Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Another Sucky Lent (So Far)

Lent annoys me, it always has.

My knee-jerk reaction to anything "must" is to avoid it and not comply. That's my own personal problem, it's related to pride and obedience, I get that.

So anyway, this year, having a much better grip on my Catholic faith, I started out thinking that I would do the minimum requirements just as a sign of obedience, hoping something good would come of it, which will then lead me to further ideas of how to take up my own cross.

On Ash Wednesday, I woke up all committed to fasting as prescribed by the Church, as well as getting off sugar and grain. I admit the sugar and grain thing is a health initiative, not something I'm doing to get closer to Christ, but figured it was just as well to begin on that day and commit it to God.

Problem one is that I never consciously committed it to God.

Problem two is that combining fasting on the same day as going cold turkey on carbs was a really bad idea from a purely physical perspective.

Did you read this amazing blog entry by Elizabeth Esther about how she recognized that she needed to stop punishing herself on Ash Wednesday? If you haven't, please do, because it's just honestly refreshing. I can relate to what she wrote because here's how Ash Wednesday started to shape up at our house, around 7:00 p.m.:

Husband: Meekly inquiring about what's for dinner

Me: There's a bag of parmesan-crusted tilapia in the freezer, you can make that if you want.

Me: Starving, crabby, feeling like I'm going to lose it if I don't eat real food.

Husband: Does that mean you don't want any? What are you going to eat?

Me: (Starting to lose it) I'm not supposed to eat that tilapia because it has breading made out of wheat. That's why I didn't get Fish McBites at McDonald's when I took Alan there for lunch.

Husband: What are you going to eat?

Me: (Screaming) I don't know!!! I f*cking HATE fish!!!!! I f*cking, f*cking, f*cking hate fish!!!! (Actually, I don't hate fish. I just dislike most of it. I need it to be expensive and fancy for me to truly appreciate it.)

Husband: (Looking like a deer in the headlights) Maybe you should just eat something.

Me: Yeah, I think I will. Screw this Ash Wednesday stuff. (I ate a bunch of food, I don't remember what. I'm sure it included meat.)

So, let's jump over to this past week, when our family took advantage of a "Spring Break" at Alan's school to go to a waterpark overnight, Thursday to Friday.

Me: This is going to be impossible to stay low-carb while visiting a cess pool of pizza, french fries, and frozen margaritas.

Husband: Stay strong, we'll do whatever it takes to get you the food you need.

Thursday lunch: Bought a container of tuna salad and brought it into the waterpark. Celebrate! Tuna salad and water slides! Woo-hoo.

Thursday dinner: Big-ass prime rib and vegetables. Score!

Friday morning: Free breakfast buffet included with waterpark package. Eggs, eggs, and more eggs, along with bacon, sausages, and ham.

Friday lunch: Cool! Waterpark has pre-packaged containers of cheese, sausage, and olives! Someone is thinking outside the box here. I got a low-carb friendly lunch!

Me: (Friday afternoon while eating cheese and sausage) F*ck!!!! It's Friday!!!!


Have you ever done something like this? Or this:

On Sunday we were in a food market and stumbled across a whole, live lobster dinner for $13.95. I was like, HELL-O it's lobster time! As I sat at a metal counter eating my fresh, delicious lobster, I told my husband this was my replacement meat-free meal to make up for the previous week's meat transgressions. Truth be told, I've done this way more times that I care to admit. You know, you're invited to a family get-together or party on a Friday in Lent, and all that's being served is meat, so you eat the meat and then say tomorrow for dinner I'll have fish to even it all out.

But this where it all stands so far. I've given up nothing for Lent in the traditional sense. (Or have I? Let me know your thoughts on that.) I'm supposed to go on a silent retreat next weekend, but I'm not sure that's really when it's supposed to happen, and I haven't made the phone call to confirm it.

Furthermore, the thought of doing Stations of the Cross depresses me. Like I said previously on the blog, if we get to one session of the Stations, I'll be thinking I won a prize or something.

