As for the practice of giving up or adding in something for lent, people hold theories from punishment to self-improvement, breaking an addiction to developing a habit, abstinence to cultivating desire.
This year, I’m giving up style. Well, as much as is possible anyway. For the weeks of lent I won’t wear makeup or jewelry, and my clothing options will be limited to a few pairs of pants and a stack of black T-shirts. Although that is considered a style for certain people, that’s not the case for me, who has a closet full of jewel-tones and a history of teal hair. It’s an abstinence. But also, a mercy.
I’ve gained weight since having moved to Seattle. It’s not entirely a bad thing: I’ve been learning to cook, and found that I love the intimacy with food, the layers of colors found in vegetables as they’re sliced, the scent of spices, the texture of bread from the oven. I feel connected to what goes into my body, in tune with the complexity of flavors, in a way that I never have taken the time to do before. I enjoy food.
The down side, of course, is that I spend a good amount of time every morning hating every item in my closet, hating having to make choices, hating the mirror, and most of all, hating hating hating my body. That added junk in the trunk, pockets inside my thighs, the slight layer of padding that makes an underwire sink into my chest. I spend most days in pajamas until I absolutely need to get dressed for school, dreading that moment.
Eliminating choices in clothing will free up all that time I spend hating myself, if it doesn’t alleviate the hate itself. I’m going to cover the mirror above my dresser with cloth to help direct my morning focus away from my appearance. However, it’s important to me that I don’t deny my bodily self. That would be both the easy way out and a hell of out-of-touch-ness that I know from my past. I thought about using the time to add to my work out – longer runs! more reps of weights! – but I recognize that as a temptation: it would make this season entirely about achieving a goal, of restoring my body to what it was a year ago. Instead, I want to love my body and my food. My time will instead be spent in yoga or meditation: habits that will invite and draw me into my body, cultivating gratitude for it as it is, without the ‘benefit’ of weight loss.
“Jesus says: ‘Be compassionate!’ He wants our compassion to begin at home, he wants us to be compassionate toward our own body and soul. Since friendly relations with another spring from friendly relations with yourself, you should meditate on how it is that the soul loves the body. And consider too how it is that the body is more in the soul than the soul is in the body.” – Meister Eckhart