(I have an uneasy feeling that I may have written more or less this post before, but a quick look around hasn't found it. )
Some years Lent gets off to a better start than others for me. This year I was going to make a real effort to start thinking about it well before Ash Wednesday, and have some kind of plan in mind, and, more important, be mentally prepared. Naturally, I'm even less prepared than usual. The last two weeks have been one thing after another after another--not necessarily bad things, though some are (like the nasty cold that makes me feel like I drank a couple of beers just before carrying a fifty-pound weight on a long hike). It's now the night before Ash Wednesday and I can only think about how I'll get to Mass tomorrow, because my car is in the shop.
From this point of view, Ash Wednesday and all of Lent just look like more items in the list of things I have to do--with the added pall that they involve changing my circumstances in some slight bit for the worse: not listening to music on that 45-minute ride to and from work, for instance, which is one of my usual Lenten things. Frankly, it's even crossed my mind to chuck all but some barest minimum of observance. I could almost even rationalize doing that, on the grounds that penance is no use if I just feel resentful of it. That I recognize as plain old temptation, but it has a certain plausibility.
Maybe I'll reverse my usual pattern: maybe instead of starting out strong and declining through the forty days to the point where my only thought of Lent is Isn't the blasted thing over yet?, I'll start out weak and get stronger. That has a certain implausibility, but maybe God will surprise me. I don't think I'm going to surprise myself.