The biggest thing I don't like about Lent, is the biggest thing I don't like about Christianity in general: the constant, overwhelming feeling of shame a guilt they're always pushing on you. That's why Easter never took off like Christmas did. No one minds a story about some baby being born (assuming you ignore that little part about the genocide of all the other little babies in town.) Although, it's pretty hard to rally around what is essentially the glorification of an ancient and barbaric means of public torture and execution. Even if you do dress it up in the pagan festival of that current season. ("Hey, it worked for x-mas! Why not Easter, too?" "Maybe because this story has a dead guy in it.")
This is also the first Ash Wednesday where I didn't go to church and get uncomfortably wet, smelly stuff smeared on my forehead.
While, I must confess, I didn't go just because I didn't want to (though I didn't) I lucked out and my class schedule didn't allow me any time to go. So, that's good. I feel like shit enough as it is. I don't need to sit in an incense-drenched room for an hour with a bunch of other people of questionable health-levels and let my sinuses become enflamed.
This was also the first time I noticed how ridiculous those ashes actually looked on people. My parents got home from church shortly after I got home from school, and for the rest of the night I couldn't stop looking at their foreheads. I didn't feel bad, or anything like that, they just looked really silly. It was an oddly liberating feeling.
This was why, last year, I didn't participate in Lent for the first time. Sure, I went to the Ash mass, and if told by my parents, I wouldn't eat meat on Friday (or just go, "Oops! Forgot!" and finish the damn sandwich) but I didn't give anything up.
When my parents asked if I was going to give anything up, such as cursing, I said no, because giving things up for Lent always just meant you would restart said activity doubly once Lent was over. I actually wanted to curb my cursing, not just lay off it for a month only to pick it back up even harder later.
And they respected that. Of course, that was last year. Back when I was just trying to be a Better Catholic(tm) or a better person, whichever came first. I was definately seeing flaws in the system then, and was totally ready to leave the church, I just wasn't ready to leave the faith, or God. (As ridiculous as that sounds now....I was also very into woo back then. I fell hard for Taoism and Confucianism, as well as all that New-Agey crap. I was just too lazy to follow up on any of it, thank goodness).
Last year, if anyone asked me what I was giving up for Lent, I told then, "feeling guilty". I thought it was very clever, but now I can see how it could be taken the wrong way.
I don't know what I'll tell people if they ask me this year. If I had the balls, I'd say "God". But then, we'd be going back to the "End-of-40-day Paradox" (it's a working title). It would be strange indeed to give up religion for Lent, and then come back to it ten-fold once all the pain, suffering, and guilt had been packed back away for another year.
In the mean time, I'm going to try and revile in the fact that I'm free to have a blast this month, while a large majority of the population is required to make themselves as miserable as possible (Except for St. Pat's Day. The Father always lets the Catholics 'off the hook' for that day.)