually"
- matching socks
- snacks other than fruit and nuts
- suggested links
- credit cards
- tipping lower than 40%
- rushing anywhere
Also if you want to play along but don't want to induce any more stress in this stress-rich pocket of time, it's OK to pick something that you might enjoy but that doesn't really call to you, or something you're not in contact with often. I'm thinking shark meat, twizzlers, poppers, remote control cars, duck fat, mint chocolate chip ice cream, Australian lifeguard television program, cognac.... Whatever you choose, there will absolutely come a time between now and Easter when you're like "damn, I actually kinda want [shark meat / twizzlers / poppers / remote control cars / duck fat / mint chocolate chip ice cream / Australian lifeguard television program / cognac] right now", and then you'll get the chance to be iron willed. And on Easter you can go nuts.
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