Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Year of Lents

by Cara McKenna

I wanted to share something that my evil conjoined romance-writing twin Meg Maguire is getting up to in the new year on her blog, so pardon me while I switch hats… Okay, here's Meg.

When I was a kid, I was always secretly jealous of my Catholic friends who, in my mental wording, "got to do" Lent each spring. It seemed so romantic to me, this notion of doing without for a month. So noble and selfless. My consciousness of Lent started in the late eighties as well, which meant I was also being bombarded with media mentions of "dieting". How grown up the women on TV were, always suffering for their diets! Suffering and going without seemed so sophisticated. Clearly Catholicism is genetic, as I was raised agnostic yet inherited all the guilt and self-loathing enjoyed by my foremothers.

Already, I'm going off topic. The point is, I've decided to do an entire year of Lent-like experiments. Every month in 2011, I'm going to either go without a vice or luxury, or else commit to doing a certain positive thing each day. No moral I'm trying to prove, here—there's no point to this exercise aside from challenging myself and giving myself a healthy shove toward the edge of my comfort zone. I've come to realize in past few years just how adaptable humans are, and I want to explore that a bit more, and hopefully surprise myself with my own flexibility and will.

Here's the schedule for what I'm calling my Discipline Year (you may take that in either the punitive or reverent sense, as I expect it'll be both):

1 GYMUARY For January, each and every day I will go to the gym—a twelve-minute walk from my house. Probably not the best month to pick this one since the weather in New England can be Russian roulette, but I've been slacking badly the last few weeks, so the sooner the better. And don't worry, I won't go nuts. I'll switch between cardio and yoga and group classes and swimming so I don't injure myself.

2 FACE-OFF FEBRUARY In February, I will forgo wearing make-up the entire month. There is a reason, aside from consonance, that I picked this shortest month to not wear make-up. I like the stuff and I've been wearing it since I was about fourteen or fifteen. But I'd like to see just how differently I'll feel about myself if I go without it for a few weeks.

3 MEAGER MARCH No frivolous purchases for the month of March. That means clothes, silly stuff from CVS, coffees or drinks while I'm out and about, iTunes or book downloads…spending on necessities and groceries only. (Alcohol counts as a grocery item, however, as the hideousness that is temperance is coming later in the year.) I'm not too worried about this one.

4 NO #&$%@! APRIL For April, I'm putting the cabash on my potty-mouth, from "damn" and "hell" on up the line of profanity. This will go for out loud swearing as well as tweets and blog posts, though my characters are still allowed to cuss their everloving heads off in my manuscripts, as always. I honestly have no clue how hard this will be, and since my swearing is more habitual than willful, I will have to come up with a penance system for when I inevitably slip up…a dollar to charity or something like that.

5 MEAT-FREE MAY I'll be going vegetarian for the month of May. For now this means no meat, including poultry and seafood. I'm open to tossing eggs and dairy into the mix and upgrading to vegan… I'd miss having cream in my coffee each morning, but if I'm feeling brave at the end of April, I'll up the ante.

6 NO JAVA JUNE That's right, no coffee. I'm dreading this one. I'm allowing caffeine, but substituting rooibus and green tea and maté will not make my grief any more bearable. Coffee is as much a comforting ritual to me as it is a chemical fix.

7 JUJUBE-FREE JULY That is to say, no candy. No extraneous sugar. If a food such as wine or fruit contains natural sugar, that's fine, but no candy, sweet drinks, pastries, or packaged food with sugar as one of its top five listed ingredients.

8 UP AND AT 'EM AUGUST For August I will set my alarm and rise promptly at five a.m. each morning. Normally I get up around six thirty, but I want to see exactly what I might get accomplished in those bonus ninety minutes before the rest of the world wakes up and demands my attention. Perhaps it will just be a lot of yawning, but perhaps it will be an entire extra novella.

9 SWITCH OFF SEPTEMBER In September, I will go without TV. Considering I don't own one, this should be easy, right? Hell no. Thanks to Hulu and Instant Watcher, I've got a mean TV habit going on, and I'll need to figure out other ways to enjoy my lunch hour or unwind at five aside from tuning in to my beloved crappo reality shows. Movies will be acceptable.

10 OMMM-CTOBER For October, I will commit to practicing yoga either at home or in a class for at least forty-five minutes each day. It's something I used to do before writing became my sacred daily practice, and I'm looking forward to reconnecting with it.

11 NOVEMBOOZE That's right, no alcohol for the month of November. I'm dreading this almost as much as the coffee month. And I did pick a holiday month on purpose, just to make it tougher. If I wind up with a contract or a release date in November, I'll just have to get creative with my celebrating. Perhaps a cupcake or a new necklace in place of the usual champagne.

12 DONATE DECEMBER Each day in December I will go through my clothes and other possessions and pick one nice thing to add to a Salvation Army-type donation box. December's usually stressful, and this is an easy one for me. Getting rid of older stuff feels good, and it makes room for new and exciting things to come into one's life. Seems like a good choice for the end of the year and the holiday season.

So that's the deal! The Super Lucky #1 Fun Blog will be like my 12-step meetings, so expect lots of whiny posts as I struggle through my various withdrawals and am tempted by seductive relapses. The first week of June should be especially entertaining as you watch me break up with my precious codependent lover, coffee. Oh how I will plead to get him back! And as early as next week you'll probably see posts about how very little I feel like sloshing through the icy slush to go to the gym. Stay tuned and watch me crumble. Or if you're similarly masochistic, join me for a month! If you do, let me know. I'd happily welcome any guest posters who wish to share their own self-denial experiments.


Brenda Williamson said...

OMG, I might make it through the first month, only because dieting and exercise is like a Jan tradition around here. And I can easily do the second month since I don't usually wear makeup, but the third, no way! My full-time job is shopping, so naturally I blindly buy things for myself. It would take a very concious effort on my part to not buy silly stuff.

Wynter Daniels said...

Good for you. All your lent-like sacrifices sound they will make up for an interesting year. They all sound doable - except February. Makeup isn't negotiable;-)

Cara McKenna said...

You buy stuff for a living, Brenda? Please to explain! I'm intrigued…

And Wynter, I'm with you. That's the month I'm dreading most. I'm curious to see if I turn into a complete hermit in February. Funny (and perhaps a touch sad) how NOT wearing make-up can make us feel so conspicuous!

Savannah Stuart said...

Your goals are quite impressive! The no-makeup thing would probably do me in. I don't wear a lot but I do wear mascara and the thought of my eyes being 'bald'...shudder *g*. The only other month I wouldn't want to do is October but only b/c I don't like yoga.

I hope you keep us updated on your progress!

Cara Bristol said...

What a neat idea. I admire your commitment. If you were into writing nonfiction magazine articles, your progress would be a great one for Real Simple magazine.

September would be tough for me. That's when all the new TV shows premiere.