Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Paczki Day or whatever nickname you prefer to use to honor the last splurge day before Lent. It is traditionally celebrated as a day to indulge in any or all of your bad habits before giving them up for 40 days (until Easter Sunday). I grew up Catholic in a predominantly Polish and Irish community. I ate paczkis (pronounced ‘poon-sh-keys’) and listened to my friends talk about what food items they would be giving up for Lent. It was usually chocolate, candy, or some other small treat that kids can’t live without. I never gave up anything, because it sounded terrible! My mother told me that it was more important instead to give something of yourself to other people during Lent versus concentrating solely on giving up a food item. That is a very abstract concept for a nine year old to grasp, but I tried anyway. I would try to say one nice thing to a classmate each day or not fight with my brother on the way home. I wasn’t perfect during those 40 days, but I tried and I think I came out better for it each year. So with Lent (and my birthday!) quickly approaching, I am making a list of things I’m giving up and going after for Lent and the new year as a whole.
- Powering down after dinner (7pm) – A radio DJ in the Twin Cities challenged listeners a couple of years ago to power down their devices (smart phones, tablets, kindles, laptops) after 7pm every Tuesday for one year. He called it “no tech Tuesday” and I thought it was such a great idea to get people more engaged with their family and friends while they’re at home. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard to do, but not using technical devices in the evening is so second nature. For Lent, I’m going to give this challenge a try. My hope is that by powering down in the evening I will give more attention to places where I should be putting it — my husband, household chores, errands, the gym, reading, catching up with friends, etc.
- No artificial sugar – This one is going to be beyond tough for me. Growing up and in college I had the biggest sweet tooth. I had to end almost every meal with dessert and could eat an entire plate of chocolate chip cookies if it was in front of me. Thankfully, that craving went away once my tastebuds changed in my early 20s. However, since learning more about clean eating over the past few years I’ve learned that every day food items (yogurt, ketchup, cereal) have a ton of artificial sugars in them for added taste. I’m going to satisfy sweet cravings by eating fresh berries and using agave nectar and veering away from anything that comes in a wrapper or box (a general good rule of thumb). It isn’t realistic that I’ll be able to stay away from all artificial sugars, but I’m going to try my damndest!
- Correspondence – Even though I’m usually near my phone or computer during the day, I don’t think that I’m the best at keeping up correspondence with my friends and family. I’m going to be better about this by sending postcards, letters, emails, texts, and phone calls to the people that I don’t communicate with enough. It is very easy for me to get lost in the people and things that are immediately around me and lose touch with those who live farther away. I’m hoping that after these 40 days I’ll make this more of a habit.
- Putting myself out there – Networking and making new friends was very easy for me when I was in my 20s. When I lived in New York, D.C., and Boston, it was much more natural to meet new people because you came across them at every turn. Whether I was in the subway, on line at a store, or at an after work happy hour, I was in close proximity to strangers all the time. I also worked in fields that lent themselves to meeting new people. Now that I live in Detroit and work from home, I have to make a real effort to make new friends and network with people who have similar career interests. My goal over the next 40 days is to be an active participant in the world of which I am already a part. Making small steps such as volunteering at church, attending weekly game nights/trivia, or going to a gallery exhibit downtown will help me to get out of my comfort zone in a lot of ways.
- Give more compliments – I realized a long time ago that a simple nice word to someone goes a long way. I often think about how great a coworker, family member, or friend is and then don’t mention it to them. I think everyone can be a little hard on themselves sometimes, so why not give someone a compliment when you realize how much you appreciate the little or big things that they do?
Whether you observe Lent or not, I think that it is always a good idea to try and challenge yourself. I have a lot of areas for improvement, but I think these 5 are a good start. Before the countdown begins, it’s time to eat a giant cheeseburger at Shake Shack and a paczki from Dutch Girl Donuts. Mmmm!