On your mark, get set, GO!!!!
For me, the 2013 holiday season has begun like an event in the Olympic Games of Stress, hosted by my least favorite city, Crazytown USA. Perhaps it was the late Thanksgiving date and over-hyped Black Friday, or the 800-mile car trip we took over the last four days to visit family in Northern California . Perhaps it’s the week ahead and the ten papers I have to grade, the three soccer games for one kid, the four days of practice for another, the two days of auditions for the third, or the one out of town 40th birthday party coming up on Friday night. Perhaps it’s my mounting anxiety about the presents I haven’t bought, the Christmas card we haven’t created and the last time Tim and I had a date night and any intimate conversation.
I know it can be helpful to make a list of things you have to do, but just writing those sentences sent my heart racing, and not in a good way (except that last item).
Because I was feeling behind, I broke my general rule about shopping on Sundays, and went out early to check a couple things off my list. I came home and decided to do anything humanly possible to avoid shopping on future weekends in December. No matter what I can accomplish, or purchase, it can’t be worth what the experience brings out in me. While I didn’t actually spray mace, elbow people out of the way, or come to blows over a parking space, the truth is I wanted to and that scares me.
I’m taking it as a sign that I’m not quite on track to really mean it when I wish friends and strangers a “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays” and I figure I can’t be the only one.
Though much of my Catholic guilt has fallen by the wayside, there is one tradition I cherish and I think it might help me out here. It is called the season of Advent and it begins today and lasts for the next three Sundays before Christmas. While Christmas is a time of celebrating, Advent is a time of preparing.
Here is a short video explaining the Advent season. It’s only two minutes long.
When I watched it this morning upon my return from Crazytown, I found myself breathing easier. I remembered that I don’t have to be joyful yet. I’m preparing to be joyful. I don’t have to be ready. I am getting ready. I don’t have to be done. December is just beginning. There is time, even when I’m feeling rushed. There is space, even when my heart is cramped. There is love, even when I am doing my best hard-hearted, Grinch impersonation.
The only way to prepare for Christmas is to make the time and space for Love to appear and I already know how to do that. It’s what I’ve been working on the last couple years on a daily basis. When Love feels far away, I go for a walk in the early morning. I make the time to sit in silence, or read a good book. I write in my journal, hug my children and hold Tim’s hand. I listen to beautiful music, have a cup of tea, or enjoy a glass of wine with a friend (as opposed to tossing one back out of necessity).
I think that is how I will try to prepare for Christmas this year. I will try to anticipate what is ahead of me, without letting it rob me of the moment I am in right now.