I wanted to originally write a blog post wishing everyone happy Advent. To be super cheery about the start of my favourite liturgical season and how I believe in an intentional Advent. That’s how my day started out when I first started writing this post anyway. I even wrote a totally gung-ho, go-and-get-them journal entry on that particular morning, about how Advent invites us to prepare for Christ’s Second Coming. (It inspired the caption of this post). Yet somewhere in the midst of all the intentionality, I slipped into the melancholy I know way too well. (Type 4s, who know what I mean.)
Now Christmas has been and gone and I haven’t written a single seasonally themed post during December. Instead, I’ve worked crazy hours at work; been very bad at saying no to people; failed at trying to clean my house; wrapped presents and decorated the house; watched too much TV; socialised a lot (in a COVID-safe manner). My brain, like most other people this year, has been running with limited headspace. I’ve been living at what feels like such a pace that thinking about an intentional, slow Advent hasn’t happened… let alone actually living it out and writing about it.
Here lies the problem
Busyness. It is the total antithesis of Advent. What is meant to be a season of remembering, preparing and waiting becomes busier than any other time of year. How on earth are we meant to slow down and find time for reflection amidst the baking and food prep, finishing work for Christmas, present shopping, decoration, and making sure we see everyone? Then chuck in all the other to-dos and multi-tasking of regular life, from work meetings to just trying to eat healthily. The fact that we’re not all sobbing into mugs of hot chocolate laced with Baileys or tubs of ice cream is an achievement to be celebrated!
All of this means that slowing down kind of goes out the window. It’s not exactly conducive to remembering Jesus’s first coming or preparing for His second, which is meant to be the whole purpose of Advent. I wanted to slow down but somehow that ended up feeling like another chore to do. So I spent Advent in one of two head states: binging on trashy TV or running around trying to do it all.
So how, if like me you find yourself simultaneously doing it all and vegging out to escape it all, do we change this situation? The thing is, busyness is not the fault of Advent, Christmas, or any other season. We can always find reasons to be busy. Rather, we need to change the reason behind what we choose to do: our attitude.
What is the attitude that leads someone to being busy?
Busyness-causing attitudes differ from person to person but here’s a few possible reasons:
- Trying to live up to a particular reputation
- Trying to avoid doing the hard/unpleasant things
- Spending time pleasing other people
- Having an over-guilty conscience
- Prioritising the urgent over the important
Changing your attitude isn’t easy. It requires a buzzword: intentionality. Another way to put it is to say that we have to choose what we are going to do and understand the reason we made that choice. When we flit from task to task without stopping to ask why we are doing what we are doing, we lose sight of what the intention of those tasks was.
That is me. If I know I have a lot to do, I’ll make a list, whack on the tunes (love making seasonal playlists a la Tsh Oxenrider), and get to it. Only an hour later I’ve probably been distracted by a million other things, added them to the list… and before I know it I’m cleaning the bathroom at 11.30pm because I’ve run out of time. I’ve spent the whole day avoiding the important jobs I don’t want to do (cleaning my bathroom) while doing the jobs I enjoy but also add to the reputation I want and please people (baking bread). Really, I should have done those jobs the other way around!
Make it a different kind of year
Okay, so this year hasn’t been a walk in a park. Even for those of us who had started to get a handle on busyness in and out of the Advent-Christmas season, 2020 threw us a curveball. Headspace, as I said earlier, has been limited and a large chunk of it has been taken up with this whole global pandemic thing.
Regardless of whether you have a pandemic-perfect Christmas, a too-busy Christmas, or a lonely turkey-for-one Christmas, we’re all hoping 2021 is going to look different. So here is my suggestion for having a different year next year. It’s not about looking back to 2019 and longing to return to those days. Instead, I’m changing my attitude. I’m going to start saying NO to myself as much as I should say it to other people. I highly recommend you do the same.
It might be saying NO to learning another hobby; to choosing NOT to keep maintaining a starter; to REFUSING to stay late at work; to switching OFF the TV while you’re cooking. This might all sound really negative but think about what this means you can say YES to…
YES to enjoying the hobby you’ve been doing for years but never had the time to improve at.
YES to not stressing over the unending list of chores because it now has an end.
YES to eight hours of sleep and a social life.
YES to spontaneous kitchen dance parties/a moment of quiet while stirring the bolognese.
Then maybe, if we can learn to slow down and say no to ourselves as well as other people Advent and Christmas 2021 might be less busy. Not just look less busy but be less busy!