Next Time


One of the most adorable qualities of the human spirit, is our persistently hopeful notion of next time.

“Next time, I’m not messing around. I’m getting my act together, and I’m going to be amazing. All of these years, and the dozens of times I’ve fallen short, are surely just practice for next time.”

Well, here we are, smack in the middle of last December’s next time.

Some optimistic/delusional part of me, and maybe some equally delusional part of you, likes to think that it is entirely possible for Christmastime to be magazine/Pinterest/Food Network-worthy — polished and delicious and perfect. The other smarter, more reasonable parts of us know it probably won’t be, and the very best parts accept that this is totally ok.

Whether it’s you or me, doesn’t really matter. Let’s pretend it’s you. You won’t do every Christmasy thing you wanted to do – cut down your own tree, drive around to look at the lights, volunteer at a soup kitchen, take your nieces to “The Nutcracker,” or finally use that Advent calendar you bought six years ago.

The Elf on the Shelf will forget to move for a day or two, causing great consternation for the home’s human occupants.

You won’t be able to say yes to every party, but will consider canceling the ones you did say yes to because it’s been a long week, you are tired and cranky, and the rumor going around is there will be people at the party.

You’ll spend more time than you care to admit making that cheery and festive  Anthroplogie-style decorative paper chain, then realize there’s no good place to hang it.

The cat will climb the Christmas tree. An ornament will be broken. You’ll forget where you stashed the stocking hangers, so the limp stockings will wait in a sad pile with the paper chain.

No matter when you get there, the line for Santa will be long, bordering on too long. Or worse, the baby of the family will decide suddenly that they are done visiting Santa, and your heart will hurt a little.

The cards won’t go out on time, if they go out at all. And if they do go out, you will be exactly three stamps short, and you will wonder if those three people are worth a trip to the post office. You’ll say “of course they are,” and you will go to the post office, and once again question your feelings about the strength of those three friendships as you wait in line.

The kids will start to lose interest in making cookies the moment they have to wash their hands, and abandon you altogether when you start pouring ingredients into the mixing bowl; which is ok, because you’re out of eggs anyway.

You will lose patience for a minute, and yell at someone you love.

The big brother will grouse about owning yet another pair of festive pajamas that match the little brother’s, even though this is surely the last year there will be matching pajamas in both their sizes.

Weather will happen, flights will get cancelled.

You will get a paper cut while wrapping presents.

You will remember too late, again, that the idea of ice skating is much better than the reality of ice skating.

Your sweater will be scratchy.

It will seem that absolutely everybody you know is somehow doing Christmas better than you.

They’re not.

I would tell you to relax, but I feel weird telling you to do something I seem to be incapable of. Churchy types, like myself, are in the middle of Advent – which is the season of waiting, preparation, and anticipation. We strive with varying degrees of success, to eschew the commercial and focus on the reason behind it all. We fail at that as much as we succeed. But something special is coming, and it’s really, really hard to sit still.

What do you do while you wait? Whether it’s for your prom date,  party guests, or for something as holy and special as Christmas — how do you fill those final anticipatory hours? Do you meditate, or rearrange the throw pillows and hastily scoop the mail from the kitchen counter? Do you sit on the couch quietly so you don’t wrinkle your outfit or maybe squeeze in one more task and yell at whoever can hear you to get more ice? I rearrange, scoop, squeeze, and yell.

We fill the time, and do what we can, but maybe we can keep our cool a little bit, so we’re not sweating, and antsy and too burnt out to enjoy not only each other, but also the fruits of our laborious waiting period. You’ve worked so hard – you don’t want to miss the main event.

And so what if you didn’t get to everything this year? You’ll do it next time.

Wishing you a joyous, yet totally peaceful, Christmas and holiday season.

6 thoughts on “Next Time

  1. pinkbrickhome says:

    This cracks me up because I finally sat down to read the post after a marathon wrapping session. I told Hubby I’ve reached my wrapping threshold and if he keeps piling presents in my office he will have to wrap them himself. I want to get onto more enjoyable and meaningful gifts for all the company like planning menus and baking.

  2. Multifarious meanderings says:

    Love, love, LOVE this. I was nodding all thew way through. My plans to transform into a Chrismas super-mum and make bisuits and mince pies has been thwarted by a huge bag full of work from clients who are behind on schedule, but at least I got the kids’ stuff ordered from Santa in time this year.
    Don’t mention ice skating to me, I have skated for ten minutes in my life and all I got out of it was 6 weeks of busted wrist 🙂
    Have a wonderful Christmas!

  3. backuphill says:

    I like that you are the “churchy type” and aren’t afraid to declare it! I also especially liked “the rumor going around is there will be people at the party.” That, right there, was the one that made me giggle. Oh how tired we get of people during this season! At times, it is hard not to be Scrooge or the Grinch when the irritations begin to pile up.

    Merry CHRISTmas!

  4. David Barnes (@sayonaraML) says:

    Back in the day when I worked in financial services, December was always a hard place. The focus was on things that seemed antithetical to Advent and Christmas and I longed to be at a place that would respect and appreciate the way I wanted to be and feel. So working at a church would address that right? Sure got that one right…
    Of course reading this reminds me of all that is right about the world and the fact that I’m (most comforting of all) not alone in my feeble struggles and actually doing just fine. Nothing like a little early morning perspective and am really glad (and proud) that you, like me are the churchy type.
    And next year I’ll never forget to bring your son pork buns!

  5. Bettie Graves says:

    Unbelievable….right on……and so enjoyable….thank you for this Christmas Present in words……it really has given me pause for thought and pause to consider once again what is important and to be thankful……Merry Christmas my friend!

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