Forty Days

I feel like I should preface this posting with  an advanced apology.  I’m not a religious person, and I honestly have no desire to be.  I grew up in a religious household, and went through my own person transformation to become the person I am today.  Maybe someday that will happen again, but for now I’m good.  That being said, this year I decided to take part in an action that is traditionally religious.  I was not participating completely, not in any way that people might acknowledge with religious rights, or doing any of the praying and spiritual cleansing one might do during this time.  It was not to make less of the time, or to pretend it was not important to others.  I chose to do it because there was an area of my life I felt could use an improvement, and here was an opportunity to act on it.  I hope no one out there takes offence to my actions, and if they do, I am sorry you feel that way.

For anyone who has not figured it out, yes, I decided to participate in Lent this year.  I only had a vague idea of what Lent was.  My childhood home was religious, but in a different way.  Most of what I knew of Lent was from incidental knowledge (friends saying, “I can’t I gave that up for Lent) and from this movie.  Not exactly a lot.  There were little things I could assume, but as I wasn’t looking for a religious awakening, I wasn’t too worried.  (Though if you are, here is the always reliable Wikipedia entry.)

The decision to make a sacrifice for Lent this year was mostly due to my own knowledge that I had a problem.  I was eating too much chocolate.  I know, as far as problems go, it’s not that big of a deal.  But it was.  The chocolate was technically a symptom of a bigger problem.

I was slightly depressed.  I’m not a big fan of people, particularly in large groups, but I was also not used to always being alone.  I have been fighting foot pain that has kept me from the runs that I love, and provided happy inducing endorphins, for almost six months.  I went from teaching preschool, to sitting in front of a desk at home, and juggling my own self made schedule.  Things were not going well all the time, and chocolate was one way to compensate for a bad day.   When it began it was the small occasional piece.  Soon it began to seem as though I was quite dependent on that dopamine release I got from the delicious nibbles of chocolate.  And when you consider that living in Belgium, even the cheap chocolate is amazing?  It seems like it was inevitable I would develop a problem.

So I decided Lent would be my rehab.  I knew I could technically just decide to cut back on chocolate at any time.  But then, who hasn’t heard an addict say they could quit any time they wanted to?  If it was that easy for all of us, we wouldn’t develop a habit to begin with.  No, I needed something solid, a specific time period to focus my efforts on.  As this realization was occurring just before Mardi Gras, (or out here Carnival) it just seemed to fit.  I made the decision to go for it, and off I went.

I suppose a little more planning might have been in order, as things have not gone completely smoothly.  First off, I wasn’t sure exactly when Lent began.  I miraculously ended up starting right on time, as I decided to just start when we took our family trip to Disneyland.  I figured if I started when I was busy, I would let some of the chocolate work itself out of my system when I was too busy to even notice.  It worked great, as it took me almost a week to even miss it.  Once the trip was over and I was just at home, alone, it became a little more difficult, but I already had several days under my belt.  I wasn’t going to give up that easily.

The second largest mistake I made, was miscalculating exactly how long forty days was.  I didn’t do anything smart like count it out, or look it up.  I just figured, forty days, that’s just over a month.  No.  Not so much.  I really thought I would be done right about now, but there are over two weeks left.  Sure, forty days is just a little more than the 30 days of an average month.  However, it’s also just shy of six weeks.  Three weeks equals 21 days.  Six weeks would be 42 days.  That is not just over a month.  That’s about a month and a half.  I can’t say I would have quit knowing that in the beginning, but I can’t say I wouldn’t have.

Now, over halfway through, and still off the chocolate, I have to say I’m kind of glad I plunged in blindly.  If I had known I might not have started, and then I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have.  I can’t say I no longer have any of the problems I had that helped to bring about my chocolate obsession.  I still have to fight the frustration and depression from unwanted changes (and the changes I want but haven’t happened yet).  But now I am fighting in a healthier way.

I’m actually considering another post Lent forty day challenge.  For Lent, you give something up.  Maybe a good follow up would be to add something in for forty days.  They say it takes one hundred days to create a habit.  Maybe forty days is as good a place to start as any.  I already write most days, and run several days a week.  Now I need a forty day challenge, something I want, that I work on everyday for forty days.

What would you add into your life, something you could do to improve your self, everyday for forty days?