An extreme case of Lenten despair required intervention from friends and neighbors at Duwamish College last week.
Anna-Marie Andrews, 21, was found in her dorm room with a recording of the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete at extreme death metal volumes on her stereo. They found her lying on the floor, twitching, exhausted and despondent.
Anna-Marie announced that she just couldn’t make it to Pascha, which was two weeks away. She said that she’s done eating Lenten food, or any food. She said she’s giving up, and no one can help her.
She started Lent hearing about how the body objects during the Fast, but the heart rejoices. She enthusiastically gave up meat, egg and dairy products; she stopped using social networking, instead sending handwritten letters to friends from Orthodox camp from years ago; she stopped going to movies and parties, instead choosing to spend quiet nights at home; and she stopped all dating activity (which in her case meant not logging in to eharmony.com, but she still thought it was meaningful).
At first, the absence of distractions did change her perceptions, but she spent four weeks discovering that even if you cook tofu correctly, it doesn’t help, and her fervor waned. She had been hoping for a boost in the latter part of Lent, when the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, the Life of St. Mary of Egypt and the Divine Ladder of St. John Climacus are all read, but nothing has helped.
Word got out among her non-Orthodox friends about her despair, and they tried different things to cheer her up. One friend with culinary talents offered to cook her a fancy chicken dinner, another offered to take her to concerts and movies, and a boy she’d had a crush on for years even offered to stop by and give her a kiss, but Anna-Marie responded with indifference to all of these temptations, saying, “That’s like looking at a pepperoni pizza when you’ve got the flu. Yes, I could break the fast, but that would be too much work.”
After her secular friends left, her one local Orthodox friend, Olga, stopped by to try to provide some assistance. Olga told her she needed a new plan.
Anna-Marie thought for a moment and said, “I could rob a bank and leave the money where the cops could find it. Then I’d go to jail and I wouldn’t have to deal with all this.”
Olga said, “No, don’t do that.”
Anna-Marie asked, “Why? Why should I keep struggling?”
Olga, also exhausted by vegetable dinners and slowly read priestly prayers in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, had a difficult time coming up with a reason. They sat in silence for a while, until Olga said, “I’d miss you.”
After another few contemplative moments, Olga said, “Did you know you can use walnuts as a topping on vegan pizza? It sounds weird, but it’s better than you think.”
This report was filed by Recovering Reporter Thomas Eric Ruthford.