Saturday, April 03, 2010

Lent 2010

Ever feel like the jackass who walks into the wedding and blurts out something about the bride's ex-girlfriend? I am normally blessed in being the minister who watches that outburst and thinks, "Not this again. Hope they have bacon wrapped scallops at the reception." But today - I am the jackass.

After my recent post it has been brought to my attention that I have not three but twelve readers, and nine of them would like recognition. Sorry that I did not see you there in your lovely bridal veils. I apologize with glee and thank you all for the affirmation that you would rather read my blog than scrub your toilet. I will post more regularly starting now.

(For my reader who IS the jackass at the wedding, you should probably start blogging, too, boy-o. I know five of these people would read you because they have more than one toilet to avoid cleaning. )

Today is a bright shiny Saturday morning on the 40th (** explained below, bitte) day of my Lenten diet/cleanse/purge/meal time death march. For my reader of the Zoroastrian persuasian, that means I am three meals away from being done with this spiritual experiment gone nuclear.

** For my savvy Christian reader, you know that Lent can be 40, 44, 46 or 55 days depending upon one's sect. I meant to go for 40 and figured out at 10:40 PM on the 46th day that I'd gone for the gold, at least in Western Christendom's Lenten terms. I will be seeing Jesus tomorrow for a 6 day refund.

I cornered a possible 13th reader at the elementary school yesterday who claimed he would read the blog if I wrote about the Lenten cleanse. I have a quota to fill or Blogspot reduces my clearance level which currently allows me to use asterisks and occasional German words (and as exhibited above ** I really need those. O Tannenbaum.) So it looks like it is the request hour here at Auspicious Jots.

Lent, duh... what?

Lent is the Christian observance leading up to the celebration of Easter. In my case it lasted from Ash Wednesday until the morning of Easter Sunday. Some denominations take out the Sundays in the count, celebrating multiple "mini-Easters". Others stop at Palm Sunday, others at Maundy Thursday; and the Eastern church does some hard core math that brings them to 55 days.

There are many Lenten traditions, but the most commonly known ones are a dramatic dietary change and fasting. One of my readers thinks that Lent is a time to quit coffee, chocolate, and sex with the lights on, but she is confusing New Year's with Lent. She is seeing Jesus tomorrow about a whammy of a refund.

What was I thinking?

I have observed a Lenten/Passover combo plan off and on for years. Each year at this time I pay more attention to whatever spiritual discipline I am practicing. Some years I go to Lenten lunch lectures at the Episcopal church. Other years I journal and meditate. Some years I do lectio divina (** to be explained in a different entry, Kartoffelnkuche). I find that the end of Winter is a great time to do this because as the practice becomes harder to sustain, Winter becomes easier to endure. By the time Easter and Passover roll around, I am one happy camper.

What was the plan?

The plan was to strip a little slice of joy out of my life every week. No, that was the result. The plan was to progressively remove foods from my diet in order to think about sacrifice and blessings every day of Lent and into Passover. The progressive method was something I learned from a former judge who used to do an annual diet cleanse that she described as transcendent.

Here's how it worked. Every week I removed another element of my diet without replacing the previously removed items. On Ash Wednesday I lost beef. February 24, I lost pork. March 3 - chicken; 10 - eggs; 17 - seafood; 24 - dairy; 31-wheat. I also removed caffeine about half way through and alcohol out of necessity because chickpeas do a crappy job of absorbing vodka.

How hard was it?

It was hard in the out of shape couch potato running 10 miles world of hard. It was not Mt. Everest hard. The worst was at the end when I lost dairy and wheat and dishonored the pork fat heritage of my ancestors by becoming a gluten-free vegan.

At that point my son began calling it "that crazy diet." My husband began eating meals with friends. My co-dependent enabling best friend bought Tofutti cream cheese and started putting his hand over his plate so I could not see his meal, as if a hand can cover the smell of Jerk Chicken.

What made it easier was that it was progressively restrictive but I was not required to go cold turkey (went out with the chicken). I had plenty of time to adjust to each stage before the next came. Next time I will take the wheat out at the beginning of Passover but this go round I couldn't handle it that early. I also cheated with a couple of things: milk chocolate was allowed all along in small portions; I intended to go to water only to drink but let myself have juice if I was having trouble keeping my blood sugar up; when my mom brought me a philly cheese sub on week 3 I ate it anyway because I felt like throwing out animal flesh was a greater sin than eating the meat. And because my mama is bigger than I am and scares me.

Has it been worth it?

Yes. This was the most eye-opening Lent ever. I thought about Lent every single day with increasing concentration as my menu shrank. In addition to the spiritual benefits, I slept better. I developed a healthier view of eating as sustaining instead of eating as a hobby, friend, escape, reward, or reflex. Eventually I had more energy. And, honest to Elijah, once the wheat was gone I had far fewer cravings and overate only once. Exercise was easier. And I did happen to lose weight although that was not the purpose of the cleanse, Reader #7.

Why did I not think of this earlier?

You would think that a minister would come up with this before leaving the ministry when one could share it with a congregation. The 13th reader may do just that for next year's Lent. The problem with a rewarding career that requires creativity, empathy, boundless energy, and an extremely flexible schedule is that it is untenable on this planet. At some point you lose one or more of those attributes and the whole system transforms from a fluid dance to a... what's the word? Struggle? No. Chaos? No.

Oh yeah... the Alcatraz of the creative spark.

I did not think of this when it would have been a useful tool for the seekers within my congregation because being a minister meant that I raced my days at a full gallop, without a saddle, holding on to mane for dear life. Now that I stand at a copier, look at boxes, and have a complicated relationship with a telephone system: these things come to me. Go figure.

In 12 hours I will be eating pot roast with roasted root veggies, orzo salad with feta, brown rice in organic chicken broth, fresh pineapple, and broiled scallops with shrimp. It will be the best Easter dinner of my life. It will also be eaten in very small portions because I am appropriately fearful that it will make me vomit. After that fiesta de tastebuds I plan to ease back into food on a 20 day plan, give or take 6 days.

And Reader 8 thought tomorrow was about bunnies.



Ginjer said...

Count me as a reader too, Alane. And have a fabulous feast tomorrow after your (almost) fast. May your work be fulfilling in new ways, and may your time with your family be enriching. But know that your presence is missed and would be welcomed at church again whenever you are ready to attend as a lowly congregant like ourselves.

ogre said...

Oh. Gee. That means that there are at least 15 readers (though I'm itinerant; reading then not, as time and craziness permits--live, school, whether I remember to check up on UU blogs and how many of those that I semi-regularly read I actually get to...).

I've filed the progressive Lent idea for use--for self and ministry. Later.

Phoebe said...

You know, now that you mention it, I am kind of offended that you forgot me, too. Your son wouldn't have forgotten me. :)

Grace said...

Better bump that total up to 14 readers! I read along silently, because every time I want to leave a comment, I'm totally intimidated by your coolness factor. I always spend awhile trying to come up with some hip, intelligent, pithy statement in response to one of your posts, but inevitably end up deleting it. See, even here I'm not sure I'm using the word "pithy" correctly.
Your lent diet reminded me of that Simpsons episode where Lisa runs into a cool older guy who is a "level five vegan" - which he tells Lisa is someone who doesn't eat anything that casts a shadow.
I hope you're eating oysters again by the beginning of May, otherwise Andrew will be one sad little camper!