Wait a minute.
For those of us who celebrate Christmas, Advent is the four week season leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth. It is a time for reflecting on preparation, for waiting, a time for contemplation and meditation, and a time filled with candlelight and stillness.
At least it is supposed to be. Yet how many of you just read my previous sentences and your automatic response was a snort and “yeah, right.” We Real Women don’t do relaxed contemplation especially well. We don’t slow down easily. Many of us don’t even know how. Just ask my brother, he tells me that I “scurry.” I rarely just sit and relax. Even when I do sit, I’m still doing something. Sound familiar? Of course it does.
We R.W’s already carry a lot on our shoulders, trying to be super women and do it all – family, work, home, community… Then this time of year we pile it on even higher, going into some sort of warp speed mode. Our massive To Do list expands to include activities like shopping for gifts, wrapping those gifts, doing charity work, sending holiday letters or cards, decorating, baking, party planning, family visits and more.
We get so worked up that we even start to get competitive about our progress in this race to the finish line. How many people do you know who are happy to boast that they have all their holiday shopping done before you are done carving your Halloween pumpkin? Or those who let you know their Christmas cards are addressed and stamped and ready to be sent by Black Friday? I’m not sure why we get into this one-upsmanship. Really all it results in is making others feel more stressed. We need to stop it.
It is easy to get pulled into the anxiety of “what do you mean you haven’t finished all your wrapping yet?” After all, once you wind us R.W’s up, it is hard to unwind us again. This weekend I got my house all decorated. Not because I had necessarily planned to do it all at once, nor was I really feeling the pressure from the Griswold houses around the corner. It was more about having the available time. We didn’t travel for Thanksgiving, and I was lucky enough to have Friday off, so I had a long weekend available. I decided to get started, and next thing I knew, that Real Woman drive of “can’t stop now” kicked in, and I was putting the finishing touches on my snow village at 9:00 Sunday night.
I do have to admit now that it feels good to have it done. However, the reason it feels good is because I really do want to slow down and enjoy this season of Advent. I have a plan that sometime this week, even if it is just once, I’m going to pick up a magazine from the pile I haven’t had time to look at, sit next to the tree, hot cocoa in hand, put my feet up, and flip through the glossy pages of fluff. It will feel decadent. I will have to push the “but I still gotta” thoughts out of my head. But I’m determined to make it happen, because I figure once I master that, then maybe I really can learn to light a candle and be still.
This morning on my way to work (running a few minutes late per usual), I had 100 thoughts swirling through my head – a rampant combination of work-related things that would need my attention as soon as I got there, plans for my evening, and of course holiday to do’s. Lo and behold, I got stuck behind a large truck pulling a flat bed of huge construction equipment, going 20 miles an hour. Instead of getting anxious and irritated, I took a deep breath, recognized it as a sign, and….. slowed down. Guess what? It felt good to take my foot off that accelerator pedal. Give it a try.