Well, Lent is nigh... for those not in the habit of observing old-fashioned religious holidays, Lent is the 40 days between Ash Wednesday (that's the day after Mardi Gras) and Easter Sunday, where you're supposed to spend time in prayer and self-sacrifice. Sort of like Ramadan, I suppose.
For the last 6-7 years I've actually been trying to observe lent, but it can be rather hit or miss with me. The idea is to give up something enjoyable, something you really love for that 40 days, as a small gesture towards the enormity of Christ's sacrifice. But I'm usually pretty disappointed with my experience; usually because I DON'T give up something important, but rather something that won't hurt as much, or more easily manageable. I KNOW I'm slacking.
It's usually sweets, or chocolate in particular, or Diet Coke, or fast food... but I feel like I'm taking the easy route. In fact, one year, I got myself re-addicted to Diet Coke SO THAT I MIGHT GIVE IT UP FOR LENT IN THE SPRING! Isn't that awful? And now I'm paying for it, literally; my current habit is 2-3 a day.
Last year I just skipped Lent alltogether; I wasn't getting anything out of it, and everything I could think of to give up was just for my own physical benefit (sweets, so I might lose weight... diet coke, so I might drink more water...). And this year was shaping up the same, with me drearily thinking I'd give up Diet Coke again. Then last week, I again had the thought that has plagued me for years when making this decision: television. This is very drastic. I watch TV constantly. I've never been able to make myself do it. I have TWO TiVos, for heavens' sake!
But this year, everything is different; my life is in upheaval, and I could really benefit from some quiet time and cleaning up my apartment, or working out. For the first time, the thought wasn't as terrifying as it has been in the past. I'm not going cold turkey; I'm letting myself watch TV in the morning before work, and a very short list of shows (Survivor, The Colbert Report, Project Runway...) that are time sensitive and can't wait like other favorites, or that I cannot BEAR to miss for 6 weeks (West Wing).
I actually drew lots to make this decision... I put 5 different choices in a bowl, prayed, and drew one. Then I drew again 2 more times and got the exact same one - "TV with exceptions", so I'm FAIRLY confident this is what I'm supposed to do. I have more confidence in God directing my choice this way than by choosing based on my own insight, since my insight is very cluttered with personal preference and comfort over actually seeking God's will.