In 2004, I joined Weight Watchers and lost a whole lot of weight
By 2013, I'd gained back a fair amount of that weight
So three weeks ago, I rejoined Weight Watchers
I go to meetings Wednesday nights at 7pm
And I'm one of those people who needs to attend meetings - I need to go for the reinforcement, for the honesty of the scale and yes, for the approval and support of the other members and in my meeting
So this past Tuesday night, Fat Tuesday, I was in a minor state of panic as Wednesday was approaching
I was not panicked about weighing in
I was in a state of panic because it was not only my meeting night, it was also Ash Wednesday
And I could not find a Church that was offering ashes at a time I could make
There were 9:30am services but I knew I could not duck out of work
There were a couple noon services but I could not remember if Wednesday was the day one of the girls was leaving early or if it was Thursday
The only other service was at 7pm ...same time as my meeting
Then I realized hey wait! Immaculate Conception!
No, not THE Immaculate Conception, but Immaculate Conception...our (old) Parish in Malden/Medford...they have a 6:30am service
So bright and early Wednesday morning, I set out to get my ashes
It was a lovely service and I forgot how much I enjoy being at IC
The new Priest was at the pulpit and I enjoyed his brief yet insightful homily
I even more enjoyed seeing a few familiar faces and realizing they recognized me as well
I left feeling a bit renewed...a bit lifted...
As I drove to work, I found myself lost in thought.....
See, I've been in a funk of late
At work, I'm struggling
Not with my work, I have a handle on that
I've just been struggling with being there
I've been struggling with the Universe trying to figure out where it is I am supposed to be, what it is I am supposed to be doing
Is this all I have to offer the world?
Can't I give and do more?
Is this really it for me?
I've been struggling with relationships
Am I giving Lucy and Sean all I have?
As happy as they make me, am I making them happy?
What about friends? What about the people I've pulled away from?
What about people I've turned my back on?
Then I looked in the rear view mirror (as I had just cut someone off on Roosevelt Circle...all my fault, forgot what a hellatious roundabout that one is and I wanted to throw up a hand to say Sorry! My Bad!) and caught site of the ashes on my forehead
My instinct was to wipe them away, like I had missed a spot while I was washing my face
And even though there is no "rule" that says you have to wear them all day, most Catholics I know do
People choose to wear their ashes for the remainder of the day as a reminder of their mortality and devotion as a follower of Christ
The ashes are a symbol of the start of a season of examination and abstinence
Yet for some reason, on my way to work, I felt like I should wipe the ashes off
But I did not
When the ashes are placed, in the sign of the cross on your forehead, the Priest says
Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return
Or, he may say
Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel
Whatever he says, however he says it, the ashes serve as a reminder; as a symbol of repentance, of mortality, of the day we will stand before God and be judged
(by the way, I am pretty scared of that day for a number of reasons)
The ashes mark the beginning of Lent - and simply put, Lent is a season of self-examination, fasting and penance in preparation for Easter
Lent is a renewal
And right now, I need that reminder
I need to this period of self examination, of penance and sure, even fasting
I need to reconnect with some of the morals and values I have lost sight of
I need, right now, more than ever, I need to believe, to have faith and I need some renewal
So off I went, ashes on my forehead, a new sense of wonder and a slight spring to my step with a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth
And then, at some point yesterday, I was openly mocked by two people for having ashes on my forehead
And to make matters worse (in my opinion) these two people were not kids
Had it been kids, I may have been able to take it with a grain of salt
But they were not kids
They were adults
In their 30s if I had to guess
And they actually "made fun of" the ashes on my forehead
I could hear them making comments about the "dirt smeared" on my forehead and "does she really think that makes her better than us?"
One of them said she's about as Catholic as I am and you should have have seen the meat sandwich I had at lunch
They both laughed
And I watched as the other one made the motion of picking their nose, or wiping their mouth, it was hard to see, and then the gesture of the sign of the cross on their forehead
That same person then made a not so nice gesture with their hands
The other person laughed and as the first person made the sign of the cross on their own forehead with what I think was the middle finger
And it made me sad
It made me sad because I can't believe people, adults, actually still behave this way....and by this way I mean like those kids in Jr High or High School that made fun of the chubby kid who wore glasses or the teachers' pet or the kids wearing a Members Only Jacket
Then it made me angry - but not really
If I were being honest, I was just sad and a bit hurt
I probably could handle it better if I thought they were just making fun of me
But their actions tell me they were also making fun of what so many, 1 billion people last I heard, believe in
And who are we kidding?
I could handle it no better if they were making fun of me or making fun of my ashes and what those ashes stand for
I'm more sensitive than people realize - and contrary to popular belief, I do have a heart and I do have feelings...and sometimes, both get hurt
I know, I know, sticks and stones but seriously, it still hurts
Funny thing is, I'm guessing in 6 weeks, they'll be sitting down to a dinner table on Easter Sunday with mounds of food and baskets of candy
They may or may not go to Mass.......
But I'm pretty sure they won't give a passing thought to the day except for Peeps, an egg hunt and ham
I bet they do the same on Christmas....
But what is Christmas except a commercialized holiday celebrating Fisher Price, Mattel and Santa right?
Its not like its an important birthday for anyone or anything
Look, I am not perfect
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a perfect Catholic
I don't even know if I am a good one
I don't even know if I qualify as a cafeteria Catholic
I swear, I make fun of people, I lie (to myself and yes, sometimes to others)
I've been jealous of what others have, I've been gluttonous and greedy
And sometimes, I have been downright mean
There are lots of things I've done in my life that I am not proud of
There are lots of things I have done and said I wish I could take back
There are times I did not do what was right; and times I did things for purely selfish reasons
But there are things I've done that I am proud of
And there are times when I have done the right thing no matter how hard it was
And I know what I believe in
I believe in God
I believe in a higher being
I believe in Jesus Christ the only son of the Father
I believe that regardless of all my shortcomings, of all my mistakes, of all my sins, God knows at the end of the day, my heart is in the right place
I believe I wake up every day with good intentions and when I stray, I believe I know enough to admit my failures and limitations
And I believe in starting over the next day
I believe in my husband and my daughter
I believe in myself
I believe I will try - try to be a better person
I believe I want to be a better person
I believe I need this Lenten season; I have some serious renewing, repenting and almsgiving to do
And I believe I will take what I need and need what I take
I forgive those two people for what they said, for what they did
But it still hurts -
Sticks and stones all you want, words sometimes hurt way more
But I forgive
So my Lenten season begins
I hope I make the most of it - I hope you do to
In the meantime, I'll say my prayers, put my pennies in the Rice Bowl, repent and ask God to continue to love and guide me no matter what
And, I'll be sticking with Weight Watchers - I'm down 12.2lbs in 3 weeks
Maria the Mum