When I was a full-time, practicing Catholic I my favorite time of year was Lent.
I’ll admit, it is odd for someone to say that they love Lent. But as a child I liked the challenge of not doing something I enjoyed. As I got older I enjoyed having that time to reflect on what truly mattered. I also lived for Palm Sunday mass because it was really like a play and I’ve always had a bit of a flair for the dramatic.
When I was younger I would very carefully pick what I was going to give up for Lent, what my yearly challenge would be. I’ve given up foods, video games, makeup (that was the hardest, but also the most fulfilling), social media and wine. I always arrived at Easter Sunday proud of my strength, feeling more spiritually fulfilled and like I didn’t need those things. Some things, I never really went back to.
Still to this day, I do enjoy the Lenten season. There’s a certain peacefulness when you’re trying not to do something and have to find more fulfilling way to occupy that space in your mind.
When I was in my conversion process I struggled with giving up this time of reflection even if I was replacing it with something else. There are plenty of opportunities for spiritual reflection in the Jewish calendar! Just look at having a mindful Shabbat. But it just didn’t feel the same as what I had grown up with. As much as I love Jewish traditions and as much as they’ve begun to feel like my own, I still want to hold onto some of my own faith-based traditions even if that’s not what half my home practices.
I’ve found that despite my questions of faith, my quest for a spiritual fulfilment at this time of year remains strong. In recent years, I’ve mixed my love for the season in and the Jewish teaching of Repairing the World or Tikkun Olam.
These days, I’ve stopped giving things up outright. I haven’t found that as fulfilling in recent years. To me, while I understand why it’s done, it doesn’t do much for me. And it feels more like a bragging point than an internal struggle when I hear people talk about it now. Instead I’ve found it more fulfilling to go out and do something to push myself out of my comfort zone, or changes up my routine but that also helps other people.
For me, that’s more spiritually fulfilling than giving up desserts again (which always leads to the age-old question: is a doughnut a dessert or a breakfast food?) This year, I’ve opted to keep my phone on the other side of the room most week nights, but every Friday and Saturday night. That way, when I wake up, instead of playing on my phone waiting for J to wake up I just relax and we spend some time talking in the morning before moving into the hecticness of everyday.
We did just clean out all our clothes. We’ve donated them to a school that will not only donate the clothes, but will earn money for the school based on the weight of clothes that they donate. A lot of them have tags and could be well loved outside of my closet.
This year my big project is volunteering with Girls on The Run, a non-profit that through running and small groups teaches girls that they can. As someone who spent a lot of her childhood (and a decent chunk of adulthood) outwardly confident but inside lacking any confidence, this cause hits home for me.
So while I’m pushing against the Lenten tradition of totally giving a thing up, by spending these 40 days finding different ways to make the world a little bit brighter I feel I’m making an interfaith celebration of Lent.