Tag Archiv: Advent
Scotland Forever.By Lady Butler. 1881
Last week I sat with tea drinkers and tried to share the notion that some days I find myself looking forward to being a grandmother. I don’t actually want my 14 year old son involved in reproduction. What I want is relationships where I don’t have to worry about messing up the kids if I do it wrong.
I have an issue with fear, I said. The fear of getting it wrong is exhausts me. Distracted by the notion of a forty-two year old wanting to be a grandmother, everyone laughed. This did not feel pleasant because I wasn’t trying to be funny.
I have been around this bush before. Twenty dollars says I’ll be around it a few more times before the race is done. But as my husband would say, it is what it is.
What stayed with me in the years since I saw the movie, “The Nativity,” was not about the beauty of the birth. What struck me was what a terrifying time and place it all occurred in. Bethlehem under Roman rule was a very bad birthing location. A baby savior for a world drunk on power and violence was a scary idea.
I know my fear is behind much of my tendency to overreact to things, but I don’t know how to let go of it. I have this picture in my head. On one side is a hundred warriors with spears, soldiers on horses charging, and all the ugliness of the world today. Which one is coming at me changes, what doesn’t change is in front of me. A little boy with chocolate skin and bushy curls is smiling, playing in the dirt, and asking me to believe the impossible.
It has always seemed like letting go of fear would be ceasing to feel afraid. The choice is starker and it takes my breath away. The soldiers are real. So is the baby. I’m choosing sides in a battle. Soldiers with weapons vs. lone baby with loin cloth. Stories about the power of love vs. hate seem a tenuous nail on which to hang my hat with angry men charging.
Everything, I realize, comes down to this. Not after fear is behind me, but precisely while it’s rising up. While my throat is tightening and my body is trembling. Then. Now. Against all logic, I can choose the baby. For better or for worse, I can let a flexing two year old be all that stands between me and my deepest fears.
Behold, the propositions of Advent.
My already slow march toward sainthood has suffered repeated setbacks lately. There is limited pleasure in observations of my shortcomings at any time, but failure set to Christmas music can feel especially glum. I’m not sure it’s even the season that’s getting to me right now as much as the fact that I’m trying so hard and still not spreading peace and joy like dew drops from my wings.
I speak from experience when I say that there is nothing that makes me feel quite so hateful as when I try to be loving and end up being the worst side of me in the middle of it. Examples abound. In case my explanation has failed the clarity test, I’ll share a recurring one.
Loving act: Extra nice breakfast prepared. Many loving thoughts and warm affections fill me as my feet step lightly through the kitchen. Delicious test: Flying colours. Presentation: Strong. Nutrition: Check. Tra la la la.
Worst side of self races to the fore: I react to the dawdling, complaining, and habitually tardy with acts of war.
Realization hits: I started out to bathe people in love and my irritation and anger is now dripping from their hair.
Result: I hate everyone I know. The Grand They has made me do this. The Grand They continually conspire to make me fail and they are exceedingly good at it. If it weren’t for them I would love everyone with patience and gentleness, possibly even me.
Resulting result: An overwhelming sense of failure salted for flavour with hopelessness
So goes the Advent slog on this side of the fence. I’m not feeling as depressed about it as I was. Probably because I got good and mad about something yesterday (again in the midst of planned lovefest for an undeserving segment of mankind). I was more justified than usual, ergo more mad than usual. Then an unlikely bystander was ridiculously kind and generous and I was invited without words to set aside the anger and return to the lovefest. It didn’t feel logical, but it felt possible.
Advent whispers, if we watch for them, if we let them, at odd intervals, strangers and babies light candles in the dark to save us.
Advent whispers that life might be more like soccer than basketball (one or two goals scored in a game as opposed to seventy or eighty). Missed shots are just directives to shoot again.
Advent says a little louder, despite the occasional evidence to the contrary, we need each other too much to bother with all the hating. Better to load up on matches and start striking. We don’t light our own candles, we light each other’s. Whether in a lifetime we manage one or ten for someone else is largely not up to us. But best to go down trying, with soot marks on our hands and wax dripped down our fingers, aiming for a thousand.
The winds are blowing in different directions this year. My thoughts on advent themes suggested these: light, dark, light in the darkness, hope, waiting, anticipation, preparation, joy, love.
After this came the notion of writing a list that left this year’s Advent with room to surprise. Some things I hope to do many times, but the only requirement is to do everything once.
Change some of the furniture around
Make some part of the house more inviting
Greet an unwanted change with a smile
Go on a date with my husband
Stop and speak unhurriedly with someone I wouldn’t normally speak with
Count being stuck in a line as a metaphor for waiting, a reminder of the sacred in the mundane
Look for other sacred things hiding in irritation
Do something quiet
Add or subtract something to this list
Be still in the dark
Write a letter
Read a story
Sing a song in the dark
Bundle up and go star gazing
Advent is the road to Christmas. It is my favourite time of year. I love Christmas, but I crave Advent.
I am a woman with many opinions and a well exercised mouth. Or at least I can be. Many times my thoughts come out with a force stronger than I would have wished had I taken a day to think about it. (That counting to ten thing doesn’t work for me and mine. Ten seconds is only enough time for us to rev the engines a little hotter.) The best defense is a good offense came built into my operating instructions. My bold words mask fear and protect against rejection.
Then Advent comes and it all finally looks like what it really is. Utter nonsense. Babies don’t get bravado, they just want you to be with them. Provided I don’t get caught up in lists, the relief I feel walking the path to Christmas is palpable. Very little is required of me beyond what would naturally pour out of me were someone to hand me a baby I long for. My broken tear ducts work for this little one. I can cry just thinking about welcoming the baby in the manger. I want to be ready.
Babies know things without words, and they drink, and poop, and sleep it off. I don’t want my sarcastic, caustic self for a baby. I want soft and warm. A voice that is used to saying kind things. Arms that are accustomed to embracing generously. If I allow it, Advent gives me a break from me.
I don’t float around gently dispensing peace and love in my kitchen or on the street. I try to be a little kinder and I then I fall flat on my face because it is barely December and I already cannot handle the fifty two memos from school about canned food, shoeboxes for seniors, parties, concerts, celebrations and never ending details. I snap at the innocents, feel like a failure and snap some more. I want to go on strike, say choice words, and kick over a few snowmen. Then I remember that it is just about the baby and I go quiet again.
I scrounge around in my heart. Pace back and forth. Sigh. There’s no use telling a baby that I couldn’t think of what to give him, just come back next year. He doesn’t want my stuff, he just wants me and you. Good news that is terrifying.
It’s like the bathroom needs cleaning and the laundry isn’t done, but company I really care about is at the door. I pull shut the laundry room door, and yell for them to let themselves in. I grab a clean hand towel, some disinfectant and a rag for as good as I can get it in 90 seconds.
I’m coming, I yell from the bathroom.
Me too, says the baby.