Got to Give It Up

What’ll it be for Lent?

Photo: Kim Scarborough/Flickr

I haven’t been a devout Catholic since I was a teenager, but every year, I give up something for Lent. Last year, it was soda pop, which was hard, since Coca-Cola has been my major vice for decades. But I did it, and my Coke consumption went down, at least until November. Ten years ago, I gave up clothes shopping for Lent. That was even more difficult, especially since I won $700 in the lottery during that period. I didn’t succumb, but I bought a lot of books and CDs that month.

Recently, a friend of mine posted a suggestion on Facebook that Lent was a good time to declutter. The idea involved filling a trash bag a day with unneeded items. That sounded like a good idea, but unlike her, I don’t have a car or a house. I already have several bags of unwanted items in a kitchen corner, waiting until I have time and transportation to go to Goodwill. Filling a bag a day for over forty days would only give me more.

But I am determined to make a sacrifice. Do I want to be healthier, thriftier or saner? Should I give up fast food or junk food? Playing the lottery? Buying handbags or shoes? Should I give up using Lyft and Zipcar? Refrain from Facebook or television? Or just give up everything that isn’t a necessity for life? Whoa, wait a minute — I’m not going that far for 47 days! If I wanted to give up that much stuff, I would go on some kind of retreat to find the meaning of life.

If I wanted to be healthier, I could give up soda again. But I need my weekend Jack and Coke after a hard week at work or a bad night on CNN. I need to cut down on Coke at lunchtime, though. If I reduce lunchtime soda, that would make it easier to give up fast food. Then I would need to make an effort to fix my lunch every morning. I hate packing a lunch. Would pre-packaged lunches from the grocery store be considered fast food? What about frozen foods? And how can I give up junk food during Girl Scout cookie season? I already have three boxes from my co-worker’s daughter. I really should give up junk food and try to eat more fruit. But I’m not a fruit person. A weekly banana, pineapple juice, and coconut milk smoothie is usually as much fruit as I can handle. Every time I buy fruit, some of it goes bad before I eat it. I still have frozen fruit in the freezer that I bought last year. A month and a half with only fruit for a snack sounds like torture, but fruit is cheaper than pretzels.

Shopping is another vice to consider. The only closet in my apartment has reached maximum occupancy and is in danger of becoming a fire hazard. If I had a shoe tree big enough for all of my footwear, it would be as tall as a redwood. My handbags are stored in plastic bins. The overflow is on multiple hooks on each side of my three inside doors. It looks like a resale shop threw up in my apartment. But since I’m going out of town for a convention during Lent, a complete shopping ban isn’t going to happen. But I do need to do to purge some of my winter clothes, once I have a Goodwill run scheduled. Just how many knit scarves does one neck need?

My bill for cable and Internet service is $172 a month. Since I have less than 64 hours a week of non-sleeping leisure time, I’m spending over $2 an hour for the privilege of watching television and using my computer for a few hours a week. But I was planning to give that up anyway, so it doesn’t work as a Lenten hardship. I only use Lyft and Zipcar a few times a month. Facebook keeps me in touch with faraway friends and relatives, but I need to cut down on the political comments — and not just for Lent.

And the winner is…giving up the lottery. In August, I won $152 on scratchers, after spending $173. Most months, I lose more than $21. February’s expenditure of $68 only netted $2 in winnings. My Lenten Daily 3 win of $700 in a ten-day period in 2007 has never been duplicated. It’s extremely unlikely that I will ever win MegaMillions, Powerball or Super Lotto. I know that it will be hard to give up at least $2 a day of betting and priceless dreams of financial windfalls, but if it weren’t difficult, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice. If I don’t play the lottery for 47 days, I will have a minimum of $94 more in the bank on Easter. But what will I do at 7 PM every night? I’ll figure something out.

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