Sunday, April 8, 2012

Forty Days in the Desert Without Candy

cadbury cream egg

Giving up things for Lent is still kind of new for me. The year that I gave up Pop Tarts two years ago was the first year that I did it in any kind of a serious sense, and then last year I didn't give up anything because I was still working on my faith. I don't mean to say that like my faith is totally worked out now, because it's not. It's evolving, and part of that evolution is thinking and testing and, sometimes, giving things up for Lent.

This year, I gave up candy for Lent, and it totally made me a better person.

I know what you're thinking. You're probably sitting back and thinking something like, "Whatever. During Lent, we should be working hard to better ourselves. Sure, you can give up chocolate and post it to facebook to receive attention to replace the candy, but does that better you?" and I want to say that yes, it did.

Giving up candy taught me the meaning of sacrifice, because nothing takes the place of candy.

mini cups

If you give up soda, you can drink juice and water. I know, because I've been doing that since January, when I gave up soda for New Year's. I've been drinking a lot of Crystal Light at home (store brand, mostly), and at work I drink cold tap water all day long. I haven't had any soda this year, at all, not even a little, but it really hasn't been that bad because you can drink other things. When I go out, I have a lemonade or a milkshake or a juice, and I'm fine. Sure, for the first couple of weeks of January I had blinding headaches from caffeine withdrawal and I went to bed ridiculously early, but giving up soda hasn't taught me anything because I can drink something else.

The same thing happened the year I gave up Pop Tarts. I was eating Pop Tarts for breakfast every morning, but I didn't suddenly stop eating breakfast because I gave them up. Instead I had an apple or a yogurt, mostly yogurt. Giving up Pop Tarts was a minor inconvenience, at best, and mostly just left me with a feeling of semi-shallow "I gave something up for Lent this year!" accomplishment.

To be blunt: When I gave up Pop Tarts for Lent, I didn't learn a damn thing.

But, like I said, you can't replace candy with anything.

bitten cup

When you're sad, candy is a pick-me-up. When you're hungry, a bite of candy from the dish in your office can tide you over until lunch. When your coworkers want to cheer you up or distract you from the fact that they're bringing you something a week late and still only half complete, they show up at your office with peanut butter cups. When you forgot to eat breakfast, a handful of Starburst is practically a fruit salad. Sure, you can feed yourself that line that you can have fruit, and that raisins are nature's candy, but we all know that's a crock.

Daria said it best in "Pinch Sitter": "Then why do they have to cover them in chocolate to sell them at the movies?"

Not only is candy irreplaceable, but it is also ubiquitous. Every store I go to in my regular routine has candy by the register except for the comic store and the used bookstore. (For the same reason: You don't put food near things that are damaged by food. I'm not sure why Barnes and Noble doesn't get this, but their candy selection rivals a hospital gift shop.) A number of my colleagues in other offices have candy dishes on their desks or front counters. I can't even pay for gas without seeing candy, and gas and candy have nothing to do with each other. They shouldn't even be near each other, but somehow, they are, and every time I stopped to fill my tank I had to stare into the station and look at the candy and not have any.

So, what did I learn?

I learned to appreciate the things that I have. I lead a very fortunate life if the worst problem I run into over the course of a month is, "I really want a peanut butter cup." I have the freedom to give something up, rather than the forced neccessity of going without.

I learned that temptation really is everywhere, and when you're trying to avoid something it ends up being the only thing you see. Everywhere you go, you see candy. I couldn't tell you a single headline on any of the magazines I saw at Kroger last night (Something about Kim Kardashian? More reminders that Jennifer Aniston is going to die alone while Brad Pitt raises an entire baseball team of children?) but I can tell you that Cadbury Cream Eggs are three for a dollar.

And, finally, I learned that when you spend a really long time coveting something, and building it up in your head, and convincing yourself that it's going to be the best thing ever, it often turns out to be a disappointment.

sliced cadbury cream egg

I've only eaten seven pieces of candy this morning.


George Timson said...

Nice work Joel. I believe it was close to 15 years ago now that I gave up religion for lent and going strong still - none of this 40 days weakness! Try about 5,800 days! Pretty impressive wouldn't you say?

wendell said...

The last picture of candy that you posted...drool.
Congrats on making it 40 days!

Jeannie said...

Wait a second - you quoted me and I don't think it was a compliment! :)

I a super proud of you making it the full 40, I have NEVER managed that before - impressive!!

Joel said...

I was offering a counter point. :)

strong cookie. said...

This year was the first year in about 20 that I tried to give something up.

I tried:
1. alcohol - failed
2. impulse shopping - failed
3. overpriced morning lattes - SUCCESS


stanford said...

Really insightful post, Joel. Thanks.