Halloween used to be a fun way to celebrate the Fall season. Now somehow it is the Ready-Set-Go kick off to the holiday season.
Facebook is full of “60 (or fewer) Days Until Christmas” count downs. The media is warning us there are fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. We are already feeling the panic of “what do you mean you haven’t planned your Thanksgiving meal or done your shopping yet?” The retail shops have had HallowThanksMas décor on the shelves since September. Today I heard that the Holly channel on Sirius starts up again this Friday. Ugh.
I’ve been so proud of myself over the past couple of months because I finally took the time to slow down and enjoy Fall. I’ve been on hikes, I’ve visited a few festivals, I’ve taken photos of fall foliage, I’ve had time with friends, gotten in some bike rides, and I’ve taken my puppy on some adventures. I’ve filled my lungs with fresh air, enjoyed views and appreciated the season. For several years, I’ve been “too busy” to do any of this. Autumn flew by, obscured by responsibilities, chores, work, care-giving, mom duties, yard work, whatever else I at the time believed had to take priority. Granted, a few things in my life have shifted this year making it a wee bit easier to adjust my responsibilities, but really, I could have made some adjustments long ago.
But now – BAM! – suddenly I’m feeling the pressure to kick into high gear and rush into holiday prep, hopping on that race track towards a December finish line. Because we women always seem to be focused on successfully meeting our goals, celebrating our achievements on a high note, and yes, let’s be honest, subtly trying to out-do each other.
Clarity can sometimes come in unexpected ways. We’ve been going through a transition at my church, searching for a new Rector. Our Interim Pastor just finished her time with us this past weekend, and during her last sermon she shared a piece of a poem by the poet Rumi from way back in the 1200’s. It is the story of a man who climbed a walnut tree:
The waterhole is deep. A thirsty man climbs
a walnut tree growing next to the pool
and drops walnuts one by one into
the beautiful place.
He listens carefully
to the sound as they hit and watches
the bubbles. A more rational man gives advice,
“You’ll regret doing this. You’re so far
from the water that by the time you get down
to gather walnuts, the water will have
carried them away.”
He replies, “I’m not
here for walnuts.”
I love this. I love that I can envision the sound and sight of the walnuts plunking into the water. I love that a passing man wants to tell him that he’s doing it wrong, whatever “it” is. Full disclosure, when I first heard/read this poem, my immediate gut reaction was ‘what a waste of good walnuts’. What can I say, I was raised by an exceedingly practical and realistic mother. But then his response is perfect. It embodies for me the need for more of us to appreciate the experiences in life, and not be focused completely on the end game.
Yes, it is important to have goals. It is necessary to have plans. At work, we need to meet our sales budgets or accomplish our strategic initiatives, or whatever it is we strive for. Personally, we have other ambitions or objectives that we are driven to meet. For example, pulling off memorable and wonderful holidays with of course perfect food, gifts, and décor.
But what happened to enjoying the process, the journey, just daily life stuff? When we are children, the anticipation and build up to any event is deliciously mixed with an exuberance and fascination of every day. Why do we lose that so easily in adulthood? Shouldn’t we more often be like the man that notices a beautiful tree by a pond and decides to take a detour to experience the wonder of nature? (Is it any wonder it is a man in the story, not a woman, because she would have run by the tree on her way to accomplish a dozen different errands.) I’m sure the man was headed somewhere else initially. He didn’t plan when he got up that morning to climb a tree. He had no interest, or need, to gather walnuts.
I proved to myself that it was possible to slow down and have a few wonderful experiences this Fall. I don’t want to lose that capability now. I love the holidays, I really do. But aren’t there 50-something other potentially amazing days to experience in the meantime?
I’m setting new goals for myself. They won’t be easy. It comes very naturally to me (like with so many other women) to get into rush mode, to scurry, to hurry, to worry, to stress over getting things done. I’m actually hoping someone will notice that perhaps I’m going for a walk rather than rushing off to the grocery store, or playing in the snow with my dog instead of cleaning the house, or that it will take me 2 weeks to get the house decorated, and I’ll still be shopping two days before Christmas. I’m hoping that someone will be compelled to point out to me that I’m “not doing it right”, or that I’m “not going to be done in time”.
Because then I can tell them that I’m not in it for the walnuts.
Let them figure it out.