Okay, so nobody said anything about elephants, which is good because although I haven’t seen a live elephant in at least a week, I have been hooked on a herd of elephants from the book The Elephant Whisperer, by the late author, Lawrence Anthony. And I refuse to give up either the book or the real life adventure that is South African wildlife viewing. Not during Lent. Not during our entire time living in Africa.
On my list of 24 books by 24 South African writers in 24 months, The Elephant Whisperer has become one of my favorites. So I thought I would combine my Lenten post with this new Writer Wednesday favorite. Kurt’s now reading it and we’re both looking forward to reading Anthony’s The Last Rhinos as well.
But wait. What the heck do elephants have to do with Lent? Well, nothing, really, except that during Lent you give up something you really enjoy, right? At least some years feel like that kind of torture, depending on what you give up for those 40 days.
Today is the first day of Lent, and while Kurt and I do not have all the same rituals as some, we enjoy choosing one or two things to give up during this traditional period of fasting.
But this year, we’re trying something new!
I introduced a friend here to the way some of us Americans celebrate the Tuesday before Lent. Known as Shrove Tuesday in many parts of the world, and apparently celebrated with pancakes in a lot of places, the Tuesday before Lent is a day of indulgence in the things which will be given up for Lent. In The States we call it “Fat Tuesday” (the translation of “Mardi Gras” from French to English). I took her and a few colleagues some cupcakes from a local coffee shop so I could spread the indulgence around a bit.
While Americans in different parts of the country celebrate it differently (and some even barely note its passing except to turn on the television to watch the New Orleans orgy of beads and alcohol and music) many of us who already know what we’ll be giving up for Lent have extra helpings of that item on Fat Tuesday.
My past 40 days of torture included items like Coke, coffee, chocolate, or a combination of sugary sweets. I’ve also included things like television and other habits I wanted to try to break by having total abstinence for a period of time.
Although I like to call it “torture,” Lent isn’t meant to be punishment. It’s meant to be a way to strengthen our virtues and weaken our vices.
A friend of mine from the states sent me a message about their Lenten restraints this year and I was blown away. She, her husband, and their daughter have each chosen something to give up, and they have each given a request to each other of something they would like to see their loved ones change.
I was really moved by their new Lenten tradition, and Kurt and I have decided to incorporate a similar tradition (although we are a little chicken and opted to give each other choices). We have given each other 3 things we would like the other person to remove or add for 40 days, and we each get to pick one of the three things.
The 3 options I gave Kurt are:
- Have 3 workout sessions per week, no matter what, even if it means three nights in a row, or going on a Saturday or Sunday, whatever it takes to get 3 a week (minimum 20 minutes in a session).
- Drink a cup of green tea once per day.
- No sugar-added drinks of any kind: no coke, iced tea, anything. Only water or unsweetened (not artificially sweetened) beverages such as unsweetened tea, milk, or fresh squeezed juices without added sugar.
Although he only had to pick one, Kurt decided to make one of them his own Lenten change as well, so he is doing both 1 and 3.
The 3 options Kurt gave me are:
- No swearing
- No coffee
- At least three cardio sessions a week. (at least 20 min.) [He knows that while I work out 5 days a week on strength training, my cardio sessions are hit or miss]
I chose 1 and 3 also, but added a 3rd item not on the list (uh yeah, not that whole coffee deal.)
So what is my self-imposed Lenten change for 40 days?
24 hours of writing/revision per week. I’ve already paved the way to some of those hours by making Monday and Wednesday black-out days where the only online interaction I can have is related to my writing career, but I will be keeping track of my time better.
I have allowed the mandate that “spouses are not to work in South Africa” to lure me into a sense of complacency. I dropped the discipline I had while working for others. It’s time for a reboot of those work ethics and start giving them to myself again. We spent a lot of money on my Master’s degree (MFA) in Writing, and it’s time to get back to work.
And yeah, maybe part of what it means to be a traveling writer is experiential. It involves a little bit of time viewing elephants and other wildlife, or reading The Elephant Whisperer a second time, and maybe even taking a trip to the famous Thula Thula Reserve from the book. But I’m spending too much time gathering ideas and not enough setting them to paper and sharing the work with others. So those 24 hours don’t include the “fun stuff”. It is for the writing, the revision, the not-so-fun task of seeing a manuscript through to the end, cutting out sections I love for the greater good of the story, and meeting deadlines even when the sun is shining and I know there are cuddly lion cubs only an hour’s drive away.
So, readers, I’m sure I’m not the only one taking herself to task this Lent. What are your additions and deletions for the next 40 days?
MORE TRAVELING MARLA POSTS ABOUT LENT:
MORE TRAVELING MARLA POSTS ABOUT 24 SOUTH AFRICAN BOOKS IN 24 MONTHS: