It is not an accident that we settle into spring training just as the season of Lent descends upon us. If you’re a Catholic, especially in this town, such a turning of Earth demands a complete change of life and diet, a commitment to penance and spiritual renewal. I myself plan to make everyone’s life around me horrible. I’m giving up sugar. Wish them the best.

There’s a coffee shop here on the West Side that just opened a few months ago (I almost modified that with “new coffee shop” but then I realized that we have no coffee shops to begin with, unless you count the dispenser at McDonald’s, so to have “a new one” is to say… “one.” Per aspera ad astra, purveyor of lattes in the Land of the drive-through pony keg.) And the coffee shop just announced that it will include egg salad on its menu for the next six weeks. “You get us,” I typed appreciatively in the comments, next to an emoji of the Vatican flag.

Lent arrives just as we’re most prepared for winter to be over. It forces us to acknowledge that no, we have chosen to live where the air and the things coming out of it hurt us, and yes, we’re going to complain about it, and then never leave. It demands a complete re-evaluation of our most basic spiritual underpinnings. “Why do we live here?” we ask ourselves.

In spring training it’s easy to want to leap ahead to the full season, with its lack of viruses and ability to walk outside secure in the knowledge that the weather is probably only going to do one thing: Be hideously humid. But we know the squad we’re seeing is not the full squad, and the players surging now could well be in traction by May. We gotta wait a while.

That’s Lent, too. You want a Peep but if you dislike the people around you enough to give up sugar for 40 days, you gotta wait a while. Lately, there’s been a movement on to move away from giving up items for Lent and instead do more. To practice, I tried to pray a Rosary today, and because this can be a lengthy, concentration-heavy process involving 53 Hail Marys and 6 Our Fathers and any amount of suddenly finding yourself deep in thought over why they don’t make cell phones that fold into little tiny squares yet and if so, how fast I would lose it in the parking lot of the public library, and if so, was there a way to physically attach the phone to one’s body and if so, why not cell phone earings, and if so, what kind of earrings they might make, and if so, the earrings had better be sparkly and not big plastic stupid things like they just rolled out of an episode of Webster.

So I searched YouTube for a Rosary meditation video. When someone else was doing the heavy prayer lifting, I can follow better, and typically what these videos consist of are fifteen minutes or so of tinkly music, stained glass, and one darn perfectly said Rosary. You can relax. This person practiced. This person edited. This person is not going to screw it up, so you’re not going to screw it up, so it’s a smooth chunk of Lent for everyone.

But NOT THIS GUY. I found a video by someone who had apparently accidentally happened to record himself, unedited, praying the Rosary along with a PowerPoint presentation, and then decided to just slap it up on YouTube. It was five decades of strugglebus. And, I mean, props to this guy for wanting to share and encourage a strong prayer life, but there were no take-backsies on this recording. Not one. Over a very long seventeen-minute session, the following took place:

-Windows attempted to update his computer. Dude kept plowing through the Apostle’s Creed because God triumphs over all things, even forced reboots.

-(laughs for absolutely no reason)

-“Oh wait, I think the Bible quote here is wrong.”

-(takes very loud drink of water)

-“…I lost count”

-(yells directly into microphone) “OUR FATHER, WHO ART…”

-(mutters very softly, five miles from microphone) “Hail Mary, full of grace…” as though very bored of this entire enterprise and now regretting all life choices

-“Our Fath- oh wait. Hail Mary…”

For some time I considered bailing out, but by the third decade I was committed to seeing what might come out of the laptop speakers next, perhaps background explosions and SWAT team announcements. And when it was over, I was absolutely furious with this guy: If you’re creating something for public consumption and screw it up, START. OVER. That’s what computers are FOR. When unyoked from the Internet, they let us start. over. You don’t need another quarter. You don’t need to run offstage. Just start over. All you need is a delete key and five more minutes.

Then I realized this was probably the realest, most organic Rosary ever recorded in the history of Catholicism, and  quite magnificent in its honesty. It’s how we all really do shove our way through by millimeters sometimes, often in public, always looking at ourselves in the mirror at the end of it all.

I think that’s why we have a Lent and a spring training, side by side, one following the next. It’s a start over. It’s an invitation to the delete key. It’s an opportunity to get it right this time. The final product might not be what you want when you want it, but at least Attempts are Being Made, and this I salute.

Make an Attempt today! Maybe you need nine pitchers. Maybe you need nine start overs. It’s okay. The humidity is coming.

17 Responses

  1. Tom

    There are some things in life where perfection is necessary – like not murdering other people.

    There are other things in life where we need to get it 80%-90% to succeed – like picking a spouse or choosing not to grow a mullet unless you play hockey.

    But, for most things in life, if we can get it 60% right and then learn and grow, we’re doing really well. The key to most success is not perfection, it’s a willingness to fail fast and learn fast.

    So, today, go fail faster. Fail better than you’ve ever failed before because there is no salvation without failure and no success without learning.

    • Mark Moore

      +600 (60% of the full 1000 points)!!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      All hail to the City of Fail!

    • earmbrister

      I had a minor strugglebus this morning with an overflowing coffee pot that swamped my countertop. In the past I would’ve been ticked off at myself. After reading your words of wisdom MBE, I hardly batted an eye.

      Special thanks to Tom for his perspective. I’m happy to report that I’m perfect in the not murdering other people category, and probably have passing grades on everything else. I copied and pasted your comment to a word document for future use, when I’m beating myself up for some shortcoming.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        That’s great to hear. Good work on lowering the general murdering, Tom.

  2. Mark Moore

    Perfect … stellar … gut-wrenching …

    I wish I were in Phoenix for just a couple of days. Heck, I hope I can plan a trip to Cincy this season. Starting in August, my oldest will be in Detroit for 3 years, so I guess that’s at least closer.

    Great job once again MBE!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      My sympathies on the Detroit exile.

      • Mark Moore

        It comes with a full ride and stipend to Wayne State (which has a great program for her), so I think we’ll manage.

  3. WVRedlegs

    Just about any weekday I am ready to hit the Start Over button by 10:00am. It does suck if the local coffee shop is a McDonalds or a 7-11 or some other grungy convenient mart.
    I wish I had a pocket full of Mulligans, or do overs.
    Strugglebus? Neat word. Is that from Catholicism or the local coffee shop??

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Strugglebus (n, English) is a Millenialism. It can also be used as a direct object: “I was strugglebussing trying to explain how to dial a rotary phone to the 17 year old.”

  4. renbutler

    “Lately, there’s been a movement on to move away from giving up items for Lent and instead do more.”

    Yes, indeed. A very welcome movement.

    Sure, it’s FINE to give up something that isn’t related to your spiritual health, but that really misses the point of Lent. Either give up something that’s harmful to your relationships (with family, friends, co-workers, God, or perfect strangers), or start doing more to honor the sacrifice of Jesus.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Agree and I think both are important. My butt (and the rest of me) needs penance, which unites me in suffering to those who have far less. But as a priest once explained, “Don’t just give something up for Lent and go right back to regular life after Easter. Allow it to change you for the rest of the year.”

  5. daytonnati

    I had a good friend in college who gave up getting high before noon during Lent. I never quite felt he caught the spirit of the season, though it was a sacrifice 🙂

    • earmbrister

      Who knows. That might’ve been quite the sacrifice for your friend …

      Some people might give up their breakfast meat, he gave up his breakfast herb.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I mean if you’re decreasing your daily murders from 4 to 2, that’s cutting it in half. Baby steps.