Also, I haven't taken anything on, which is my usual train of thought. You know, extra masses, extra confession, extra readings, extra something. Not inspired to do anything, and yet, feeling really guilty about all of it.

And when I feel guilt, I know things aren't going well.

I do keep turning certain things around in my head that I could do for Lent, so as not to make it a total loss. But then I find an excuse to not want to do it. Then I get upset about how lazy I am and get mired in the wallowing about how much I suck as a human being. About how I'm only giving God the tiniest of crumbs.

When I get myself really going, I turn the blame back at the Church, believing this is all a prescribed set-up. I mean, people can do things like extra prayer and fasting, etc., any time of the year they want and get results, right? Why does there HAVE to be this big to-do the same time of each year?

Other times, I tell myself this is all symptomatic of my ongoing refusal to believe that God really loves me, thereby proving that I need to do whatever it takes to grasp and hold God's love. And if that means eating meat, well, then so be it.

I know I'm writing this blog post because I don't want to write another blog post titled "Continued Sucky Lent." So, along those lines, do you ever experience similar battles during Lent? What do you do to get yourself out of the funk? And how do you deal with guilt? 


  1. I don't fast or abstain from meat during Lent. It just doesn't agree with my body chemistry and I end up on the couch shaking, shouting for someone to bring me a cheeseburger.

    Ah well. I have a bigger goal for this Lent...Not to leave the Catholic Church.


    1. Catlady, I've been there and you know it. My advice: Do what you need to do and don't let anyone tell you that whatever you're doing is wrong.

      For awhile there, I wasn't going to mass for months on end. Or going to mass at super liberal parishes just so that I wouldn't feel all stumbled up by seeing someone I knew who was a "good Catholic."

      Amongst other things I did, it worked. Sometimes I wonder if we all know deep down inside what will work.

    2. Thanks Charlotte, I am. I am pushing myself through for our children's sake right now. I did visit a different parish to take a break. Now here I have been reading all these Catholic blogs for a few years, thinking this is right and that person is wrong, blah blah blah, you know that deal etc. Anyway, I stumbled into this different parish for Mass...turns out all of their music is contemporary, people were dressed very casually, the kind of things I would have rolled my eyes back in my head til they got stuck a year ago. But you know what....people were smiling, people were singing loud, Jesus was there. The most joyful Mass I have been too in years!



  2. I don't know, this lent it's been me trying not to be the walking cloud of doom. We went to a Mass on Friday because my husband wanted to...and the parish fish dinner was available (awesome baked fish and I'm not a fish lover). I was a bitch on Ash Wednesday due to sick kids for weeks on end and I don't do well when really hungry. It's not been real edifying here. I'm going with EE's post and the idea os trying to believe in and accept love freely given. I have had meat by mistake in the past...and not sweated it because it was an honest mistake....you know, intention matters.

    1. Yes, the Friday at the waterpark was honestly innocent. It wasn't like it was a Friday - it wasn't like it was any day at all. I just needed to eat meat to stay on the low-carb thing.

      Maureen, you and I could definitely be friends in real life, but I think that's already been established.

  3. How about some vegetarian dishes on Friday instead? Just a suggestion...

    1. You know what one of the problems is, Dave, is that my husband does not eat shellfish (lobster, shrimp, crabs), bottom feeders (catfish, etc.), or pork.

      When you say vegetarian, please tell me you don't mean anything with tofu. YICK!

      On the low-carb thing, you have to eat copious quantities of meat, cheese, and eggs, or you will starve. It's all bad planning on my part. Plain and simple.

    2. Tofu need not enter the picture. But a veggie stir fry will do nicely, as would tomato and butternut squash soups, cream soups,veggie quiches, fruit and cheese plate...there are also some good Middle Eastern vegetable stews...Indian food is an excellent alternative...

      And while I know you're on a low carb diet, maybe Friday can be the one day you allow yourself a nice pasta dish or a cheese or veggie pizza...

  4. i felt terrible on ash wed. just from abstinence itself! (i dont fast because i am still nursing). but when fridays roll around, i eat a ton of nuts, beans, dairy... and that helps a lot!

