As an adult, I never gave up sweets for Lent. I never gave anything up. Times had changed. More emphasis was placed on doing good and making positive changes. I embraced the new philosophy, happily donating to charity and volunteering for good causes. Until one year . . .
I had started watching a soap opera when my daughter was young. It was a little quiet time for myself. I'd put her down for a nap, fix myself a snack and spend a blissful hour away from reality. When I switched to a day shift, I used a timer to turn on my TV and record the show. In those days, it was only an audio tape. But I had little difficulty identifying the characters by their voices, their problems or the music that preceded their scenes. I was thrilled when my employer developed a flexible hours policy. I chose an early schedule and skipped the lunch break, which allowed me to be home in time for my show. I'd race into the house and turn on the TV. During the first break, I'd fix my lunch and settle in. Sometimes I'd get so involved that I'd forget about eating. The show would end and half my lunch was uneaten. So I'd finish it while watching the next soap. At first just a few minutes, and then, of course, the whole thing. By that time, my daughter was in high school and had started watching a soap when she got home from school. I decided to join her. After all, it's important to share some common interests with your child and we did discuss her day during the commercial breaks. Good parenting, right?
One day I realized that my home had disintegrated. What had happened to my time? The time for cleaning? The time for paying bills that were now overdue and lost in clutter? Why couldn't I do homework for one college class? What had happened to weekly menu plans and shopping trips? I took a cold, hard look at where the time had gone. I faced the reality. I was a soap opera addict.
Lent was approaching. Perhaps I could use this season to moderate my viewing habits. I'd give up soap operas for six weeks. After that I'd probably find it easier to stick with just one. At the very least, I'd have six weeks to catch up with everything that had slipped. Ash Wednesday arrived and I went cold turkey. Stopped reading soap digests. Didn't elicit information from friends. Avoided the living room while my daughter watched her show.
Withdrawal was painful. I tried not to think about my shows, but addiction triggers were everywhere. That guy looks just like Lance. Isn't that Audrey and Jake's song? My friend's problem is just like the one that Elizabeth and Gregory faced. My dreams were filled with imaginary scenes. The pain seemed unending, but after a week of total misery, the addiction gradually loosened it's hold. Organization slowly returned to my life. Days were no longer planned around the soap opera schedule. I felt a new sense of personal power and control.
Suddenly Easter arrived. I had impatiently awaited this day, or more accurately the day after. The day when I would watch my soaps again. Then I realized. It had been a long time since I'd thought about a soap or dreamed about the characters. The intimate details of their lives no longer held any fascination. I just didn't care.
More than 10 years passed before I watched a soap again. While flipping through channels looking for a good movie, I saw it. My old favorite. Feeling both curious and nervous, I selected the channel. What has happened to my show? I don't recognize any of these characters. Just a bunch of silly young kids. Wait. Who is that older woman? No. That can't be Catherine, the famous villainous diva. Why does she have those wrinkles? Why is she giving motherly advice to those young kids? I can't take this. Just leave me with the memories.
I walked away. No, I ran. And I've never been back.
Is there a moral to this story? Did I come to a fuller appreciation of the Lenten season? Did I embrace my mother's Lenten philosophy?
No. I never gave up anything for Lent again. Why? I'm not really sure. Let's just say that Grandma needs to keep a few of her vices.
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