It’s Ash Wednesday. Taking the kidlets to church in the evening. Because I know you were wondering.
(Heh. Heh. Heh. We’ll see, I guess!)
As I said in a previous post, I’m not really into telling people what to do for Lent or really reporting what I do for Lent. It’s just not how I roll. If you really want suggestions, go to The Catholic Gentleman— he breaks it down old school.
I’ll never forget trying to explain Lent to a friend who wasn’t religious (Christian, though– I’ll withhold the denomination, because I have no idea if she’s representative of the denomination). I mentioned that we fast and abstain, and a perplexed look washed over her face. She asked, “but what if you’re married??”
(See, in our public school district, we had what I now refer to as an “abstinence first” sex ed curriculum. We were told about artificial birth control methods, but refraining from sex was always discussed as the first and safest option. That’s why I get so irked when people slam sex ed in public schools: it’s not a “how-to” class everywhere you go. Yeesh!)
Anyways, what really draws me in– and I guess that’s the English teacher still in me– is the word ‘abstain.’ Clearly its meaning is dependent on your frame to reference: my friend and I… (you know what? It’s a holy day– I’ll skip the ‘meat’ joke and let you form it yourself). As I was saying, the basic definition is:
verb (used without object)
1. to hold oneself back voluntarily, especially from something regarded as improper or unhealthy (usually followed by from): to abstain from eating meat.
2. to refrain from casting one’s vote: a referendum in which two delegates abstained.
1350- 1400; Middle English abste ( i ) nen < Middle French abstenir ≪ Latin abstinēre, equivalent to abs-abs-
+ -tinēre, combining form of tenēre to hold, keep
o·ver·ab·stain, verb (used without object)
(New York abstains… courteously. Like definition #2. See how that works? Again, a .gif would be awesome.)
It means little to me to abstain from eating meat these days- I end up going with meatless meals up to 3 times a week. So I’m looking for other things to abstain from:
1. Noise: a recent turn of slang has been to shove off unpleasantness with “f*** that noise.” I, for one, LOVE it, and am not afraid to use the phrase unasterisked. But we really do fill our lives with noise, and it becomes apparent when Lent rolls around and we’re forced to examine our attachments. I always say that I turn on the TV for the noise, and usually end up getting sucked in for hours with shows I’ve already seen and items tenuously relevant to my interests, while the Hubs is totally ok with nothing going on in the background. The kidlets are taking after me that way, and this is a good way to do a course correction. I will not, however, be doing the giving up of the TV, because that’s a tad extreme. I will watch the shows the Hubs and I enjoy, but we invested in the DVR and will use it judiciously.
2. Satiety: Any nutritionist will tell you that you shouldn’t starve yourself, and yet some people will suppose they are on a religious ‘high road’ by skipping food often during a fasting period. I mentioned in another post that there should be a balance of fasting and feasting– Jews at Yom Kippur and Muslims during Ramadan have got this quite figured out. Feeling a pang of hunger isn’t the end of the world, but maybe we can lay off the 2nd and 3rd helping, the 4th and 5th ‘extra something’ between meals. Stop stuffing.
3. Distraction: This one is huge. What are we avoiding with the visual and aural noise? What better stuff can take the place of the not-better stuff that we use to fill our days? I’ve been complaining about how I feel as though I never have time to keep the house clean or keep up with my kids: what can I do to change that? (Trust me– the irony is not lost on me here… but I decided I can get this out and be done with it. Besides, in the grand scheme of things, this blog doesn’t take an overwhelming amount of time. It’s the more instantaneous social media that really messes with me.)
Here’s to filling up our days with the most useful actions, and abstaining (courteously) from what is not useful.