|The Devil himself must live in these skeins|
Most people know it as a time to give something up between Mardi Gras (which most know, too) and Easter. People use it as a reason to better themselves, to be better people, to be healthier or more frugal.
For anyone who may wonder, Lent is a time largely for identifying with Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness before starting his earthly ministry. There he fasted, prayed and was tempted by Satan himself for all of that time. While we who are catholics fast, pray and give something up, it's kind of become a time of solidarity in a way for everyone to be, well, better.
Does it always work out for us? Some really do feel better at the end, some start out with grand intentions only to fail early to meet their goals and some of us struggle with the whole thing.
I have no trouble, usually, with the fasting rules: Eat two meals a day and one on Friday, the one being vegetarian to remind us of the hungry around the world. Sometimes I might forget as old snacky habits die hard, but overall it's okay.
Where I land into trouble is when I try to give something up. (Incidentally, you can also add a positive behavior such as reading scripture daily, but I am trying to give up verbosity and increase brevity. And reduce the use of obnoxious, specious terms.)
Every year I am riddled with anxiety on Ash Wednesday. What can I give up?
Coffee? Hell, no. (I am also working on giving up cursing) It's not that I am physically addicted. I don't get a headache if I don't have it, or shake uncontrollably. I suppose that I have some loss of concentration, but that happens all the time. Where was I?
No, my addiction is one of emotions. And one of time and space. That's right. Let me explain.
During each of my five pregancies, I had to give up coffee, at least for a time. The thought, smell, sight and flavor of it grossed me out to the max. I couldn't even walk with friends on coffee breaks at work to the local Starbucks because the experience would leave me sick for an hour or more. At home, very little coffee was made for the same reasons.
And I was miserable. Why?
My habit forms grid of my life. My schedule for my biorhythms absolutely depended on this hot drink of the gods. If I didn't have coffee, it was like being stuck in a Las Vegas casino indefinitely. No clocks, no windows, no news casts blaring the date and time...I was in a vortex. I was late to things, I didn't know when to wake up, I felt blurry and fuzzy all the time. And then there was the cozy factor.
I need the cozy factor for security and comfort. If I don't have it, I am worse off than Linus without his blanket. Take away the blanket from the already anxious child and you have a catastrophic meltdown.
I tried every placebo I could think of. Hot drinks--cocoa, tea, lemon water, fancier teas, cheap hot chocolate from Nestles would not do. I tried other caffeinated beverages like Diet Dr. Pepper but the caffeine, not being the real problem, did not help.
If I ever gave up coffee for Lent, I would not be holier. I would just be a distracted and unreliable wreck. I wouldn't even know when Easter had come and gone. If I ever give up coffee for Lent, I have become a saint or I am dead.
Now let's talk about knitting. The activity, the yarn, the addiction. The scent of newly hand-dyed yarns, wound into glorious, glorious hanks of ecstasy. The feel of extra fine merino sliding through one's fingers as a magical object comes out of it before your very eyes. The zen-like peace that comes only from the meditation that is the art of knitting. Give it up? Same outcome for me. Distracted, crazy, living in my own filth in a corner. No.
I can rationalize these potential Lenten sacrifices away with ease every year.
Then the other day, I was on Ravelry (also not giving it up) and I saw a post on a forum off-hand. It was in the middle of a conversation of which I was not a part. Someone just said, speaking of some new yarns, "Oh, those are so beautiful! But I can't have them because I gave up buying yarn for Lent."
Can't have them? Possess them? Can't squish them into your cozy little (large) stash of maybe never-to-be-knitted-yarns? The ones you just get out to gaze at in wonder? In my world, this statement must have been deceptive or absolutely saintly. Who could live without new yarn smell? It's another part of my cozy factor and, as I read this woman's statement, I thought, my word! I should be having an epiphany! This is like God talking to me right out of the computer! Me, who just bought four skeins of Madelintosh Prairie and Light Merino and posted a photo of myself smelling it on the internet!
I paused, considered sending this Raverly gal a message offering her my grandest regards for all time. Or were deepest condolences called for? I stared for a bit longer. I was defeated.
No, it was beyond me. And that's going to have to be okay. I'll just keep eating my vegetables on Fridays.
There's always next year.