I am what you would call a cafeteria cradle Catholic, which according to some people is the worst kind. I was born into the religion so I take it for granted. I also have issues with a lot of the church dogma so I pick and choose what I like and kind of leave the rest. I have toyed with going to other churches but I find that I am having a hard time leaving it because it is what I know. 99% of my family (immediate and extended alike) are Catholic and I attended Catholic school for 9 years. So, while I don't attend Mass with any regularity, there are certain traditions within the church that are hard for me to ignore, Lent being the major one. I find something so soothing in the Ash Wednesday tradition of getting a cross of ashes on your forehead- the reminder that we are all mortal and we will once again return to the earth from which we came. I also like the idea of working on yourself and sacrificing for 40 days so you can truly experience the joy and wonder of Easter. Even if you aren't religious, you have to appreciate any time you can set aside to re-evaluate your life and prepare yourself for the rebirth that comes with spring. Sure, you don't have to wait until the Lenten season but there is something about sacrificing with others that makes me feel like I am really a part of the world community.
Of course, Lent isn't all fun and games. In addition to saying bye to meat and hello to fish sticks on Friday, I am giving up sodas and anything with artificial sweeteners. I really enjoy my Diet Coke, often too much and feel that my water intake suffers and I've even noticed that my migraines increase when I have been drinking too much. In the back of my mind I know that stuff is not good for me and I think my body has finally had enough so why not throw them out now when the sacrifice would mean a little more? I have one body and I need to take care of it the best I can. Oh no, I sound like that Sally Field Boniva commercial! One side effect I hope to have is a weight loss, especially since studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can cause you to eat more because your body never really feels "full" like they would with a real sugar. Plus, a piece of pizza, chips, fries or a burger just lose something taste-wise if you don't have a nice soda to drink, so I might be less likely to eat those foods if I have to wash them down with water. Sorry, H20 just doesn't cut it sometimes!
I'm not going to Mass tonight, but in my own way I am respecting and honoring the Lenten process. I can't wait to see what changes the next 40 days will bring. And, if that change means on Easter morning I take a drink of Diet Coke and it is horrid, well, that just means my Lenten preparations were successful!