Robbie gave up alcohol for Lent, which means that although we have every bit as much fun running around being crazy as we ever did, we feel a lot less shitty the next morning.
Last night we stopped by Tony's house. "What'd you give up?" Robbie asked him.
(Why do I know so many Catholics?)
"I gave up negativity," said Tony, and again it's a good thing we weren't having wine or some would have come out my nose. Not because Tony has been particularly negative - not at all. I just instantly pictured Easter service as being a great deal more interesting. Perhaps, when it comes time to give the peace to your neighbor, instead of shaking hands or hugging, he'll flip them off or punch them.
Then again, who hasn't wanted to do that?! Hug me, willya... I don't even know you, you damn Jesus freak! I'm just here to keep the in-laws quiet. It may also be worth mentioning at this point that a few years ago, when I first knew Tony, he suffered a badly broken leg from tripping while trying to outrun some little kids at an Easter-egg hunt.
I guess I gave up 3-martini breaks for Lent, although the timing wasn't exact, and I know I won't get them back at Easter. This is one of the disadvantages of not being religious, although getting to sleep in on Sundays outweighs almost every other drawback I can think of.
My cube neighbor's father passed away week before last. This coworker has been such a kind friend to me. I haven't talked to anyone about what, specifically, was going on, but it's obvious enough I've been very down; and he's been so sweet and sympathetic, not asking any questions, but has lent me everything from a book of funny animal pictures to money (when I mentioned in passing that I'd like to go out to dinner with the field office coworker who was in town for training, but that it was the end of the month - state employees get paid once a month, on the first - and believe me, that's a comment I won't be letting drop again!) He just got back late last week, and I was very glad to see him. But he hugged me, and the first thing he said to me was, "How've you been? Have you got your smile back?" I mean, my gosh, his father. I felt awful.
But we were talking, later, and I asked how he was doing, and he said that he was fine as long as he kept remembering how his dad is in a better place now. "It frustrated him so much, towards the end," he said, "being sick, being immobile, not being able to do the things he used to do. I'm fine as long as I remember that he's able to do those things again now. He's better off, now, he's happier."
This is real comfort. When you aren't religious, you don't have that. Death is nothing but loss - relief, perhaps, if there's been suffering; but really the only positive thing about it is an end to pain. In the case of tragic, senseless, untimely death, you've really got nothing. How do you face the losses that rip your heart out, or the certainty that there will be more losses like them in your future, or your own eventual horrifying mortality, without faith? But you can't base your beliefs on the way you want the world to be, either. What do you do?
So far the best answer I've come up with is not to think about it as much as possible, and let's put that down as reason #126,974 not to give up alcohol for Lent. As for Easter eggs, you're on your own. Watch out for Tony!