As some of you already know, I was raised Catholic. These days, I am a practicing Unitarian, but as Unitarian Universalism welcomes all spiritual practices and beliefs, there’s no reason I can’t retain some Catholic habits or seasons.
And so, tomorrow begins Lent. For me, Lent is not so much about fasting in preparation for anything so much as it is about setting aside to make some part of myself new. This year? 40 days of no complaining about anything, and instead me taking a photograph each day of something that makes me happy. I’ll post the photos here!*
* = telling the truth about my feelings or expressing a need for support doesn’t count.** That ish is just healthy.
** = for every complaint, I will issue a gratitude also, and I will try to move beyond my usual: I love my mom, and Chelsea, and the cats. Okay cool. What else/who else do I love? What else brings me joy?
But to the point of this post: TODAY is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. It is a day to eat, drink and be merry before Lent sets in, and many Catholics begin fasting.
Usually a day like today would merit a little treat. Usually a big treat, if we’re being honest. I’d say, “Self! It’s Fat Tuesday! Eat a paczki and revel!” I would have a glass of wine; I would eat a yummy dessert. I’d feel no shame because Fat Tuesday comes but once a year.
This year, I’m not doing that.
One of the hardest parts of my wellness journey is breaking those habitual connections between holidays and good, friendship and food, celebrations and food, respect and food, gratitude and food, fitting in and food…
If I had a treat every time it was a special day, or someone offered me some, or I felt uncomfortable saying no, I’d be fat.
What I’m saying is this: for me, it’s been really hard to find ways to feel good or celebrate success or partake in holidays without eating to excess. True to my academic compulsions, though, I’ve started to push the question: Why?
Q. Why should I have a treat on Fat Tuesday?
A. Because that’s just what you do on Fat Tuesday.
Not a good enough answer.
Q. But don’t you think you should celebrate just this once before Lent?!
A. Well, even when I identified as Catholic I usually didn’t give up FOOD for Lent, so the idea that I need to gorge before fasting is fallacious at best.
You are never in danger of starving. You are not a kennel dog who needs to hoard food.
Q. But isn’t it fun to celebrate? Even if no fasting is on the horizon?
A. Yes! But why does a celebration have to be food? Why has a celebration always been food?
WHY AM I SURPRISED THAT I HAVE GAINED WEIGHT WHEN ALL THE POSITIVE RITUALS IN MY LIFE REVOLVE AROUND FOOD?
It’s time to break those associations. Instead of gorging myself today I’m going to eat my usual planned foods. I am going to snuggle Chelsea and the cats. I am going to try to find peace in common moments. And I am going to remember that these 40 days can be a time of positivity and reclamation, instead of just a “giving up” or fasting.
For the very first time, I am not celebrating a food-based holiday by eating food.
Instead, I am celebrating Fat Tuesday by diving in and gorging myself on all the love, positivity and good energy in my life.
It feels better than a stuffed belly.
It feels better than an hour of eating that’s over once the last bite is gone.
It feels like an actual celebration, instead of a reason to eat.
THAT is a blessing.
Me. Blessed. Yes.