So, it’s Ash Wednesday on the 9th and I have been thinking about what to give up this year. In the past, I’ve considered alcohol, but the whole point of self-denial is that you should try to do without something that you’ll really miss, thus providing yourself with a constant reminder of your faith (like, every time you fancy a cigarette or whatever you’ll go, ‘I would really like a cigarette, but my suffering now is nothing compared to what Jesus went through on the cross, so I’ll get over it for now and maybe I’ll say a prayer and, perhaps, chuck some money into a charity bucket later on’).
In years gone by I’ve figured that I don’t drink often enough to make it a worthwhile thing to give up. However, this year it’s all very different – I’m easily drinking often enough. However, for various reasons I’m finding that the occasional glass of wine or vodka and tonic is doing me a power of good, so I’m not depriving myself of it this year.
Similarly, I could give up sweets. Or I could be hardcore and do what I did last year and give up all sweet things. Last year I did without sweets, chocolate, sugar in my tea, biscuits, cakes, puddings – everything. It was horrible and I got very grumpy towards the end, but it certainly afforded me many opportunities to contemplate my faith. But I can’t do it again, or even give up sweets. Most days sugar is the only thing getting me through from about 3pm onwards, and if I give it up there’s every chance that I’ll start falling asleep on the train on the way home, and waking up in the wilds of Norfolk.
Instead, I’ve designed to give up dairy products. Party people, this is going to be hellishly hard. I really like butter, and cheese, and milk, and ice cream (ice cream would be my junk food of choice, every time). And chocolate. And if I’m not eating dairy products I’m also going to be deprived of delicious things like Eggs Benedict, and I’m going for breakfast with a friend on Thursday morning and would possibly have ordered Eggs Benedict. Damn.