  5. What about lamb? Just kidding - remembering "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" when she tells the aunt her boyfriend's a vegetarian and she responds that she'll make him lamb.

    What about mac and cheese or pasta alfredo or risotto on Fridays? I'm not a big fish eater, but I don't mind shrimp so I'll make a shrimp stir fry or mix it in risotto or pasta.

    1. Jmb,
      I can't have carbs, which means all grains and pasta.

    2. Ooops, sorry:) Skim read above. When I make things too hard for myself, I usually fail. Maybe you need to tweak the fast for Fridays and allow some carbs to replace the fish. It's hard to get protein from other sources other than meats, unless of course you are a big fan of Greek Yogurt, cheeses and nuts and soy. I can only do Greek yogurt for breakfast myself.
      There have been years where I didn't do any thing other than the "traditional" basic Lentan fast - no eating in between meals, two small and one regular meal a day, no meat on Ash Wednesday, Fridays and Good Friday.

  6. You're not the only one having a sucky Lent. I am having a lot of health problems right now, and I feel despair and depression setting in. For Ash Wednesday and the next Sunday, talked about suffering uniting us to the cross of Jesus. He emphasized that these days "people just don't want to suffer". Well, guess what, right now I AM one of those people! Suffering is hard, and I feel unworthy to unite my sufferings to Jesus'. Because of my poor health, I am not really fasting, but I am trying to read spiritual books and the Bible every day. It's all I can do right now. Jesus knows where you are, and don't beat yourself up,just do the best you can, and he knows! Sometimes during my ordeal, I couldn't even pray, but I asked my guardian angel to pray for me.

    If you really want to do Stations of the Cross, but can't make it to church, why not do them at home? My oldish bible has the Stations in the middle. Even if you only did 2 a day, you would finish them every week.

    Or you could be like my dad, a convert, who "accidentally" forgets every Friday he can't eat meat. ;)
    Take care, and God Bless. ZBarZona

  7. I hate HATE hate Lent. Years ago a priest recommended Fr. Andrew Schmemann's "Great Lent" when I was struggling with Lent. Maybe it would benefit you too. http://www.amazon.com/Great-Lent-Journey-Alexander-Schmemann/dp/0913836044/ref=la_B001JXH4BU_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361927668&sr=1-1

    Be forewarned though since Fr. Andrew was an Orthodox priest.

    Out of curiosity - why would you go low carb during Lent? I do the grain free thing every once in awhile but never during a fasting season because I could never get through a fast without bread. And speaking of law carb (sorry to digress here) - did you see the news yesterday about the Mediterranean Diet?

    1. Anna,
      Two years ago, my husband and I went low-carb after reading "why we get fat" by Gary taubes. My husband, who really didn't need to lose any weight took off 40 pounds almost over night. It took me longer, but I lost 30+ pounds. This was with absolutely no effort made to exercise.

      Then Halloween happened, I love candy, and it all went down hill, but slowly. It took meawhile, but iI gained it all back and then some. I weigh over 200 pounds.

      I have been depressed, physically miserable, etc., and after skimming "wheat belly" felt motivated to try again. Ash Wednesday was in near proximity to my limit of misery, so that's what I chose to do. I am having a much harder go if it this time around-have not felt immediate positive results like I did last time.

    2. If you're not having results with low carb, have you tried the primal or paleo diets? Sorry I know the subject here isn't diet but it's a subject that's very much on my mind right now since I'm wavering about going grain-free myself. I tried eating primal a few months ago and I felt great and am considering trying it again. Paleo isn't for me since I'm not convinced that dairy is bad. What I liked about primal as opposed to a traditional low carb diet, e.g. Atkins, is that it is focused on "real food," e.g. unprocessed food, lots of vegetables and fruits, grass fed beef and pastured chicken.

      Sorry for derailing your thread.

  8. I just love this - your post and all the comments.

    I have completely lost Lent in my little domestic church. Kids (18+ but living at home) working or in class (the 15yo) on Friday evenings. Husband working then, too. (I TRY to make him a fish dinner to bring to work, but sometimes don't manage, and justify him having meat because he's got to have the protein, etc.) Haven't gone to Stations in several years because of bad schedules.

