Give it up

“Sacrifice, which is the passion of great souls, has never been the law of societies.”  Henri Frederic Amiel

I come from a family that gives up stuff for Lent.  Not a particularly religious family, but one strangely competitive in the act of depriving ourselves for 40 days or so.  We weren’t even very good at it – as kids we had “free pass days” including any holiday named for a saint (Valentine’s, Patrick’s), and Sundays.

Sweets often took the hit in my youth and I was pretty pompous and self righteous about giving up such a huge part of my life; I was making a BIG

Picking a jelly bean is such a crap shoot, garbage overload or tangerine, could be either flavor

sacrifice.  In comparison, my niece is a specialist; some years back she gave up Oreos  which left her free to eat Hydrox, a better transfat-laden cookie IMHO.  But my niece abstained for the full 40 days.  I, on the other hand, stockpiled every missed cookie, candy and dessert (except ice cream for obvious reasons) in bags in my room and then gorged myself silly on Sundays, without noting that my mother, afflicted with a sweet tooth more powerful than mine, was helping herself along the way.  Oh, how I would have squawked had I known.

When I first got married I tried to give up things for my husband.  He’d walk in and I’d say “Guess what. You gave up ice cream”.  This irritates him, I know, because I tried again last night.  He sometimes starts a theological discussion about what I am doing and why. For me the choice has something to do with family tradition, added to a desire to experience sacrifice because we are fortunate and don’t always know what it means to want something and have it denied (mostly if we want something, we buy it). In that light, giving up sweets (or my other choices) seems pretty paltry especially when you consider that one year as an adult I gave up carbohydrates and (some would say “conveniently”) forgot wine was one.  Oops.  My other reason is an attempt to become a better me.  I have since heard the reasonable argument that that goal should not have a 40-day life span. Baby steps, people.

My cup isn't half full, it's empty for the next 40 days

This year I gave up coffee including anything from my brand new (Christmas gift) Keurig.  Working from home, I’ve been downing about 4 cups a day.  Part two of my Lenten promise – I’ve committed to exercising 4x a week and the exercise will most likely be walking where I do in fact take time to contemplate life, God,  the world and my place in it.  

My husband didn’t like the choice with the Keurig. “Well, then what did I get this for?”  

I said “To be a fabulous treat after 40 days (I’ve aged out of free days) of withdrawal.  You’re supposed to give up something you really, really like.”

“Something you really, really like?  Well, where does that leave me and the rabbits?”

“Well you left the toilet seat up and dishes in the sink; the rabbits destroyed my box spring and trashed their cage like a couple of rock stars; you’re not in any danger.” 

Uh oh, logic miscalculation; so in this scenario, if they want to keep from being banished, they have to make me not like them too much.  What have I done?  Do-over, please.

“Make Mine Chocolate” http://www.makeminechocolate.org/   click on this link to find out why bunnies do NOT make good Easter presents, or just look at the top photo to see what they did to my box spring. People need to understand them before commiting to a life (7-11 years) with a rabbit.

©2011 by Alison Colby-Campbell

5 thoughts on “Give it up”

  1. Missed you again today…If you think I am a stalker, calling you repeatedly, it was just me trying to figure out how to save a contact in my iphone without reading the instructions. Anyway, I LOVED your blog entry today. I too wanted to give up things for lent this year and totally agree with how minor our sacrifices are by comparison. How seriously are we ever really suffering, yet, I still cheat and cannot do it 100%. AND, I totally relate to the family competition element during childhood. Alison, this was my first sampling of your blog material and I must tell you that your piece was very well written. You are a gifted writer, so just add that to your many talents. Looking forward to catching up!


  2. Hi Kathy and Keith – banner days for the letter “K” since you both contributed such wonderful feedback. Thank you….that made me smile! (People with names that start with other letters of the alphabet are encouraged to make their presence known, don’t let your letter be out done.)
    Thanks again.


  3. I always thought it strange that people who did participate with the idea of “going without” seemed to always choose a food (or drink) and “suffer” through it being eliminated from their life for forty days. Again, like the day that is named “Fat Tuesday” also relates to foods. Now, it seems that there are alot of people who have given up Facebook for Lent. Somewhere along the way the meaning has broadened in such a manner that some might consider giving up their remote control for their television and say that they are suffering. There doesn’t seem to be any religious attachment at all. I will say that suffering is now in the eye of the beholder. What we need to get back to is that suffering should be in the heart of the beholder. It’s relationship to the contemplation that then follows after merely making a choice of one thing to do without. Consider more the people that could use forty days of receiving just one thing that could add to their lives.
    I think that you would agree with me that it’s about time that people alter an oh too familiar phrase … “The grass is always greener on the other side.” to “The grass might not even grow on the other side.”
    Regarding your choice to give up coffee… I hope that you preplanned this and weaned yourself from the caffeine (unless you purposely chose to have a headache). As for the jellybeans it seems that I now do understand the concept of why there is such a thing as an Easter basket !
    As always, I remain one of your faithful fans.


  4. From a church perspective I do see the relationship to food…think of no meat on Fridays, and the bread and wine of communion. Plus the loaves and fishes. Food is sustenance for the body while the relationship with God is the food for the soul. Both nourish in different ways. As to why people give up food (I see a lot of that too) for Lent, it is something that does relate to sacrifice because we know at least theroretically that others live without a crumb in comparison to what we have. Regarding sweets or other food-related Lenten sacrifices how many times have I heard the melodramatic, “But I’d just die without coffee/candy/meat.” By actually focusing on doing without maybe we will begin to understand that A) we won’t die without cookies or wine or coffee and we should be thankful for our lives and B) that there are many people out there who will literally die without some food and that food need be no better than the scraps we regularly turn up our noses at and throw out when the next better treat comes along. Giving up sweets?? – have plenty of chips on hand, giving up coffee – how about some Ghiardelli hot chocoate. What we can hope for is awareness and that awareness will begin to move us toward action. . To that end I’ve been inestigating the micro loan charities.
    As for prepping for giving up caffeine – I drink decaf…went through the withdrawal headaches a long time ago and realized I didn’t like being that dependent on something.
    Thanks for being a fan and for your always thoughtful and well presented comments.


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