Or, Nobody Likes a Pity Party but Everybody's Still Invited
Dec. 20, Friday of the Third Week of Advent.
I know Advent's not even over yet, but I'm already feeling Christmas burnout. And I've stayed well away from the secularism and commercial bustle of the season this year. I've almost had to, as a matter of working-mom survival.
My early Advent reflections had me on board with Molly and Christy and Masha and Haley about switching off and tuning in for this season of quiet expectation. If I didn't have the resolve to follow through, daily life has made me follow through, but with its own, twisted sense of humor. (Hyperbole, but still. . .)
In addition to Ordinary Time liturgical living and feast days, I wanted to be on top of daily Advent meditations, a Christmas novena, giving to those in need, spending more quality time with my son, attending a daily Mass or two, and choosing or making thoughtful, meaningful gifts for those closest to me. I don't have the finances to provide everyone I would like to with Christmas gifts this year; but I would have liked to be able to give the gift of creative and loving effort, or at least time and friendship, and even that has been lacking.
It's less than a week before Christmas, and I'm not even sure if cards are going to go out this year. Fortunately for Catholics, Christmas extends well into January, so there's still time for that. Maybe.
(Oh, and wholesome, home-cooked meals for myself and my son and keeping a tidy house? Fuhgettaboutit.)
I mean, I wanted to deck the halls to cheerful music, fill our home with good baking smells for the holy days, meticulously practice the beautiful devotions that are so numerous this time of year. It's not like I've been wasting time internet shopping or attending Christmas parties every weekend.
Yet despite those things--though they are good ways to observe the season and a far cry better than absorbing oneself in commercials of shiny cars with giant bows on them--it occurs to me that I've had a successful Advent after all.
This month has been particularly difficult. At one point, my debit card was declined, my EBT was maxed out, my water shut off, and I couldn't get my prescription refilled so was dizzy and cloudy-headed and scheduled to close at the deli that evening. I canceled indefinitely my son's speech therapy because, despite being paid for by Medicaid, I had to drive an hour out of the way once a week and then an hour back to get there. I've plunked extra money into tests trying to find out what's wrong with me and why I keep getting sick, not to mention the recurring fatigue and body aches unrelated to viruses; so far, the results have been a big FAT NOTHING. (So I'm imagining it?) I resent that all these weeks--the four weeks that lasted an eternity when I was young, so that Christmas never seemed to come--have flown by without any sympathy for my convenience.
The latest flu-cold-thingy has forced me to to bed and quarantine in my leisure hours, so I've been able to reflect a little. There would probably have been a time (like, this summer) that I would have pushed myself to do everything; and if I didn't, I would have moped and felt guilty and disappointed about it. But I'm not going to do that, and I haven't been. As for the things that do happen, I'm making an effort to put them in perspective. Allow me to post this exercise to the internet for everyone to see:
I haven't enjoyed the traditions of the Church's seasons to the fullest like I wanted.
God makes sure that my intentions and offerings are pure by frustrating my plans.
I haven't been able to put together thoughtful little gifts for coworkers, friends, and family.
God graciously makes me aware that my poverty is not only material but spiritual, and that true gifts come through His grace alone, for which I take no credit.
I am sick and poor and weary.
I am whole and well fed, with a roof over my head, clothes on my body, books to read, a healthy son, access to the Sacraments, freedom and talents, and loving friends and family.
I've failed to keep my Advent devotions and novenas.
Prayer does not have to be formal or beautiful but is any sort of communion with God that comes from a deep need in the soul reaching out to Him.
So this Advent hasn't turned out the way I planned or wanted. It's drained me and hasn't been the restful season it's meant to be. But in His own mysterious way, God has chastened me. He's given me a pretty obvious lesson in humility (again). Instead of feeling sorry for myself because my cell phone's screen goes blank at will and during every phone call; my glasses are old and I haven't updated my prescription in over five years (contacts--I wish!); the underwire of my only bra from Walmart is broken; I haven't got a single thing for the Squirt this Christmas, much less gone Christmas shopping; and my friends must be feeling pretty neglected at the lack of communication, birthday party attendance, and season's greetings . . . I'm gonna let it go.
That's my Advent. Instead of wallowing in it, I'll lie it all down before the manger. (Frankincense-and-myrrh are nice, but what do you get the God who has everything?) Christmas is coming, ready or not. And thank God for that! Because if He waited for me to be ready, He'd be waiting a long, long, long, really long time. Alleluia!