It’s Lent – the 40 day period of penance before Easter – and I have decided to take up walking before breakfast as my Lenten practice. My sister suggested a walk before breakfast can be good for starting some particular metabolic process which seemed like a good idea, but I’m a wakes-up-hungry person and so it also seemed annoying. Which makes it a good Lenten discipline because it means I have to overcome my own resistance to the idea each morning. It also means that I get a little exercise into my day no matter what happens after that.

Naturally enough, once I’m out the gate it usually doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. We live near the beach so I walk down there or I go and buy a fresh bread somewhere or on Saturday I might grab a coffee. The penance bit seems to lie mostly in getting myself out the door in the first place, the rest is fine and I don’t make myself go very far – this morning 1.5km.

Mr K is more a believer in giving something up for Lent. He has given up alcohol. I think the interesting thing about doing something, almost anything I imagine, for Lent is that it seems to end up giving back to you in interesting ways. Of course it’s about being mindful. The year I gave up drinking I began to understand how many triggers to drink there are in my life. I was surprised how much I missed it. One night I was at the cinema and someone had left a glass of red wine on a little ledge while they went to the bathroom and to my surprise the thought of taking it flashed through my mind. It’s a story I told over and over to my friends because it seemed so wildly out of character. As a kid, giving up lollies and chocolate taught me how much of that stuff I actually consumed, since it physically piled up in a jar at the end of the bed. It was also excellent self-discipline training.

Sundays are not part of Lent so I skip the morning walk and have a drink with Mr K in the evening. When I was a kid we were allowed to select one item from our jar to eat on a Sunday. Sometimes we resisted even then, enjoying the jar filling up and the anticipation of Easter Sunday when the whole cache would be unrestricted and we could make ourselves sick with not just chocolate eggs but our store of lollies as well.

These days I try to do something for Lent that has some value for me without it being too self-serving. Lent’s a time to look at the world a little differently and to look at myself a little more critically – to try to be a better person and to try to be a little more conscious of my actions and my impact on the world. So far the early morning walk has served different purposes on different days but the fresh bread in the house for when Mr K wakes up is a bonus, and on the days the beach seems to beckon I start the day with a clearer head. Who knows, perhaps after 40 days it will become a habit.

Though that didn’t work with giving up alcohol…