As a child, on Ash Wednesday I went to St. Thomas Moore on 89th Street in the morning with my mom to get ashes placed on our foreheads. I had already planned ahead what I was going to give up for forty days. I had to make sure that by the time the priest's thumb made the sign of the cross on my forehead, I was ready to embark on a period of abstinence; be it popcorn, chocolate, or whatever food I had been craving of late. I was very careful not to touch my face so everyone could see that I had gone to church. Wearing holy dust, I now had a duty to uphold and felt that being branded would inspire me to be holier.
I know I made it through those forty days a few times without cheating but as soon as Easter hit, I was back to my usual ways. I don't think I learned anything because I didn't really change long term. This year I've decided to give up something that ebbs and flows in my life: the habit of complaining. There are some days I'm on cloud on nine doing voiceover work, but more often than not, I'm whining about auditions, the state of our country, the cold, my health, etc. I completely forget to be grateful. So I'm sticking post-it notes all over the apartment that say things like 'Stop Complaining', 'Be Grateful', and when I'm feeling especially narly, I plan to stare at the phrase 'Get Some F-----g Gratitude' for inspiration.
I'll let you know how it goes 😉