40 Days and 40 Nights

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I may not do Lent the way I was raised as a little girl, all dolled up in a church dress with strappy shoes and a big white bow. Then I put a quarter in a little cardboard pamphlet every day. When I got a little older I gave up things like the cookies I’d eat during lunch at school and would give the money as an offering on Sundays. One time my parents suggested I give up french fries. I laughed heartily. And the idea still makes me chuckle.

I don’t go to church anymore (backsliding Pastor’s Daughter on the loose) but I still think there’s merit and reward in taking a step back every year and looking at yourself and asking who am I? What’s holding me back? What are my crutches? What are things I can do to be a better person, for the world and for myself? What about myself can I change for the better? Even if you aren’t the most religious person in the world, I think there is self-awareness that comes in giving up something for 40 days, or even a week or two. Whether you give up television (or just a tv show for the less motivated) or go without ice cream stop using facebook, whatever you do, you’re giving yourself a chance to see yourself differently. Even if it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, you get a glimpse of yourself “If I didn’t do this” or “If I didn’t have that” or “If I did this instead.” In high school, cookies cost $1. But at the end of one school week I had $5. By the end of 40 days I had over $30 to give to my church, or to a charity, as I did in later years. These things add up. Money adds up, time to think to yourself (instead of watching Project Runway) adds up. When you give up something, you make room for something better to take its place or to happen.

That being said, I thought this year: what can I give up? What can I let go of for forty days? My friend Emilie suggested french fries, and I”ll tell you: that joke is just as funny as the first time I heard it.

So I thought some more: What’s something that would challenge me? Something that would really push me? Then, admittedly reluctantly, I figured it out: I, Frenchie Augustin, will go forty days without cursing.

I don’t know if it’s endearing that I’m going to try not to curse for forty days or not so endearing that I curse so much that I’m considering giving it up, but that’s beside the point. And I realize that I could probably give up something more important and introspective, like, not being so negative all the time (but whatever, life’s difficult), or not allowing myself to say “I can’t do this” for forty days (which is impossible, I couldn’t do that). As a matter of fact when I write it out it kinds of sounds childish…but somewhere deep down, I feel like this can be something of merit.

I curse so often that it’s practically my second language. It flows out of me, almost elegantly. If I’m to avoid cursing, I can’t just haphazardly let my mouth run while my brain turns off. I’ll have to think about my words, about what I say or will say, what I want to say. Now that I think about it, maybe I can keep myself from telling myself that I can’t do something or I can tell myself to stop being negative. Perhaps this exercise will give me new control over not only my mouth and what comes out of it, but control over my mind and the messages it sends to my mouth and understanding of the power of thoughts becoming words. Maybe I’m not giving up cursing for Lent – rather I’m picking up control.

And who knows, maybe I’ll be enlightened by the end of it (if I make it to the end). So enlightened, I could write a fucking book about it.

…that one didn’t count.

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