    Haven't done a parish Wednesday soup night or Friday fish dinner in years...we used to-the whole family-when dh worked days and had weekends off. It's just impossible for us now.

    And I read the Why we get fat, and was totally inspired by it, and but have not managed to lose any weight...Taubes recommends like 9 grams of carb a day. That means no winter squash for sure.

    I can see why you'd pick now to start going carb free. It's hard to give up carbs at any time, why not Lent. I wish you the best, Char!

    1. Thanks, ES!

      I would love to go to a fish fry, but the fish is always battered.

      We have a church fish fry around here that actually offers baked fish. Great, except it's served with bread, potatoes and a teeny weeny little cup of cole slaw.

  9. How about hummus? You'll want to avoid pita chips and the like, but it's equally good, if not better, with raw veggies. It's easy enough to make, and keeps pretty well in the fridge. And it's just loaded with protein.

    I like this recipe, although I add a little more garlic, because it really emphasizes technique over recipe, and the technique works. Prior to this, mine always came perilously close to burning out my food processor and had the consistency of cement.


    1. Geek Lady,
      I LOVE hummus and wouldn't have thought of making it myself. And extra garlic? Bring it on!

      However, from the low-carb point of view, beans are a no-no, although I think that on the primal diet they are OK. Right now, I'm supposed to be limiting carbs to about 25-30 grams a day, which I think hummus would put me over the top.

      But I'll think about it. I do love it.

    2. Ack all these restrictions are why I just don't diet. But then you'd never catch me going low carb anyway. It would kill me.

  10. I was planning a whole boat load of things and then realized that means instant failure. I decided to add one thing and take away one thing. So far it's being going well except today I am having tummy troubles so standing at 40 Days for Life is not in the cards (no bathroom nearby). The item I am fasting from is my special coffee every afternoon. The money I am saving from that is going to our mission in Peru. And that's it.

    If I get to Stations, great. If not, that's fine - it's not an obligatory thing by any means. For meatless Fridays (which are not obligatory in Canada except for Good Friday) we just planned on eating beans, eggs and toast for dinner. Hubby bought 6 cans of beans and we always have eggs so it's cheap, easy and quick.

    I have to say the Pope's resignation has put a whole new twist on this Lent. I am praying a lot for him and for the cardinals going into the conclave.

    So there you have it - prayers for the pope, fasting from coffee and alms giving to our mission.

    So my advice is this: KIS (keep it SIMPLE!) God died for you, nothing you can do during Lent is going to top that :)
    Angela M.

  11. Oh, I realize Stations isn't required...but I love going. My favorite book of readings is the one by St. Alphonsus Liguori (translated into English, of course). And my favorite liturgy-if that's the right word-is for a priest to lead it, with altar boys accompanying, holding candles.

    When I started back to Catholic Mass, in the mid-1980s, the suburban church I went to had modern bas-relief Stations of the Cross, completely white. I honestly didn't know what they were supposed to indicate; I didn't know what Stations of the Cross was either.

  12. I am currently going through something similar. I wanted to do Mass twice a week. Simple, yes? Especially since I could get up early, get the kids up just a little earlier than normal and we can all go to Mass before they head off to school. So far, it's happened once. The Thursday after Ash Wednesday. The rest of the time we've been battling illnesses. When my kids get sick, they get REALLY sick. I know I shouldn't take that as a "Lenten fail" but I can't help but feel discouraged, as if I "overshot" this idea that we'd be able to do it.

    But at least I am doing great without my Mt. Dew. :) Coffee actually wakes me up better than the Dew. (and the no beer is getting easier)

    I also agree with Angela M above about the news of the Pope's resignation but a new twist on this Lent. I truly felt that nothing that I could do individually was going to be just for me specifically, but was going to be for the whole of the Church. I truly felt that we're all going to be united in this and the Church will be better for it, which thus led me to believe the Pope knew EXACTLY what he was doing when he chose the timing for his announcement.