Metro-East Living

Lenten sacrifices don’t come easy

By Terry Mackin

Terry can’t eat just one M&M. He calls them “vitamins.”
Terry can’t eat just one M&M. He calls them “vitamins.”

Annually, I learn a lot about myself during Lent. Again.

I learn that abstinence always makes me really, really want what I can’t have.

Like Girl Scout cookies.

Culver’s hot fudge sundaes.

And vinegar salt potato chips.

During Lent, I learn that I am easily led into temptation, especially when it’s something I really, really enjoy and pledge that I can’t have.

Like plain M&Ms.

Or watching college basketball games on TV.

Or Nehi grape soda.

I’m good at making sacrifices during Lent.

But historically, I’m not so good at holding to them.

As a Catholic, I’ve been observing the season of Lent in preparation for Easter every spring since grade school when the old nuns told us to write down our sacrifice on a piece of paper.

Of course, I wrote down whatever would make the nuns or teachers happy. No candy. No TV. No fighting with my brothers. No lying to the old nuns. Right.

Over the years, you name it, and I’ve tried giving it up for Lent.

Chocolate. TV. Soda. Ice cream. Fingernail biting. Beer. Girl Scout cookies. Lying. Swearing. Pizza. Sleeping late. Cheeseburgers. Listening to Springsteen. Reading the sports websites. Golf. Chicken wings. Ted Drewes. ESPN. Fried fish.

I’ve failed more times than I’ve succeeded.

If I can’t have it, then I crave it.

What am I giving up this Lenten season?

I’m keeping quiet until Easter. But let’s be honest. On my final judgment day of reckoning, I doubt I’ll be negotiating Girl Scout cookies, chicken wings, sleeping late or watching ESPN.

But I’ll give you a few hints by sharing what I am not giving up for Lent, based on past experiences:

Ice cream: I’ve given up ice cream numerous Lents. Told my world. Of course, they laughed. All I could think about were my friends, Ben & Jerry.

Girl Scout cookies: I resisted the Thin Mints. Bragged to my peers. But once the box of Trefoils (shortbread) opened, well, it was like those little squares talked to me. I’m not sure what “Trefoil” means. But I’ve always assumed it meant three per bite.

Chocolate: I’ve sworn off chocolate at least 40 Lents. I’m successful until I hear the ping of M&Ms into a glass bowl. Try to eat just one M&M. Vitamins, I call them.

Fried fish on Fridays: One year, I actually tried to give up one of the true treats of Lent. Cod cut-ups. French fries. Onion rings. But I surrendered while driving by St. Henry’s gym on West Main in Belleville on a Friday evening. It’s a Catholic thing. The scent of fried fish, homemade desserts and draft beer called me home. Lent or not, I’ve learned a guy will eat just about anything that’s battered and deep fried.

Foul language: I figured giving up food was fruitless. So I gave up cussing once. Again, I told everyone about my penance, using very polite, considerate, politically correct language. Generally, I don’t cuss a lot. Damn. Locked my keys in my car again. Then the lawn mower would not start. #@&*!

Bad days. We all have them.

My iPod: For 40 days and nights, not once did I put on my earplug headphones and tune out the rest of my world. My iPod is like a musical version of “This is your musical life, Terry Mackin.” I was proud of that Lenten accomplishment.

It should not be so hard. I’m a lucky man to have what I have in life. Making a small, temporary sacrifice should not be an issue. But I’m also human. Tell me what I can’t have and that’s all I think about.

Sad, really.

Weak, too.

So what have I given up for Lent this year?

Shhhh. I’m still OK but I’m not home free yet. Easter is a few weeks away. From experience, I know I’m easily led into temptation, especially if it tastes, sounds, looks or feels really good.