It’s 10:00am on Tuesday, December 4 and I am eating enchiladas for breakfast and making lists on lists about lists. I thought I had the flu but I am pretty sure it’s been a combo of starting a new sleep medicine, stress, the constant weather changes, and lack of self care. I have hit my coffee limit for the day (curbing it to two cups as we attempt to get pregnant again), the cat is flailing around on the floor with a fitted sheet that I have washed but refuse to fold and put away, and I need to start working soon but I just can’t bring myself to change out of fox pajamas and into functioning adult clothes. Let’s just say, it’s been a day so far.
Every year, I tell myself that I am not going to get caught up in the holiday commercialism and get stressed out over all the things that don’t matter, and every year I fail. We are four days into the month of all-things-Christmas and I am irritable, nauseous, tired from lack of sleep, and anxious. My husband says I am cranky, distant, and unfocused. I don’t disagree with him.
In an effort to recalibrate my heart and reset my brain, I started the She Reads Truth 2018 Advent Study. It’s Day Four, and I am already stressed about “doing it right”, which completely defeats the purpose of doing it in the first place. What is it about The Most Wonderful Time of the Year that brings so much unrest for me? I know thousands of other people have asked this question and written about it in an effort to come up with yet another stress-free solution to offer others, but I need a place to process what it is for me that makes the month of December so difficult to enjoy.
All of this really hit me in two separate moments over the last twelve hours. First, I received a text from a friend confirming plans we had made but that I had failed to mark on the calendar. She was forgiving when I told her I had botched the timing, but her last text said, “That’s ok! It’s such a busy time of year.” Ugh. That one hit me hard. She didn’t say anything wrong. In fact, she was being incredibly kind and generous by forgiving my mistake. What hit me like a punch to the gut was the fact that I had, once again, let my tendency to over-promise and under-deliver ruin plans with some people I truly enjoy.
The second moment of realization came with opening the She Reads Truth Advent Guide website. Quite simply, the first line of each day’s reading says, “Open your Bible.” If someone has actively sought out an Advent reading guide to intentionally experience the anticipation of Jesus’ birth during the Christmas season, opening the Bible should requite nothing more than common sense. I, however, really needed this simple instruction. In the chaos of my brain, I needed the reminder to do the seemingly obvious. This made me both sad and relieved. I felt sad that I needed a black and white reminder to do what should require no instruction, and I felt relief that someone anticipated my need for stating the obvious. I must not be the only one who needs help focusing on the task at hand if someone else thought to include it as the opening line of text.
Before I launch into a laundry list of more things I “should do” in order to amend the errors of my ways, I am going to focus on doing the two things that tend to work best when attempting to reorient my heart and mind: apologize and be grateful.
I want to apologize. Acknowledging my shortcomings and confessing them to those who have been affected is a practice that grounds and humbles me. It reminds me that my words and actions impact other people. I intend to apologize to those who have been the unwilling recipients of my irritability, lack of intentionality, and unkept promises. Any apology without action is empty, so I hope to follow those confessions with intentional change so that I don’t continue to engage in the same offensive behaviors.
I also want to be grateful. Another grounding practice to free up my cluttered head and heart, I find gratitude to be a game changer. I can’t always change my circumstances, but I can always change my perspective, and gratitude is a good perspective-changer. I don’t adhere to the blanket “fake it ’til you make it” approach to gratitude. Sometimes we do have to practice an action before the heart follows suit, but that involves an intentional choice as opposed to the white-knuckling so many of us adopt when trying to change our habits or behaviors.
So in the midst of all of the temptation to be busier, do more, be more, live up to imaginary expectations, make more plans, not let people down, decorate, purchase, please, delight, worship, read, sleep, cook, and everything else, I hope I can remember to focus on just two things: apologize (i.e. take responsibility for my words and actions) and be grateful (in an authentic and honest way).
Maybe, just maybe, focusing on those two things will bring me to freely enjoy this Christmas season.