The first year that I joined the millions of Catholics around the world in the traditional practice of "giving something up for Lent" (the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, although Lent comes to an end after the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday) was in the fifth grade.
I had celebrated my First Communion the year before, later than most, but I was newly determined in my faith and went about celebrating and participating in the traditional ceremonies and practices with vigor and conviction!
There was no question what I'd be giving up, my greatest passion at twelve years old: CHOCOLATE!
My resolve was steadfast!
Our Lord had sacrificed his only son for me, I could give up CHOCOLATE for 40 days!...
That first day was torture!
I pushed away the dessert chocolate brownie at lunch in the cafeteria with the heartbreak of watching a puppy die!
Every Sunday my parents would pitifully offer me m&m's or other chocolate goodies attempting to assure me that,
"Sunday's don't count!"
Even then that idea was ludicrous to me!
Sunday's don't count???
As a good student of faith, even as a child, I knew the absurdity of the concept of "Sunday's OFF" during Lent.
Lent isn't about "giving something up" for the sake of "giving something up" that culminates in the "pigging out" and indulgence of that "something" on Easter Sunday...
There HAD to be MORE TO IT than that!
I found a wonderful resource while preparing for this article in Friar Jack from Friar Jack's E-spirations on AmericanCatholic.org.
"Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over... The goal is not to obstain from sin for the duration of Lent, but to root sin out of our lives forever..."
My favorite quote from Friar Jack on fasting from meat on Fridays during Lent as a way to create a simple meal to link us spiritually to those whose diets are poor:
"Avoiding meat while eating lobster misses the whole point!"
Surrendering the luxury of chocolate at age twelve and later in high school renouncing meat for almost five years in the spirit of humility and sacrifice were fitting and honorable for that time in my life.
This year however, I couldn't think of anything that would truly be a testament of my will and a sacrifice honorable enough to match that first day in the lunch room when I pushed away that brownie and the pang in my gut all those years I passed on burgers and hot dogs; but more importantly, something that would make me a better person for doing it.
And then one night when I awoke in the middle of the night wondering if I had a message waiting for me on mySpace and what everyone was doing on facebook, I KNEW what I had to do!
I'd give up mySpace and facebook for Lent!
A dear friend of mine recently exclaimed,
"The internet is the devil!"
Neither of us really believes that as the internet is truly a genius work of art and science where anything and everything is possible, bridging oceans and cultures and ideas!
What IS true however is that
"Idle hands are the devil's workshop!"
How many HOURS are lost each day randomly surfing the internet? How many more are lost finding out what your friends and family are "doing right now!"
Do I really need to know what everyone I know is doing 24 hours a day? What they are listening to, eating, reading, thinking?
I hadn't truly realized my addiction to the personal social networking sites until that day at 2am when I tossed over in bed reaching for my laptop aching to find out what my online world was doing!
Some of you might quickly counter claim, but what about twitter and the forums and all the other internet sites you work on each day!?
The key word there is WORK! Trust me, I've never tossed and turned at night wondering what the front page of Etsy looks like or how many followers found me on twitter!
And as Ash Wednesday neared I wondered whether I would truly be able to stay logged off of those sites.
I began to realize that my addiction was not only taking away precious moments in each day, but that the practice in those sites contributed to my own laziness = sloth, envy in the accomplishments and lives of others, greed as I put my time online above the needs of the people I love and my responsibilities... If I'm really honest with myself, I can admit that in some way I allowed myself to indulge in each of the 7 Deadly Sins in those actions.
So I committed to not only "give up something" for the 40 days of Lent, but to become a better person in my sacrifice here after...
I've ignored friend requests from my friends, cousins, and even my step-mother!
Smile when I hear "aren't you suppose to give up candy or something?"
I fall asleep in the arms of the man I love instead of with my laptop.
Enjoyed my first vacation in years without even turning on my computer to check a single email!
Spend my day doing the most productive thing for my business every minute of the day and when work is over, bask in the time with my family and getting reacquainted with myself!
Celebrate in the fruits of my labor as my work gets recognized within and outside the internet community!
And I look forward to creating that healthy balance that is needed in everything in life - 'cause the point is my friends is to be the
BEST VERSION of YOURSELF EVERYDAY!