February discontent is rattling around my chest, blown by the icy wind to bump against my heart. Too many days inside, too little sunshine, no holidays, no presents, no big family dinners for months. Every year it’s the same thing at the same time. One professor I had announced to the lecture hall, that universities noticed an increase of suicide among students which peaked during the second month of the year. And spring break was born. That seems too cynical even to me, until I peer outside the window to see a sky the same shade of gray as the asphalt sidewalk.
It’s because of this that I so look forward to Ash Wednesday Mass, the beginning of Lent. It is probably my husband and my favourite. Why? First, it seems so Medieval — the immolated blessed palms from last year’s Easter season, turned into a remembrance of our mortality and sin, and marked on our foreheads. What modern would suggest doing that? It might hurt our self-esteem. Lead to anxiety.
Which also leads to the second reason: In this culture of Self Actualization, Self Realization, Who Ever Finishes with the Most Toys Wins, Shred It, Own It, I Did It My Way, and Branded People, it is refreshing to remember that no one is getting our of here alive. And it is beyond anyone’s ability to save her own soul. It is a stark reminder that everyone’s days, from the moment they take their first breath, are numbered and counted out, and that my life should not be taken for granted, and that my faith should not be taken for granted. It reminds me that what’s really important in life cannot be “achieved” through human will. And that Easter celebration will follow Lenten penance, like spring rebirth will follow winter’s long cold sleep.