Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mama Bean is going to miss coffee. And tea. And the Interwebs.

Today is Ash Wednesday. Growing up Protestant, I didn't celebrate (?) Ash Wednesday, or partake in Lent. I didn't really know about, or understand the practice of giving stuff up (or committing to stuff) for Lent until I was in university. I've never actually followed through on a Lenten commitment before, but we're going for it this year!

Papa Bean is giving up meat. A friend is committing to prepare for and attend church each and every Sunday. I am making two commitments. First, I will not be drinking flavoured drinks. That is, all my beverages will be water, hot or cold, doesn't matter. No coffee, no tea, no juice, no pop. Second, I will be closing my computer at 6 pm every evening.

It's not that I don't like drinking water. I used to be terrible at drinking enough water, really ignored my thirst signals, in large part due to my neurosis surrounding using public toilets. But I trained myself out of that, until drinking large glasses of water throughout the day became second nature. It's just that I prefer flavoured water to plain. And by flavour, what I mean is sugar. I like coffee, because I like cream and sugar and warmth, like liquid baked goods gliding over my tongue and filling my mouth with comfort. It's a soul thing. I like tea for pretty much the same reason. Tea without sugar is vaguely bitter, brown water. Tea with sugar is a bright tie-dyed tableau of rainbow hippie deliciousness. I've always loved instant iced tea, but discovering southern-style sweet tea when I lived in Iowa was death to my pancreas. So so delicious. Carton orange juice can be better than dessert. Pop, especially anything in the root beer, grape, or cream soda varieties, is candy without the work of sucking or chewing. Yes, I like flavoured water because I'm lazy.

So I'm giving it up for Lent, because I know I will miss it, and that will remind me to pray, and consider Jesus. Choosing something I know I will miss makes it more likely I will succeed at thinking more about Jesus during the next forty days. That's the plan, and I'm sticking to it. Papa Bean chose meat, I'm guessing, for the same reason. Oh, how he's going to miss eating flesh.

The Internet/computer fast was inspired by this post at Conversion Blog (yes, I read Catholic blogs, even though I'm not Catholic. I even enjoy them. Does that make me a bad Protestant? Lol.) In particular, her second suggestion hit home: push the limits of how long you think you can be offline. How long do I really think I can be offline? Could I do a whole day? Could I do a whole week? How about all of Lent? What if I only gave up facebook? Or only stopped reading blogs? I figured I could do a whole day, maybe two. But that wasn't going to make much of an impression for Lent. So I thought, for forty days straight, I could limit my internet use to daytime, and shut 'er down after 6 pm. And then I figured I may as well just cut out all computering, or I'll just play minesweeper all evening. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much what I do anyway.

I realize this doesn't set me up the same as the flavoured water restriction to miss the internet, because I will be able to use it every day, and accomplish everything I do now in the hours available. What I've also realized is that internet use is a big distraction from getting other shit done in the rest of my life. So this Lenten commitment is really more an experiment in freeing up some time, and seeing what God can do with it. What will I read? What will I bake? Knit? Will we eat dinner at the table instead of our desks? Will we watch less television? Will I be a better mother? Will I get more sleep?

I'm very excited to see where these commitments take me, and I'm interested to see how others' sacrifices pan out as well. In the interest of full disclosure, my flavoured water fast does not include soup, because soup is food, not beverage, even though it's a very water-based food. And the internet fast does not include television watched on our joint computer, because that is just how we watch our tv, and I'm not committing to a tv fast. Let's not get crazy here!


  1. I am looking forward to updates!

  2. This is a very engaging and revealing post. Good stuff. All the best. I've done the coffee thing in the past for Lent. Also, for nearly a year I managed to avoid downloading email until 2:00 in the afternoon. That was to shed its distraction in order to concentrate better at important work. It really helped.