I'm not Catholic, so I don't really feel pressure to give up anything for Lent. In fact, I don't attend church regularly at all anymore. I am sorry to say I often spend Sunday mornings going for a long run and cleaning my house, because my work week/kid schedule is so packed, though I know for many that's no excuse. But for at least the past five years I've chosen something to give up, and my reason is not noble: it makes me feel like I'm tougher and more disciplined than others.
I have an acquaintance who climbs mountains as a hobby. Once I asked him why he does it, and his first answer was, "because not very many other people do." That's the feeling that got me started running in a small, freezing town, and when people used to drive past me, shaking their heads as I skipped over snow drifts. I'd pick up my pace and think, yeah, you laugh, but it's not like you have the chops to do it. When I made it through a 10K a few weeks back, I remembered that sweet, smug feeling of superiority. Not an attractive sentiment, but because of regular exercise my self-righteous ass might not take as many sick days as others do, so maybe it's to the greater good.
Anyway, back to Lent. For my forty days in the metaphorical desert this year, I've decided on two things. The last time I decided on two things, they were coffee and wine. The wine part wasn't too bad then (not on your life this year, given that I'm moving house in two weeks and can't go postal on my realtor, lender, movers, or my numerous friends who own pickups) but my children begged me to go back to my two morning cups of java after a number of mornings getting off to school which were, to cut myself some slack, a little shrill. Also not pretty.
So now I try to pick a thing I can live without, but without which I won't make others totally miserable. Last year it was red meat, and I really missed those burgers at the First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas. But I was proud of myself for making it through, save for a meal my mom made me and had planned a week in advance. In fact, in a moment of weakness, I walked into the deli at the church and then, cowed (pun intended) by the overall Christian pleasantness of the staff, ordered a grilled chicken sandwich.
This year, in the name of home ownership and overall austerity, I've given up buying clothes and lunches out. Clothes, I've learned as I prepare to move, are a commodity in which I am well invested. Lunches out are hard to do in a healthy way, as those Baptist burgers attest, though I must make a little extra each evening at dinner and not decide my lunch is boring when 11:30 rolls around. Still, no Chipotle Saturdays or quick fixes with a cute something for $29.99 at Target, at least for a month and a bit. If I make it through without a lapse, it may be very hard to live with how totally pleased I am with myself.