I generally don’t like the anticipation of things. It’s one of the intricate pieces of who I am as a person. Even things I love to do, in the moments leading up to them–I dread them. Things as simple as hanging out with friends, sometimes I convince myself I’d rather stay home and so I cancel. Things as complicated as being in a new place by myself where I don’t know anyone–I overthink it often and just don’t want to go.
That’s how it’s been as I started my grad school journey. For our orientation a few weeks ago I got there early (go figure) and waited in my car until I thought I wasn’t too early. But it was daunting–I didn’t know where I was going, I haven’t been a student on a college campus for 10 years (10!). Of course it was fine, the people I met were friendly, and just about everyone was in the same boat of not knowing one another.
But I felt the same way before my first class too–what was it going to be like? Had I forgotten assignments or readings I was supposed to do? #overachiever And again, it was good, I got to know some people better and I finally felt like I was in the swing of things. And I’m just excited to continue that journey forward.
I love the seasons of the Christian church. There are so many memories from my childhood wrapped up with each and everyone. Mardi Gras, Lenten breakfasts, palm parades down 39th, the Hallelujah chorus on Easter, Youth Sundays, Advent festivals, 5pm Christmas Eve service plays, Epiphany parties and so many more. But I have to admit that Advent has been difficult for me. I’ve never been strict in my observance and the call to slow down and expectantly anticipate the celebration of Christs birth. And working at a church now, I definitely don’t spend the necessary time in silence, and wonder, and meditation.
But this year…this year is different. This year I need that time. I need to take moments of silence for myself. I need to wonder about the story, and about how others celebrate, and about how the birth and gift of Christ is enough. I need to meditate with my own thoughts, and the Word, and the talented words of others. So I have been reading more intently (and with regularity) the Advent devotions our church members have created. It’s easy because they are populated in my email when I check it each morning. And so I spend a few minutes centering myself, a few minutes reading, and a few minutes praying.
Advent is different this year. Amidst the hustle and bustle and joy of the season I find that my melancholy is all too obvious. The songs and music that generally make this season “merry and bright” seem less sparkly, less joyous, and less welcome to my ears. It’s something to work through, and something that I know won’t always feel this way. I am extremely thankful for the bright spots: Christmas cards and candy from my youth, nights full of laughter and frivolity with friends, surprise gifts throughout the season, and Holiday greetings from dear ones near and far (Christmas season mail is my favorite–TBH any mail is my favorite).
I just have to keep reminding myself to feel how I feel and not apologize. I have found some solace in Anne Weems’ Kneeling in Bethlehem. My favorite poem of the moment is below. It speaks a little to how my heart is feeling. But it also brings memories of her other poems from the same book that we used for our Christmas pageant each year.
Some of us walk into Advent
tethered to our unresolved yesterdays
the pain still stabbing
the hurt still throbbing.
It’s not that we don’t know better;
it’s just that we can’t stand up anymore by ourselves.
On the way to Bethlehem,
will you give us a hand?