Ash Wednesday sort of came and went with little notice for me this year. Usually I consider giving up something for Lent: meat, television, and that one disastrous year I gave up coffee.
This year, however, I just couldn’t get into the spirit of self-denial. In my defense, when Ash Wednesday rolled around on Feb. 26, I was dealing with a nasty secondary infection after having had the flu and I had been distracting myself by watching cable news, which was about as much suffering as I was willing to endure.
As the last three weeks have unfolded, it seems I’ve missed a golden “Lenten opportunity.” COVID-19 has taken the American imagination captive and in doing so has provided an endless list of things to give up. So, I have decided that although I was a couple of weeks late to the Lenten game, I can make up for lost time by giving up multiple things for Lent and thus reach April 9 with the same karmic balance as everyone who started on Feb. 26.
The problem I have now is that there are so many things to give up that I can’t decide between them, so dear reader, I need your help, I am going to lay out the list of things I’ve come up with and then ask you to help me narrow it down to two or three items. Also, I am open to suggestions if you find mine wanting.
Obviously, shaking hands was the first thing that came to mind, but remember I had the flu for two weeks before Lent and I had already given up shaking hands so this just feels like cheating. Looking at my 401(k) is a distinct possibility.
For the past 10 years, taking a glance at my retirement savings has been a guilty pleasure. I look at the insane returns on my investments and pat myself on the back while smugly thinking I’m a financial genius. The past three weeks have made realize a bull market does not make me a genius, so perhaps ignoring my losses will help me believe a bear market does not mean I’m an idiot.
Watching cable news is definitely something I’m considering abstaining from. The nightly ritual of watching pundits cast blame and point fingers has started making me feel like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.” Each day on cable news just seems like a slightly worse version of the day before. I’ve thought about giving up gathering with large crowds, but this would mean giving up church and giving up church for Lent causes me some cognitive dissonance, so I will hold off on that.
Finally, I’ve considered abstaining from social media, but all of those coronavirus memes are just so funny that I’m not sure I can deprive myself of them. I mean, have you seen the one with the Corona beer ... OK, maybe I can give that up.
I think the best thing I can give up is worrying about all of this. In my life, I have survived car crashes, the mumps, chickenpox, the Cold War and “The Flying Nun” (what’s more amazing is Sally Field’s career survived that), and I’m still here. Something will eventually get me, but worrying about it won’t add a day to my life. One thing I will not give up is hope.
We live in the best possible moment of history, an age where we can actually do something about lethal viruses. Our ancestors were not as fortunatel they had to ride out pandemics without vaccinations or antibiotics. They never gave up hope, nor should we.