It’s November! I always forget this month is coming. Then I’m whammy-ed with daylight savings time and walking the dog in the dark at 4:30 each afternoon. The high temp most days is suddenly in the 30s, and my Facebook feed fills up with two sorts of posts:
2. God save us, it’s the holidays, AGAIN.
I’ll confess, I’m solidly in the second camp. I hold my breath from early November through the end of the year, just waiting for it to be over. A holiday centered around cooking bird for 20 people while making hours of polite small talk plays to none of my strengths, and Steve and I aren’t great at buying gifts for each other. If there is a two month stretch designed to make us feel like losers in life, this is it.
Don’t get me wrong, we love our families and friends and seeing them at other times of the year is fantastic – like the impromptu lunch we had at my mother-in-law’s house the other day when Steve’s brother & his fiancee were in town. Or our friend’s birthday party we went to on Saturday night. Those were So. Much. Fun. But the holidays? God save me.
I don’t think I’m alone here. There’s a reason 12-step recovery programs have 24 hour marathons with meetings every hour during the holidays: for many people, the holidays are awful, and any means of escape from the focused disappointment – in yourself, the relationships you wish were better, the life you thought would look more like a Sears ad and less like a warning pamphlet – seems like it might be worth the cost.
I’m a fan of escapist survival tactics, but I don’t think they require drugs or alcohol (or binge shopping or record breaking consumption of pie). I think it requires something bigger to focus on.
Every November, it feels like the world gets very, very small, and everything is all pointing towards these two dates where there are cultural expectations that your life look a certain way. But this narrowing? It’s a lie. I’m not sure why it took me so long to learn this, but a couple years back I realized that I could go through November & December the same way I go through the other ten months – with one eye on daily life, the other on the big picture. I can smile at my friend’s pictures of their children grinning (or sobbing) on Santa’s lap, and then move onto other things. I understand how, when you have children, this season does require you to narrow your focus to keep all the balls in the air. But if that’s not your season in life, it’s okay to make these months about something else.
I have to bring up Jesus here, because ostensibly, Jesus Is The Reason For The Season. Would that it were so. If Christmas meant a gathering in each town for an hour or so around a manger scene, singing Silent Night off-key and being reminded that hope is worth the effort, I’d be all for it. And perhaps this year I’ll find a donkey trough to stand beside and warble some hopeful little songs to God (although here in Cambridge I’m probably have to find an antiques store to break into). But that’s not what it’s about, usually, and that’s what makes it so hard. And perhaps that first Christmas was hard too, as the few people who recognized the birth of the Savior they’d been praying for thought, “But that’s a BABY. How is he going to help anything?”
I realize that this isn’t a happy post. Feel free to ignore it if this doesn’t apply to you. But if it does, if you’re one of the people fighting off the inward cringe of “Oh sh*t, it’s November AGAIN,” know that you’re not alone. It’s okay to reclaim and redefine these months. Sixty-one days a year is too much time to spend just getting through. I mean, how could anything be good about giving up two whole months of your life, every single year? That’s just silly. Let’s not.
Need suggestions? I’ve got a few!
National Novel Writing Month started a few days ago – there’s totally time to jump on board. Write something ridiculous or scary or unexpected or hopeful and see if you enjoy the process. You might be surprised at how it turns out.
Learn something new. Reading this article in Fast Company convinced me that next November, I want to learn to play the keyboard, even though I have no musical talent (I’ve had the shaker egg taken away from me at sing-alongs). It’s been awhile since I learned something new, and I think it would be…well, character building, if nothing else. But it might be fun.
Pick an obsession. A friend of mine used to do this, although at the time I didn’t realize what she was up to. One year she trained for a marathon. Another year she subscribed to Cooking Light & challenged herself to cook a dinner other than cereal every night. Our other roommate was inspired and kept her nails perfectly manicured for two straight months. These weren’t world-changing efforts, but they were so much fun. Highly recommend.
Laugh. Behold, I give you: Awkward Family Christmas Pictures!
Pray. A few years back, I did a blog called 40 Days of Faith, focused on asking God for big things. I wonder if I shouldn’t reprise it, stretching it to something longer, like 67 days, so as to get us all solidly through into the New Year? Considering. But you can design your own time to spend with God during this season. Pray through the 150 Psalms, one or two a day. Get a notebook and write out your own prayer-of-the-day. Buy a devotional (Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind is a good one, as is the classic, My Utmost for His Highest, if you’d like your butt kicked in a spiritual way.) Remember, the goal is to shift this time: from something that gets hijacked by outside expectations, to something that reclaims these months as functional, thriving parts of your life. Involving God in the process might be a good idea, indeed :)