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.
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.