There are too many emails in my inbox. Too many in yours, too, I wager. I use one of those rollup subscription tools to manage them all, but still – the emails. They overflow. It is December 1 and Inbox Inundation is in Full Swing.
I have a complicated relationship with this time of year; I’m sure I’m not the only one. We call it “The Holidays,” but of course, that’s a euphemism – everybody knows we mean Christmas. And, frankly, it can be difficult not to resent that. I say this both as a Hindu, whose major holiday comes earlier in the calendar year and is generally overlooked by the American public, and as someone who adores the spiritual meaning and heft of the Christmas story. What our consumer culture has managed to turn this season into is, whether you are invested from a religious angle or not, mostly garbage.
Listen, I am the farthest thing from a Scrooge; I love twinkling lights and I can get knee-deep in wonder real fast. It’s the obligation I’m not down with, the shouty capitalism that implies we MUST BUY THESE THINGS RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT in order to sustain our relationships and show people we love them, MUST SEND INSTAGRAM-WORTHY CARDS to demonstrate our family’s happiness and well-being, MUST SACRIFICE THE ENTIRE MONTH OF DECEMBER to doing things and spending time with people that we will ultimately resent.
Perhaps you have cracked the code for yourself and negotiated that beautiful balance of eschewing convention and choosing the traditions, rituals, and celebrations that feel truly meaningful to you – if so, please immediately reveal your secrets. Personally, I find myself renegotiating my relationship with Christmas each year, doing my best to determine what feels authentically engaging versus on an autopilot setting. I want so much to invest in that which sustains, from where I give my money to where I spend my time.
I don’t know that I’m ever going to get this balance “right,” or that there is a “right” – but with so much in flux in my family’s life right now, I have the opportunity to revisit and reimagine what I want this time of year to look like, and what I’m no longer interested in doing or trying to be. Turns out, there is a little bit of freedom in announcing to the world that your marriage is ending! Listen, I’m not recommending it, but for sure this destroys once and for all any internal impulse you once had to keep up with the Joneses or give a shit about what other people think. That stuff I can’t control. That stuff, no amount of algorithm-targeted merchandise is going to mitigate. I’ve got to do that work myself.
So I am going to try very hard this December to filter out the distractions and focus on that which sustains. Joy and good cheer? Sustaining. Gathering with friends for a fine meal? Sustaining. Extending forgiveness to myself and others? Sustaining. And so on and so forth.
As a liturgical season, Advent invites us to empty ourselves out, rather than fill ourselves up (ironic, eh? way to go, capitalism) – to make room in our hearts for a miracle to occur. The trick is, we have to forget that we know the miracle is already promised. At the darkest hour in the stillness of our truest selves is when the magic happens. This I wish for all of you, and for me as well.
Enjoy my writing? Sign up for my free newsletter here! Emails will be sent twice-monthly and will include a digest of blog posts, plus an assortment of non-blog content (think: what I’m reading, what I’m cooking, what I’m listening to, etc.)