It seems ironic to me that in this season of Advent—the Advent I’ve spent two years preparing for, the one in which I’m doing four radio interviews, four periodical interviews, countless blog entries, and five book signings to help families move toward a less crazed, more relaxing, and holy Advent season—that in this season, it is me who is feeling stressed, crazed, and utterly unable to find the peace and holy hush I have been so relentlessly advocating.
I made a mistake in Advent calendar scheduling this year. It goes like this:
- At the end of Week 1, I sandwiched our day trip between two cookie baking days.
- The second cookie baking day was compacted into the afternoon, because we had choir in the morning, meaning 3 hours at church on the heels of a long (napless) day and a short night.
- We followed it up with three days in a row of more late nights and virtually no naps.
- In the meantime, I spent the days tearing through a really big writing assignment while simultaneously preparing for a really important presentation to the priests of the diocese. (When the Bishop invites you, you don’t say, “I’m sorry, this is a busy week, can we try a different one”?)
The net result is that by the time we got the house clean, ten short minutes before the first guest arrived for the choir party on Friday night, we were all spent. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. And apparently one recovery day is not enough, after a week like this. Sunday morning overflowed with bullying and threats and privileges revoked and all manner of disciplinary action. Church was a five-way wrestling match, and we all know wrestling matches at church do not foster spiritual growth. In fact, as I wrestled kids into coats and stumbled toward the church doors, everything seemed a little hazy. Somehow, in the past few weeks, I’ve become a spiritual zombie.
My inner critic is having a heyday. If you can’t even keep yourself from short-circuiting during Advent, then everything you’ve written is a big sham. Of course, it’s been coming on longer than Advent; I’ve been living and breathing Advent—the business end—for six months. And I know that’s a big part of the problem.
But it’s also the 20-month-old who doesn’t understand that he can’t eat his dinner till we pray, whose howls of outrage can unhinge me quicker than any other sound in the world (including all those Christmas songs I hate). It’s feeling rushed to get dinner on the table in time to eat before music students arrive…life, in other words.
Yet I believe in the project, because in other years, in other times, it has done for me what I tout on a daily basis. And this year, even amid my own spiritual desolation, I see it on Alex’s face.
Lessons are done now until January. And the crazy week is past. So perhaps by the time we light the last purple candle, I will have regained my equilibrium. I can hope, at least. And in the meantime, I can turn my mind toward the blessings I’ve been overlooking:
…chubby hands, more munchable than the cookies they cut…
Having lots of help to decorate the cookies (I really loathe this job. Yes, I’m weird. But I like my gingerbread plain, thank you very much. Icing=blech!)
…For hayrides through remote, beautiful winter woods…
…for rows of trees marching over the rolling hills…
…for tranquil hills wreathed in mist and cloaked in silence…
….for running children…
…for the magic of watching children transfixed by beauty…
…and of an Advent wreath in the darkness.
The beauty is there. I just have to figure out how to slow down and live in the present.
Counting to a thousand with Ann.