Today is Ash Wednesday, the day when practicing Catholics start their 40 Day Fast from one thing until Easter Sunday when they can indulge to their heart’s content. The reason behind it is to a) make a sacrifice in honor of the sacrifice made for them, and b) up their opportunity of prayer and meditation as they struggle with giving up something they love.
Our Christian family finds this Catholic tradition beautiful. And while it’s not a required tradition in our sect of faith, it is a tradition in the roots of my faith. And it’s become something I’ve taken from my childhood religion and introduced to my family at this time of year. We welcome the challenge to give something up for 40 days, seeing if we actually can do it. And more times than not we come out of the experience with a fresh outlook, as well as an ability to lessen one more addiction from our lives.
Of course, our favorite addiction to give up is sugar.
Not only is our family in love with all things sweet (in terms of dieting, it is my #1 downfall), we crave it when it isn’t around. This is why I try to keep my house free from desserts at all times. Our biggest sweet splurges in the house are Jello pudding snacks, strawberry jelly, and honey. The absence of desserts keeps us from scarfing sugary sweets throughout the day. But, of course, when it is around us – WATCH OUT.
Remember that scene in Finding Nemo when Marlin and Dory are at the would-be vegetarian shark meeting, and Dory is hit in the mouth so that recovering fish addict Bruce catches a whiff of her blood? This is slightly less dramatic than what it looks like when the kids and I catch sight of some innocent chocolate just laying around.
This is also what has made it so dangerous when we come over to Mr. W’s home.
Mr. W is one of those annoying people who can eat ANYTHING without gaining weight. His son has annoyingly taken on this genetic ability as well. The two of them rave about their greasy cheeseburgers, two-pound sirloins, cheesy lasagnas, and other artery clogging, thigh-enhancing, humongous meals without any sign of their health deteriorating or their waistbands expanding. I, on the other hand, only have to smell such foods to gain 5 pounds around my lower half. Another characteristic to this unfair calorie-cancelling duo is the ability to pass up sweets without a second thought. I mean, their ice cream has been in the freezer for so long, it has freezer burn. I wasn’t even aware ice cream did that! I suppose if it stayed in there longer than 3 days, however….
In Mr. W’s kitchen is a cabinet at eye level that holds the most enticing snacks a sugar-holic could dream of. Halloween candy. Easter candy. Those two-pound dark chocolate bars from Trader Joes. Truffles. Cookies…. You get the picture. When I come to Mr. W’s house, we all make a bee-line for this cabinet if only just to stare at the wonderfulness of it. Here is this magical cabinet that holds candy that has been untouched for months! Is that even possible? And for some reason, whenever we visit Mr. W, the candy on those shelves lessens just slightly. And I can’t for the life of me explain how I gained a couple pounds just from a mere visit to Mr. W’s house… I finally had to instruct the 6’ tall Mr. W to hide everything of interest on the very top shelf so that my 5’4” self couldn’t reach them without some effort, and so they weren’t staring me in the face every time I walked by. And it seemed to mostly do the trick.
But still, those sugar addictions exist.
Yesterday afternoon I caught a chocolate craving so intense I could barely think straight. And I made a beeline to our office vending machine to quiet my inner chocolate gremlin. Alas, I only had a $5 bill. I plugged it into the change making machine, and then listened to what sounded like the winning jingle at the casino slot machine. Apparently the machine was out of dollar coins and quarters. But it had plenty of dimes and nickels. No worries, I just pulled out 20 nickels and bought myself a Hershey’s chocolate bar – which promptly got stuck when it fell to a part of the machine that wouldn’t allow it to travel the rest of the way to my waiting hands. You’d think I’d listen as the universe plainly told me I didn’t need these extra sugar calories, but no. I just counted out more change and bought myself the world’s most finicky chocolate bar. And sitting at my desk, I forgot that anyone could see me as I inhaled the chocolate bar without coming up for air. And it was heavenly.
And it was also my last sugary indulgence until Easter Sunday when, appropriately enough, we will be surrounded by chocolate bunnies and crème filled eggs.
This morning my son asked me if he could give up video games instead. And I told him I thought that was a wonderful idea, but that it didn’t make much sense unless he included his computer games as well.
“But what will I do then?” he lamented before deciding that sugar was an easier addiction to avoid for 40 days.
Goodbye pudding. Goodbye yogurt. Goodbye juice and soda. Goodbye chocolate. Goodbye freezer burned ice cream at Mr. W’s house…. I’ll miss you all terribly.
Are you giving up anything right now, for Lent or for any other reason?