My fallback for Lent was always to give up sweets.
Not all the “sweets,” of course; that would be much too daunting. Usually just one subgenre of sweets, one sweet I could easily replace with another sweet — maybe an ice cream, a cookie, the ambitious yet cliched chocolate — for 40 days and nights before the Great Sweets Binge that is Easter.
But now, as an adult, dropping a sweet for Lent seems like less of a worthwhile endeavor. I was raised Catholic but have since moved away from the more organized realms of spirituality; still, the custom of giving up of something cherished for Lent has been one I’ve kept up with.
I’ve seen people take the symbol of sacrifice as a personal test of faith, forsaking social media or their favorite condiment (folks can get oddly attached to these) in the name of Lent. Others use it as a second chance on a New Year’s resolution or an excuse to diet when they’re too bashful to say so. No matter what is given up, the exercise results in an effort to become a better person, at least once said person has moved past the point where “vegetables” and “homework” are desired targets.
Which brings me back to sweets. I couldn’t imagine that going a month and a half without a cookie is going to do anything to further galvanize my character, and if there’s some sort of doughnut threshold to get into heaven, I surely eclipsed that a long time ago. This year, sweets were off the table.
I looked into past years’ sacrifices for inspiration. As a freshman in high school, I gave up pants for an entire year (mild winter, lots of cargo shorts and exposed, cherubic shins), but that was more about attention than anything else. There also were a number of years when I forgot about Lent until after Ash Wednesday, thus forcing me to check back through my day to ensure I didn’t give up anything I’d already done — including, of course, procrastination.
The past being no help, I started to get desperate for ideas. There are places I spend too much time — the Internet, my car, the couch — but I couldn’t conceivably give them up without having to quit driving to work or sitting down.
Then I got a Words With Friends notification on my phone. I spent the next half hour deciding that “weight” was the correct play. I scored 39 points.
During that half hour, I paid no attention to the outside world. Nor, I realized, did I pay attention the time I stayed up until 2 a.m. because I was justhisclose to a high score in Fruit Ninja. And think of those poor souls who have to listen to a chorus of “Mhmm … mhmm … *damn pigs* … mhmm” if Angry Birds demands my attention during a call/conversation/what am I turning into?
Would sacrificing smartphone games be difficult for me to do? Yes — my WWF partners likely won’t understand. Would it force me to be a better communicator? Sure. And spend my time on something more useful? What, you mean, like, books? Yes! Books are great.
And so, I knew what to give up for Lent. Sweet.