I’ve noticed that my sense of adventure—possibly mirroring the seasons—tends to go in cycles. The pattern plays out something like this:
We are bored. We have nothing on the calendar to look forward to, and our lives are dragging. We are afflicted with a rank case of cabin fever from being stuck with the same human beings all the time, and we simply must get out of the house. Oh, look, a grocery store. This is also part of a boring routine. Apparently cabin fever still applies to routine grocery store runs, too. Life is bleak. I read articles on saying “Yes!” to adventure, enthusiastically, and I determine that we must seize the day and commit to doing fun things.
***Cue transition to Extroverted Social Calendar***
We are busy. We have fun events lined up almost every night of the week, and several during the day, too. It impinges on nap times, but the kids are outgrowing their naps anyway, so it just makes sense to do something interesting during nap time anyway, right? The hectic pace grows wearing, and the children—far from being grateful to their fun, spontaneous mother for arranging all the fun things—grow fretful and cranky. (And it’s apparently not enough to live a wonderful life—we have to document it, too, so we can enjoy it in retrospect.
After all, what’s the use of having a great time if you can’t remember any of it? Click-click! Click-click!) Nobody gets enough sleep. Our lives are spiraling out of control. I read articles on providing margins and white space and downtime, and practice setting boundaries and saying “No” more often. I determine that we must dial back and cultivate a peaceful home life of rest and comfort, from which we can launch our missions of hospitality and outreach.
***Cue transition to Introverted Social Calendar***
We are bored, nothing to do. Any minute now, the children will start painting walls (having already tried painting each other). I read articles about finding balance and agonize over whether we should make plans in order to have things to look forward to (knowing that if we have to change plans, there will be inevitable howls from dashed hopes), make no plans in order to allow room for spontaneity (knowing that if we don’t make plans, we will stagnate and drift like sloths through the dull humdrum remainder of our lives), or make some plans and risk picking the wrong fun things to do. I am gripped by analysis paralysis and we end up doing nothing.
And so it continues. (This is usually when my foreign language program plan kicks into high gear, where I research low cost-of-living countries and contemplate moving abroad for a year or two so that our kids can learn the language and we can unplug from the stress of the culture. So far, this program has never gotten beyond the planning stage.)
In any case, by the end of Thanksgiving, we are usually just transitioning into what traditionally should be the lull portion of the feast/famine social cycle. Advent ought to be a period of waiting and quiet expectation, of reverence and stillness and preparing our hearts for the Christ Child.
But every year, the first Sunday in Advent catches me by surprise, and I feel so unprepared for the upcoming season’s festivities. Christmas cards start arriving in the mail, and I’m reminded again of how far behind I am on all the holiday things I “should” be doing. In a zealous resolution of holiday spirit, I determine that I may be a bit late to the party, but we will PARTY this Christmas season! A zest for life and celebrations is the new standard!
This month has been no different. We receive notices on social media and fliers in the mail on upcoming community events. Neighborhood lights displays? Check! Family movie night at the local library? Check! A Christmas tree lighting ceremony at a local community center, with refreshments following? Check!
Off we rush to all these fantastic, fun adventures. Of course, the Christmas tree lighting turned out to be held in the outdoors, and we hadn’t gotten our winter coats out yet (again, I’m running a bit behind. Well, technically, per the calendar, it’s still autumn until December 21st!) So we shivered in the cold frosty air before we were rewarded with the “Ahh”-inspiring spectacle of the lighted tree. Thankfully, the speeches were short and the ensuing chocolate was hot. There was even live harp music to put the crowning touch on the festive mood.
The fact is, I may not get everything right this year according to some mythical List. I will miss events, drop balls, oversee schedule conflicts, lose track of deadlines, and maybe end up dragging my family to the occasional misfire. But at the end of the day (maybe a very long day sometimes), we will experience family togetherness, Christmas cheer, and love and kindness and sacrifice. Those are some good memories to cherish. And we have pictures to prove it!
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other images courtesy of Rose Focht.