Taking a small step aside from writerly things, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dips into the personal now and then, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking along these lines, so here goes:
Today is the first Sunday in the season of Advent, which is, as Anne Lamott says, a big time of year for my Jesusy people. It’s the period of contemplation and remembrance leading up to a great feast, and though these days I’m not much of a churchgoer–as in, I’m not one at all–I like the idea and I try to keep it in some form or another. Regardless of faith or lack thereof, I think the idea of contemplation before celebration is something that most people can get behind. It’s a good idea, which is probably why it’s been around for so long in so many contexts.
Despite this, Advent gets overlooked a lot, even by the people who supposedly celebrate it; the winter holidays are busy for just about everyone, and setting aside time to contemplate and remember takes special effort. But again, it’s an idea I like, and I think it’s important. I’m a fan of feasts, but I might be even more a fan of fasting–fasting with the expectation of the feast to come. Hopeful waiting. Excited anticipation.
Advent is about that, about hope and waiting and excitement, but it’s also about looking back on what’s happened and thinking about what’s to come, not just in terms of the feast but in terms of the big sprawling mess that the next year of life presents. What have I succeeded in doing? What have I failed in? What part of me needs work?
A lot. Most of me. The part that probably needs the most work–my ability to be kind–is the part that keeps bringing me back to this essay by the aforementioned Ms. Lamott, which is, I think, worth a read regardless of what angle you come at this time of year from: My Advent Adventure
Then Terry approaches the other man.
“My friend,” he says gently, “it looks like you have trouble here.”
The man just nods.
“We’re going to give you a hand,” says Terry.
“So three men from the recovery house next door help him to his feet, walk him to the halfway house and put him in the shower. They wash his clothes and shoes and give him their things to wear while he waits. They give him coffee and dinner, and they give him respect. I talked to these other men later, and even though they had very little sobriety, they did not cast this other guy off for not being well enough to be there. Somehow this broken guy was treated like one of them, because they could see that he was one of them. No one was pretending he wasn’t covered with shit, but there was a real sense of kinship. And that is what we mean when we talk about grace.
“Back at the meeting at the Episcopal Cathedral, I was just totally amazed by what I had seen. And I had a little shred of hope. I couldn’t have put it into words, but until that meeting, I had thought that I would recover with men and women like myself; which is to say, overeducated, fun to be with and housebroken. And that this would happen quickly and efficiently. But I was wrong. So I’ll tell you what the promise of Advent is: It is that God has set up a tent among us and will help us work together on our stuff. And this will only happen over time.”
A joyful and blessed season to all, however you celebrate it.