Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Borrowed and Lent

I mentioned on Twitter that I was thinking of giving up something for Lent, this year.

"But you're not Catholic. You're not even religious." I got that from several different people.

And as far as it goes, that's true. But let's face it: I'm pretty sure most of the people celebrating Mardi Gras yesterday weren't Catholic, either. And just because I'm not religious doesn't mean I'm not spiritual. My borrowing Lent would hardly be the first time that a religion's observances and rituals have been co-opted for some other purpose.

That purpose, for me, is to try to examine some of my habits and figure out which ones are not merely unnecessary, but actively harmful. To remind myself that I can do without some things that I tend to treat as vital -- and might even be better off without them.

I considered a lot of options. Several of them were in support of my diet: junk food, or soda, or snacks after dinner, or red meat. Some of them were in support of my workday productivity: Twitter or Gmail chat or webcomics or blogs. And some of them were in support of my personal productivity: Facebook games or television or books that I've already read (as opposed to ones I'm reading for the first time).

That's a lot of options to consider. So how do I pick? How do I even narrow it down?

Well. The point is to stretch myself, to prove something to myself. Most of the things on that list are things that I already know I can do without. Intellectually, of course, I know I can do without any of them. I'm talking about that inner knowing -- if I consider cutting something out, how much does it bother me?

My strongest reaction -- by a lot -- was to the notion of dropping my Facebook games. Which kind of surprised me. I mean... stupid Facebook Flash games? But when I first thought about giving up Facebook entirely for Lent, my initial reaction was not, "But I'll miss all those status notes and links and pictures!" It was, without hyperbole, a moment of actual panic for the lost opportunities to earn pretend money with which to buy pretend stuff.

And if I'm experiencing panic over that -- however fleeting -- then maybe it's time to draw the line and remind myself that they are stupid games and that the world will not end if I fail to collect my daily "pay" or happen to miss a month's special items or even let my pretend baby animals starve. So I may still be checking Facebook from time to time and using it as a communication tool, but between now and Easter, I'm not playing any Facebook games. Not the ones I'm already embedded in, and not starting any new ones.

(I'm also giving up evening snacks. Doesn't matter how many points I have left in a day, if I haven't used them by 7pm, they're gone. But that's less of a spiritual examination and more of a horrified reaction to what I saw on the scale this morning, and it's only strictly in force until I've lost the weight I gained this week, whether that takes the whole length of Lent or not.)

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