Thursday, April 2, 2009
I can't tell you how many times I've muttered this statement. After I've said something that's politically incorrect, cut off school buses in traffic, taken the Lord's name in vain and kept the extra change the cashier accidentally gave me. I've lost of track of how many things I've done that would guarantee me a VIP pass to Satan's lair.
Every year, I act the good Christian and impose a personal penance on myself by giving up something I love for Lent. And every year, I give up sweets. Since I grew up as a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, our Lenten season begins the 7th Monday before Easter since we don't count Sundays when calculating the season of Great Lent.
I don't remember why. I would like to say that I missed that Sunday school class but I had perfect attendance as my personalized Bible will attest, so I'll just chalk it up to old age.
In fact, I never remember that our Lenten season starts sooner so I usually just follow what my Catholic friends do. When I start seeing purple, green and gold Mardi Gras beads in the stores, I know it's time to start gourging myself in anticipation of my weeks of sacrifice.
The first week, usually on the Monday or Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, I go to the grocery store and stock up on fruits, nuts and other healthy snacks. Then I boast to everyone within earshot that I have "given up sweets for Lent" and I bask in the glow of their admiration.
The accolades continue through the second week when, at a staff meeting, I'm presented with the dilemma of whether or not to eat a chocolate chip muffin. It's early and I haven't had breakfast yet so I glance around the room to determine if any of the attendees know about my Lenten endeavor.
The coast is clear so I lovingly place the muffin on a plate, grab a bottle of water and take a seat. A glance at the clock reveals that there are ten minutes before the meeting starts, which is plenty of time to indulge myself in my favorite morning treat. I gaze down at it, plump with chocolate chips peeking out at me and I refrain myself from teasing it with a lick, though the desire is strong.
"Why, Good Morning! I thought you gave up sweets for Lent?" I stop chewing and look up to see the woman that I had made a Lenten pact with just two weeks ago.
"I'm giving up sweets for Lent." I had told her.
"Oh my gosh, me too. How perfect! We can be each other's support."
I think back to that fateful encounter as I pretend that I'm still chewing, my mind racing for an explanation.
"I'm sorry. What did you say?" Because don't you always say this to buy yourself some extra time?
"I said, Didn't you give up sweets for Lent?" her arms are now folded across her chest and she's leaning on one hip.
"Me? Oh....oh...I know...you must have misunderstood. What I said was that I was giving up candy, not all sweets."
"Oh, okay." she replied as she took a banana and sat down across from me.
By week three, the plethora of drugstore Easter candy starts showing up in bunny dishes atop file cabinets and desks around the department. I spoon a handful of black jelly beans (my favorite) into my hand as I'm walking out of the clinic.
"I thought you said you were giving up candy for Lent?" a voice calls to me and I fear turning around, knowing it's my support buddy.
"Hey, hi! What? Candy? No, no...what I said was that I was giving up chocolate. Not all candy because, you know, chocolate is my favorite and it is the biggest sacrifice. These jelly beans? I could take 'em or leave 'em. Hey, how are you doing?"
"Good! No sweets at all. We're doing really good!" she beams.
"We sure are. Yay, us!" I turn to walk out and grab a tissue to wipe the jelly bean blackness off my sweaty palms.
Week four arrives and I have Sunday dinner with my parents. After we eat, my mother goes into the other room and comes back with her hand behind her back.
"Guess what I have? You're fav-or-ite..." She brings her arm around front and opens her cupped hand to reveal Cadbury eggs; the most amazing once a year confection ever invented.
I grab them from her and eagerly start to unwrap one.
"Hey!" my sister scowls at me, "I thought you gave up sweets?"
"What? No....no...I decided against it this year."
Oh, I'm definitely goin' to Hell for this. Anyone care to join me?