Lent is upon us… but first, Mardi Gras, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday (yes! let’s reclaim the word Fat to mean abundant, celebratory, full!) I never celebrated Mardi Gras until joining a progressive Episcopal church, one that marries solemnity and celebration, each in its own time. Tonight, is for colors, passionate dancing, rich food and strong drinks. Tomorrow, we put ashes on our foreheads to usher in a period of reflection and waiting. Until then:
When I told my hanging-out-in-the-park friends and my shaking-my-booty-at-dance-class friends that I was celebrating both Mardi Gras and Lent, their eyebrows raised. I explained we’d be drinking Hurricanes and dancing at the church tonight, that even the Vicar would get a little tossed, and their eyes widened even further. “What church do you go to? Sounds fun!” They even thought my practice of giving something up for Lent was intriguing in an old-fashioned kind of way. To their inquiries, I told them I’m giving up the same thing I give up every year, sugary desserts.
Each year I search my heart for what I should give up, knowing I want to choose something that is fully a luxury for me, a non-essential that I will really miss, so it will remind me to pray every time I long for it. I try, hard as I might, to neglect the option of giving up sweets, because I have never, ever been “successful” at it. Every year I give up desserts for Lent, and every year I fail, go back to it, fail, go back, for a 40 day battle that makes me long for Easter with the appropriate impatience for resurrection. But, through doing this each Lent and not giving up on it, I am finding I learn so much more from the failure than from the years I gave up something easy and do it perfectly, and received nothing more than my smug satisfaction.
Practicing failure in this little thing — choosing to give up an indulgence and not being able to do it — helps me make space for all the other failures, the really important ones, that occur in my life all the time. Fear of failure is not a reason, for me, to deter me from committing to something. I prefer to fail boldly, learn from it, and pick myself back up and keep going. This is not something I have always been able to do, and of course it is humiliating and frustrating every time. But I really think I’m on to something here. Maybe Lent is more about trying and failing than about penance. Perhaps it’s the struggle that prepares me better for rebirth come Easter Sunday.
Well, we will find out tomorrow how difficult the struggle will be this year. I’m finally going to do it the Episcopal way, which gives you every Sunday off of your Lenten fast, as well as the Feast day of St. Patrick, which always falls within Lent. So, it’s not quite 40 days, but that could make it more bearable this year. I will find out starting tomorrow. Tonight I will shake it with my fellow religious revelers. Our Mardi Gras is certainly tamer than New Orleans’, as no one will flash or vomit or be incarcerated (we hope), but we’ll be celebrating each other, and making it through another winter together. Here are some pics from last year’s celebration, when Olive was only about 5 months old!