Last Tuesday we had a proper Mardi Gras in my house. My wife made a king cake and we danced around to Professor Longhair and Dr John. My kids donned beads and joined in on the fun. It was just the kind of break that we needed from a crushing daily routine that involves my wife and I having to leave our homes for our jobs while our children's school has yet to re-open. We've spent a year having to work several more hours a week at our reinvented jobs while acting as de facto teacher's aides for our kids. All the usual outlets on the weekend have been closed off to us this whole time.
That's why I even surprised myself by leaning into Lent this year. Loyal readers know I have a complicated relationship to the Roman Catholic faith of my upbringing. Regardless of how I feel about doctrines and institutions, however, a part of my soul still REQUIRES me to take Lent seriously. This year I decided to give up alcohol (my idea) and yelling at my kids (their idea.) I tried helplessly to explain to them that giving up the former will make giving up the latter much harder.
It feels strange to lean into Lent because we have been living in Lent since last March. So much has been given up and sacrificed. The clarity that comes with Lenten sacrifice has been bestowed on me in abundance this past year. I have received many a lesson in what matters and what does not matter in this life. I have spent months preparing for a new Easter where I can slough off the hairshirt and live the more fulfilled, purposeful life I know I am ready to have once the burdens of COVID have ceased. That end is in sight. This Saturday I am getting my second shot of vaccine. The transmission rates are trending down. Spring is coming.
So why all the Lenten sacrifice? Because all of what I have learned about what matters has ultimately taught me that the more distractions I eliminate, the better off I will be. I can't control the pandemic, the political situation, my children's school's policies, my employer's demands, or much else. Alcohol is an easy way to put a wall between myself and reality. It has been a very helpful wall in my adult life, especially in the last four years. Now it's time to stop building walls, to face the world straight, and yes, sober.
I am preparing my soul for the life beyond pandemic, and pushing myself to fulfill the promises I have made to myself. As the past year has painfully illustrated, there's only so much life to go around.