In third grade at Ladue Elementary, Bryan Kratky gave up chocolate for Lent and stuck to it.
I used to wonder why I have never forgotten this funky, niggling factoid. Why remember Bryan, first AND last name, when the rest of my class – other than our teacher, Miss Storer, who could whistle Happy Birthday – were a mystery by middle school?
Of course, now, I have an answer. Now that I have learned that there is no such thing as coincidence, that EVERYTHING happens for a reason, I know exactly why Bryan came into my life:
To give my old-lady ass one good, swift kick.
“I did it at 8, you big crybaby,” I can hear Bryan harrumph. “What’s YOUR problem?”
My problem, Bryan, is WHAT I gave up. Chocolate, bread, candy, pizza – give them up? Give me a break! They’re fodder for Lenten lightweights.
I, on the other hand, have given up something truly Herculean in scope.
For forty long days (and nights and even Sundays – my high school pal, Mary Theresa Barker, swore Sundays were days off for good behavior), I will attempt a feat painful as hell, from first step to last, and, at least at first hearing, impossible to accomplish. The Lenten equivalent of fire walking, if you will.
I have given up…
To be clear about it, this does not mean shopping for boring stuff like toothpaste, ground beef or dental floss, but shopping-shopping. Shopping-shopping, for me, is way more than a fun pastime or boredom zapper. And God forbid were I to try and brush it off as therapeutic. The heavens would weep with laughter. Shopping-shopping is my Eddie Haskell, my evil sister, my bane, my cocktail of crack with a splash of heroin over icy cubes of self-recrimination.
Listed below are my addictions of choice in order of enticement potential – one being wrenching, grueling TORMENT to withstand (okay, I’m slightly overstating things, but you get my drift) and twelve, pretty much passable unless the item in question is, God help me, ON SALE:
2. Shoes –sandals, boots and flip-flops included
3. Pretty sparkling jewelry, particularly earrings and rings
4. Sweaters and blouses
5. Coats and jackets
6. Lacy lingerie
7. Makeup and “potions,” a dear friend’s term for moisturizers, serums and the like
8. Books – Kindle or real
9. Dresses, skirts and pants
10.Hosiery, scarves, pashminas and sundry “accessories”
11.House wares and gadgets
13.Harps and harpsichords – a yearning for years
14.A killer car
Like I said. ROUGH! Indeed, the only thing that comes close to being as difficult to give up as shopping, in my book, is what my friend Hermine’s daughter, Nicole, calls “alcohol” – pretty cocktails, red wine, shots, and, I think, though I could be wrong, premiere vodkas. But Nicole is an Air Force Captain; she has been to Afghanistan – twice. Once you’ve stared down a terrorist, even a glistening Cosmopolitan must seem like Elmer Fudd.
This is SO not the case for me, however.
For starters, I am genetically programmed to SHOP.
1. My grandmother Jenny, my mama’s mama, made a living in the clothing biz
2. Aunt Jennie, my daddy’s sister, had her own women’s clothing store, Jennie’s, on Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile
3. Uncle Phil, my daddy’s brother, ran the children’s clothing shop started by my daddy’s daddy after he emigrated from Lebanon
4. My mother, the undisputed Queen of QVC, was the owner of a restaurant in a mall AND, at one point, a gift shop
So why am I giving up shopping? Why not take it easy and give up carbohydrates, which I love, or cookies, which top the list?
For starters, it would be like cutting across the field at the athletic track when no one was looking and announcing that I had run the full three miles. I am diabetic, you see. When it comes to sugary or salty white floury stuff, it is Lent for me every day for the rest of my life. Sure, I have been known to splurge with abandon and count the consequences – an hour on the treadmill or at the pool, pounding, pummeling and panting the gusto out of those nasty little blood sugars – well worth it. But, when you’re confronting the prospect of NEEDLES if you screw up, blowing off that second handful of M n Ms is…pardon the bad pun…a piece of cake.
That said, even if I weren’t diabetic, giving up carbs would seem…Well, wrong. In my heart of hearts, I would know that I was giving them up for a reason about as pure and driven as bird shit: it would be a great way to lose weight.
Somehow I don’t think that this is quite what God – or the Catholic church, anyway – intended when Lent was invented. Lent as a diet tip.
What did the Church intend? I quote from BustedHalo.com: “Giving up something for Lent is ultimately a form of fasting. We can deprive ourselves of some small pleasure or indulgence and offer that sacrifice up to God…An experience of want, however temporary, can help us to appreciate the true abundance in our lives. And a small positive change can have a big impact that lasts beyond the 40 days of Lent.”
We shall see.
And so shall you. I have decided to post updates on my ‘fast’ – perhaps weekly, perhaps more often, should events or the spirit move me.
For example, here is what happened yesterday. I was at the Starbucks counter at Barnes and Noble, buying my morning latte before my mani. Now, of course, I knew better than to allow myself so much as a GLIMPSE at the aisles and displays as I burrowed my way through them to the coffee bar.
I was doing okay.
It was when I was paying up that I noticed the display of cute little stuffed Peter Rabbits by the register.
“Oh, how sweet!” I cried.
The barista smiled. “I know. They’re adorable. They’re on sale, too – half price, with any purchase. Even coffee.”
Without thinking, I pushed the Peter Rabbit toward the barista. “Sold!”
“Would you like a bag?” the barista asked.
And that’s when it hit me. I had actually forgotten. It was LENT.
I suppose I could have returned Peter, but the barista had already rung him up and there was a line.
Instead, I gave the bunny to my mother’s nurse. And it wasn’t easy. I loved that little guy.
Here’s my question to self and God and you: Is it cheating if I shop for OTHERS? Hmmmmm….
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