It’s that time of year, when we’re supposed to give up something for Lent. Not being Catholic, there’s a lot I don’t know about this sacred spiritual exercise. Although it sounds a lot like the wooly stuff that accumulates in dryers and belly buttons, I’ve been assured there is absolutely no connection with “lint.” Never-the-less, whether you are religious or not, “Lent,” can be an opportunity to remove the fluffy, extra stuff that accumulates and distracts you from God, nature, family, or your even own life. If you’re wondering what to give up, I’ve included a few suggestions to get you started:
1. TV – This is the one I’m choosing this year and, since I’m too weak to go cold turkey, I’m limiting my exposure to one hour a day. Frankly, I’m worried. How will I entertain myself with sitcoms and crime dramas and keep up with the Republican Primary?
2. Bad Food – Lent is associated with actually fasting, such as giving up a meal a day. Since most us don’t have the stomach for that, consider cutting out all meat or dessert, or deep fried food.
3. Alcohol – I know, drinking is a social thing. However, not having alcoholic beverages doesn’t mean you can’t go out with your friends. You’ll just be forced to experience the world without a mind-numbing drug, which might be painfully illuminating.
4. Coffee – If caffeine is your drug of choice, cut it out….or switch to tea. “Waking up” doesn’t have to mean getting jittery.
5. Surfing the web – How many hours are spent searching the web for whatever pops into your head? What’s the lead singer for Nine Inch Nails up to these days? Answer: not looking “you” up on the internet. Consider capping the time you google or fritter away on Twitter.
6. Texting – Are you “that person” who has to be in constant touch? Do people really care you’re at the dentist office or in line at the grocery? Cutting the tiny cryptic messages out and you might have a conversation with the person right in front of you.
7. Video games – This one goes out to the youngsters who spend their afternoons killing their friends on Call of Duty or the latest greatest game of death and destruction.
8. Money – Put a limit on your expenses and see what’s it’s like to live on minimum wage for a while. If you don’t already have compassion for the working poor, that ought to do it.
9. Gossiping – If you are the neighborhood informant, try making a conscious effort to stop before you start. I know it’s enticing to pick apart the poor guy who has fallen on hard times. Just know that, someday, you will be that guy that people are buzzing about.
10. Vanity – Is there something you do for your personal appearance that takes up an inordinate amount of time? If you spend more than 15 minutes on your hair or applying make-up or picking your outfit, you just might be primping.
Remember, the idea is to choose something that isn’t easy; something that requires a little sacrifice on your part. It only last 40 days (until Easter) and, according to tradition, you get Sundays off, so you can text, eat, drink, or in my case, go back to my regularly scheduled programming. Who knows? After 40 days, you may realize your life is better without whatever it was you gave up. Even if you pick your habit back up, you’ll know yourself a little better, and that’s worth a lot.
Feel free to add your own ideas to give up over Lent.
This article was originally published in Provoketive Magazine as “The Lent List.”