some thoughts on being a “good Catholic”

This Ash Wednesday came and went, and I got to be part of the city that walked around all evening with ashes on my forehead. A tourist on the subway craned her neck to see what the heck was on my face, and a guy with his own set of ashes made eye contact and nodded at me when I was transferring to the second train. 

Most years I give up sugar and all forms of pastries whenever lent comes back around. It’s one of my few true vices so I feel like every year is me explaining to friends why I can’t eat meat on Fridays and why we can’t get bubble tea until Easter. I’m usually pretty casual about it, especially with friends who don’t subscribe to any particular religion or who didn’t grow up with or near a religious community. I’m pretty “whatever” about the whole thing. 

But I’m trying to change that. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean I’m going to go all bleeding heart, bible thumper on a corner screaming at people who walk by (I work near a corner where a guy is out almost every day doing this). I want to take a spiritual approach to lent this year and learn more about myself. 

How will I do this you ask (or didn’t?)

I’m still giving up sugar, but I’m not just giving it up to give it up. I spend way too much time leaning on sugary treats to self soothe when I’m stressed, or upset. It’s a quick fix to my problems. And by fix I mean it just distracts me until I calm down and I’m ready to tackle it again. But that isn’t the healthiest way to deal with life. And I need a sort of physical and mental reset for myself and for my health. 

Lent is a lot like a reset. It’s an interesting reset. Jesus was a baby a few months ago, he’s an adult again and apparently walking through a desert somewhere and he’s working on a reset too. 

So how do we commemorate that?

We do it by trying to be our best selves. 

For some people that means giving up sugar. Others it means more time for meditation instead of watching YouTube videos or binging on Netflix. Or working out more or doing something else that’s productive instead of procrastinating and “waiting for tomorrow.” It means volunteering and advocating other people around us. It means learning to be kinder, more patient even. 

It also means being kind to yourself if you mess up because it happens. We all mess up and we all try to find ways to learn from it. Let’s be kind to ourselves this Lent, and let’s see if we can get a little closer to our better selves and maybe even a better world. 

Angely Mercado is a freelancer and editor based in NYC. She writes about news, Latinidad, women empowerment & freelancing. Her work has been featured in Lenny Letter, NPR, Brooklyn Based, HelloGiggles and more.
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Angely Mercado is a freelancer and editor based in NYC. She writes about news, Latinidad, women empowerment & freelancing. Her work has been featured in Lenny Letter, NPR, Brooklyn Based, HelloGiggles and more.

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