I don’t do Lent. It’s not that I don’t believe in the idea of doing without and it’s not that I don’t appreciate the lessons learned through delayed gratification and sacrifice. It’s not about a lack of fortitude or willpower. I’ve lived 17 years without caffeine after being told by my obstetrician that caffeine and pregnancy wasn’t a great combination. I took my last sip of soda when a chemistry experiment in college revealed the ratio of sugar to water in the classic version and the equivalent ratio of sodium to water in the diet version. At different times in my life I’ve eliminated sugar, carbohydrates, meat, and dairy in a quest for a healthy body. Like many moms, when the budget gets tight, I can pretend that I’m growing my hair out, embrace my gray as highlights, give up gas money so my daughter can buy a school dance ticket, and avoid the grocery store and imagine that I am a contestant on a game show where the challenge is to concoct family meals from leftovers from the refrigerator and/or ingredients found in the cupboard.
But the real truth is that I am simply not hard wired to give up. When I was learning to sew as a young girl, I was impatient and had no natural affinity for the task. But after many tears, ripped out seams, staying up past my bedtime and being impossible to live with, I finished my first project of a brown flowered maxi skirt. Since then I’ve worked in a costume shop, sewn three wedding dresses, many bridesmaid dresses, homecoming gowns, baby clothes, stuffed animals, window treatments and slipcovers. I’ve lost at love, yet refused to believe that my prince wasn’t right around the next corner. I’ve placed the last kiss on my child’s forehead, but refused to sink into the beguiling abyss of grief. I’ve run marathons and crossed finish lines long before younger and fitter athletes whose only weakness was that they gave up on their goal. As a girl I watched the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical of Cinderella and identified not with Lesley Ann Warren as she sang in disbelief “Impossible,” but rather with Celeste Holm the fairy godmother who countered with her own version of “Possible” finally convincing Cinderella as the mice became the footmen and the pumpkin the coach. In my professional life, I’ll change strategies, gather new insights, but if I’m confident about the goal, I never, ever give up.
So, if you ask me what did you give up easily or gladly? I’d have to answer nothing. But if you ask me what I have let go of easily or gladly? I would have one single answer: excuses. Excuses make the possible suddenly impossible, but strangely palatable. They make stopping short of the finish line seem like a great idea. Excuses are the experts who cover up insecurities and give a false sense of security. So this Lent I’ll be following the words of Winston Churchill proclaiming to “never, never, never give up” while musing on Rudyard Kipling’s “We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse.”