A Writer's 21st Century Memoir.

How Lent Changed My Entire Life

catholic rosary during lent

It was during the sunnier days that were sprinkled throughout the spring of 2000 when I decided to (temporarily) abstain from drinking any carbonated sugary liquids. I had only ever had my first sip of soda the year before at the age of eight and decided that this dessert-like treat would be the thing that I would give up during the religious time of Lent.

The 40 days (or so) before Easter was an important time for my classmates and me who attended a Pre-K through 8th-grade Catholic school complete with habited nuns and mass held every week. Having something to give up for Lent back then was even more important than the reasons why Catholics gave up things for Lent in the first place. However, my recently created addiction to caffeinated beverages proved difficult to manage despite the entirety of the Catholic Church breathing down my neck with guilt-gifting looks.

I would notice every sound of the cracking open of a can of soda and I would see large trucks covered in flashy advertising delivering soda every week to our soda machines on campus. It was agony to have to order juice or water to accompany my fast food kid’s meals, but I managed to get through Lent without intentionally caving (that’s another story to tell).

Each year following the Lent of 2000 led me to break more bad habits, or significantly limit them from occurring less and less. In the 20 years or so following the year 2000, I’ve managed to remove soda, unless it’s mixed with alcohol, meat, dairy, and I’ve limited the amount of junk food in general. However, it hadn’t occurred to me until recently that my success with bettering my health was all because I set aside smaller and more attainable goals with a foreseeable deadline.

Somehow the Catholic Church had gotten making changes for bettering yourself right regarding helping its congregation. I can’t say the same for any of its other well-known issues, but that’s beside the point. Since then I’ve wondered, maybe I needed to do the same with the rest of my life, and rather than creating five-year or ten-year plans, I could also include simpler goals on a monthly or weekly basis to hit?

Cleaning up a messy garage over the summer can turn into making sure you go through and organize one box a week. Writing a book in one year or one month can be better conceptualized if you think about the word count goals for a single day. Creating a website for your company or client can be sectioned into stages, and those stages can have weekly to-do lists that help you get the project done on time. It was as though I suddenly found the key to unlock productivity and destroy procrastination through the remembrance of that one-time Jesus wandered around in the desert for a while.

This Lent I managed to accomplish an assortment of things by keeping weekly attainable goals. I try to ask myself, what can I do today or right now to help me get to where I need to be? I even physically write lists on my phone in my Notes app or cute notebooks and get excited when I get to check something off as I go. When you think of things in segmented blocks, you realize that anything is possible. You just have to take that first step forward to get to where you eventually want to be.

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