It is the dreaded count-down-to-Christmas question. It is the opener for probably every conversation during December…especially among women. On Friday, this question launched a teaching colleague into a rant on how much cooking she had to do for the holidays and how she was never going to find time to do it. Then everyone else in the group piped up with what they had left to do.
“Are you ready?”
No! We’re not ready! Dumb questions get dumb answers. I think we ask the question in order to find out who is more not ready than we are. Even those who are ready hedge their answer with, “Pretty much. All I have left to do is…”
How ready are you? Take the poll.
I am sympathetic toward those who reply with “buy all the presents” or “declutter and clean the entire house and decorate it.” They fall a tad into the dysfunctional group but, hey, we all have our dysfunctional moments. I’m the type to ransack the house for scotch tape that I was very good about buying in advance. And for those of you who never get Christmas cards from me, I really, really do think of you. As for purses–Hi, Mom! And John, save some whisky and eggnog for the rest of us.
The definition of “ready” depends, of course, on one’s stage in life. Although I have yet to wrap any gifts, some of which I actually ordered in September, I will do it today (ok,maybe tomorrow) because I long ago learned the lesson that things come up at the last minute. One year it was a stomach bug at midnight on December 23. I was helpless to do anything until midnight of December 24. This year it is a last minute request to help one daughter watch the baby of another daughter on Monday. Toddler of the helping daughter is throwing up today. Yeah, this bodes well.
The year after the stomach bug episode, I learned that being ready means making sure the husband is ready, too. I had all my gifts wrapped and, at bedtime on Christmas Eve, asked hubby if he was planning to wrap his. He thought he was ready because he had actually bought presents before Christmas Eve. (There was that one year when the malls closed and he wasn’t finished shopping….he learned from that.)
Part of being ready has always been to have the house ready. Decorations are key, but underlying the decorations is this idea that dirt should not be underlying the decorations. One mom of young ones lamented recently that she didn’t know how she was going to get the house clean in order to decorate. Silly mom. You don’t clean the whole house. You just clean the part that you want to decorate. It’s all going to get dirty again anyway.
In getting ready, it is important not to peak too soon–or you’ll be twiddling your thumbs waiting for Valentine’s Day. Admit it, part of the excitement of Christmas is the adrenaline rush of stress. It’s what keeps us from a sugar cookie induced diabetic coma at the darkest part of the year. All the running around gets our heart rate up. You just have to know your limits. Blinking lights are pretty, but there are easier ways to enjoy lights than having an emergency and calling 911.
However, the most important part of Christmas readiness is knowing what to let go of. This year, I’m thinking that I need to let go of the need to be ready. I ‘ve always looked at the Advent season as the time to prepare myself spiritually for Christ’s coming. The need to get my heart in order dovetails, for me, with the urgency of doing. (Come on, get the heart right.) But upon reflection, my heart is never right enough and no one at that first Christmas was ready.
Picture Mary going into labor with no place to stay. Joseph wishing desperately that Travelocity existed. Shepherds hanging out in the fields until a flash mob of angels appears. Who is ever ready for a bazillion angels to show up singing?
Christmas happened. It had nothing to do with to-do lists and buying presents. It had everything to do with being present. (Time to cue the Who’s in Whoville singing “fa-who-dor-aze.) Jesus showed up. I don’t know exactly when and where he’ll show up next, but I do want to be ready to be there. He might be at the Post Office. He might be in the UPS driver. Or even in me.
In the meantime, there are these gifts I could wrap and some cards to address. Where is that tape? And do we have any stamps?