This yearly marathon of self-denial started the day immediately following Mardi Gras —Lent began on March 1! — and is all about seeking absolution with God for all your sins in hopes of drawing just a bit closer to him. Observe my poem dedicated to this Catholic holiday:
I’m giving up self-doubt and chocolate
Tithing I’ve before tried but I’m too broke to keep it
So for Jesus who passed 40 days in the Judean Desert
I’ll do one better
I’ll give up my vices in search of absolution
Chocolate’s not too bad
I mean it’s bad for me but giving it up’s not too hard to do
Already I despise its enticing delectability
Its refusal to let me go until it’s all gone
The abhorrent zits that appear in the days after
Exacting retribution for my indulgent ways
Always I’ve wanted to give it up
But never have I had the strength
Jesus gave me the strength on this day
Self-loathe is a little harder to release
Trying to generate self-love only turns me around
Perhaps I must let someone love me first
They may counterbalance all the damage I caused in private
For if I detest myself
How can I love my neighbor as myself?
How can there be any love at all?
But also how may I gift myself something unearned
But now it’s not even about that
About whether I deserve it or not
It’s about a promise to God
Fat Tuesday I made sure to pig out on all the things I’d soon forsake
On deathly habits soon to vanish in smoke and ash
Yet still it doesn’t mean sometimes my eyes don’t water
And I get dragged back to the place of filth that felt so sinfully sweet
Where I could draw in on myself and remain unseen
And secretly cut my eyes at whatever event had demanded my presence
And fantasize of being seen nowhere ever again
And surface only when the stakes were highest and I had everything to lose
Maybe I’ll try carrots when I feel most weak
They will be my tangible reminder to reject the cocoa bean
They will be my tangible reminder to release the hate and breathe
They will be my tangible reminder to love myself as Jesus loved me
I’m actually Christian, not Catholic, and I never before have been driven to celebrate this holiday. I learned about it though from a friend who chose to give up meat for 40 days, and the concept of deliberating giving up something deeply appealed to me. It’s easy enough to go through the motions, resigning our weakness to just inalienable elements of our character, but maybe it isn’t. Other people I know have chosen to give up Facebook for Lent or even bingo. We are more than our daily activities or our bad habits. We are bigger than whatever stops us from being the version of ourselves we dream to be. I think Lent is an excellent reminder of that.
Lent itself comes from when Jesus for forty days resisted the devil’s temptation of food and drink and other treats while in the desert in Matthew 4:1. Here’s the passage for those of you interested:
Getting ready to transition out of high school, I am learning much about myself, about what makes me happy, about what I value, about what sets my skin on edge, and most notably about how I undercut myself. Growing up, I hated having the light shown on me, but it was virtually non-stop by professors and even the school administration because I’d always had the best grades in the school. This brought on teasing, which brought on self-consciousness. The best way I knew to counteract this was to down play my own accomplishments or competencies, always pairing each of my successes with a nonverbal “I’m sorry” and each of my failures with a “you just aren’t good enough” until that mentality pervaded my every action. I have spent the last couple years attempting to purge myself of this habit, and I have made some strides. Still, often I find myself hushing my voice for fear that what I say will be ill received before it even has been voiced. I hesitate to share my work for fear that I just will not be good enough. I am realizing now though that achieving my dreams demands belief in myself as much as the vision.
The point in all this is I have worth, just as much as any other person. I have a purpose just as much as any other of God’s creations. Who am I to decide I am not good enough? Further, why would I choose to be lesser than? Why would I destroy my chances in whatever I pursue before even getting started?
So, for Lent this year I choose instead to love myself. I’m giving up self doubt and I’m giving up chocolate too because I eat way too much of it and why not? For 40 days at least, chocolate nor an utterance of self-doubt shall pass these lips, and perhaps even in the weeks to come, I’ll leave crippling self-doubt off my Facebook friend list.
Jolisa, is a senior at the Westminster Schools and spoken word extraordinaire. L’année prochaine, she will be attending Rice University on a full ride.