Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (?)

Reinvent Advent (part one)

After a fit of weird weather, it is finally getting cold here in Kansas City. A frosty windshield greets me most mornings when I go to work now. The wind has gotten sharp, demanding a scarf and mittens even in the afternoon.  Yes, I think it is safe to say that it is officially that time of year. Traffic has doubled and the stores are so crowded that a simple trip to pick up milk becomes an afternoon endeavor.  It is the time of year when I start to feel this pressing urge to burrow into a happy, dark hole somewhere and hide - the hap-happiest season of all.

Call it a case of the Grinches but there is something about the holiday season that makes me feel particularly anti-social.  Or perhaps it is the time of year that merely spotlights an ongoing antisocial attitude that I otherwise try to smuggle in under the radar.  Regardless, my windshield isn't the only thing getting frosty this November.  For whatever reason, as everyone else is thinking about getting together, my heart kind of aches to be left alone (though maybe not in solitude exactly).

You see, to me, winter is a time to be silent, to wander in the cold in quiet contemplation, to mirror the muted colors and commune with the barren ground, the empty trees, the pale skies.  This is a somber time to me, not festive, and careless crowds and cacophony are distinctly dissonant and particularly obnoxious - irreverent even.  If there is togetherness to be had, it shouldn't be harried, tinny, or shallow.  It should come after one has lain in bed on a grey morning and, after a while, has finally ventured out into a warm kitchen to sit with a few others and sip coffee.  It should start with low, soft tones.  It should move slowly.  It should be a time of savoring and seeing and listening and being.  And all the raucous, the jarring cheer, it so jangles my spirit sometimes that I want to build up a downy, feathered wall about 18 inches thick between me and the rest of the world to mute their carrying on.

This is the time of year that I want to think about what is really important, what is real.  I want to actually examine the year that has gone by, what it meant, what it could mean.  I want to actually give some thought to the year coming up.  I want to pay attention.  I want to feel. 

And sometimes I feel like I am the only one.

Last year I walked through the weeks of advent in just such an effort to examine, to pay attention, and to feel, in the hopes of finding and/or creating my own traditions, traditions that enrich my life, that connect me to others, that connect me to God.  This year I have decided that, from November 23rd to December 23rd, I am going to stage my own minor protest.  I am going to fast - fast eating out, fast any and all movies, who knows, maybe I'll even fast social media.  I want simple meals prepared and eaten at home without spending a lot of money.  I want simple evenings of peace and quiet, that my mind might acclimate again to the world in which I live instead of the over-stimulated land of the non-living.

So, Tuesday next, I am going to go out with a friend after a Thanksgiving service, and when we are done making merry, I am going to give in to my desire to hole up.  I am going to claim my hours as my own and my days for the sacred.

Once upon a time I decided that I did not want to watch others live life, but wanted to, myself, live a life worth watching.  Turns out that is harder than one might think.  I am not sure how exactly I got sidetracked.  I think, honestly, I just got sucker-punched in the ring one afternoon and it's taken a while for the dizziness to go away.  But it's time to reorient.  And what better time to do that than advent?

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