Lent 2021: Self-Control & Self-Love

            One of the few remaining practices of my “supposed to be” Catholicism is my annual observance of Lent. From Ash Wednesday to Easter (because I’m extra), I pick and choose a few things to sacrifice, to try, and to observe. The mileage on those 46 days can vary; some years are harder than others. My uncle used to joke he gave up Lent for Lent, and that would be easier. Regardless of religion or spirituality, there’s something cleansing and powerful about focusing on improvement for a set amount of time—and making a change.

            In the past, I’ve most commonly given up soda. However, since that’s turned into a rare treat nowadays anyway that didn’t seem like much of a sacrifice. My hardest Lent was the year I gave up table salt and could only use what I cooked with—no extra shakers. I’ve done minor fasting and fish on Fridays. I’ve given up certain social media apps. This year I wanted to focus not only on sacrifice but growth as well. So, keeping in mind the idea of what would actually be a challenge to give up but also thinking of self-improvement, I found two answers.

            During Lent, I didn’t buy new Squishmallows and I also listened to 43 episodes of a podcast called The Self-Love Fix.

            Technically, my hiatus from Squishmallow purchases began prior to Lent, but continuing into the season made it more of a challenge. I would see the hauls and purchases of other collectors on social media and know I couldn’t follow through until after Easter. This, if anything, pushed the whole point of Lent more. Every day I’d see new Squishmallows or variations of the old Squishmallows or ones I didn’t have, and feel such want. However, that want was a reminder of what I was sacrificing. This made the eventual post-Lent hunt all the sweeter (and frustrating). In the past few months, Squishmallows have really taken off, even here in Reno/Sparks, and it took me four stores to find any of the plush and five stores to find one I wanted to actually buy (so sue me I’m picky). Then, because I gave myself a budget and have apparently not learned much after Lent, I jumped in my car at the first restock notification and bought one I’d been so excited for during the months of drought. Was it worth it? Yes. Am I ready to give up the hunt? Slowly, yes.

            The podcast, on the other hand, was all about growth, reflection, and development. Initially, I said I’d just listen to the first episode and, if it wasn’t for me, I’d find something else. But from “The 7 Ways to Tell You are Walking in Self Love” to “Q&A’s: Confidence, Positive Thoughts, Overthinking, & More!” I kept coming back. Beatrice Kamau is a ray of sunshine, and I love how her brand of relatability, knowledge, and versatility comes into play with the various topics. She never tries to be anyone other than herself, but, through that, she is just who you want to have these kinds of conversations with at times – especially on some of the harder topics. Whether she’s talking about narcissists, astrology, personal boundaries, or emotional vulnerability, it’s all handled with honesty, humor, and thoughtfulness. I was also able to talk through some of the things I’d learned or mulled over with others so it became a good conversation starter. This is a Lenten practice I plan on keeping up; it was so nice every night to light a candle, have a cup of tea, and relax and think through things.

            What did this Lent bring me? A chance to reflect on my obsessions and traumas, my past and future, my loves and dislikes, what I want and what I need…Perhaps, in its actual religious sense, it wasn’t what it should have been (I did prepare things for almsgiving), but for my purposes it was more than usual and more than enough. I feel renewed and ready for spring.