The difference between Advent and Lent is that Advent is supposed to be a joyous time, but Lent is about repenting. In Advent, we even have a day – the third Sunday, with the rose candle – that’s called Joy Sunday. Yet, the antithesis of joy is lists, and December is the most list-filled month of the year.
OK, so I actually have no proof of this outside my own narrow focus. But I feel like it’s true for more than just me. So how to maintain the joy when lists are forever hanging around? I have an 81/2 x 11 piece of printer paper that I fold in half, and then in thirds. I call it the Sacred Sixth paper. It includes things like “Get Louie’s license renewed”, and where chestnuts are on sale this week, and what dishes I’m bringing to the events I’m attending (since I’m not hosting anything this year). But it also includes things like the dates of Christkindl Market and Unsilent Night and the Donkey Sanctuary Christmas open houses, and 46 Christmas movies that I might watch.
The idea of Forced Fun isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But I don’t look at the Sacred Sixths paper as a measure of my holiday success. I mean, there are things on there that I have to do (see: dog license), but really, I’m not going to watch 46 Christmas movies and visit all those craft shows I have bookmarked. And once I get to a yet-to-be-determined day later in the month, I just crumple up the Sacred Sixths paper and my list is done. Ta-da! What’s not done, ain’t gettin’ done, and I’m OK with that. Some years that means the giant Rubbermaid containers go back downstairs still mostly-full of un-placed decorations. Some years, that means there aren’t as many cookies as the Sacred Sixths paper would have had you believe a few weeks earlier.
I’m trying to get better every year at being joyful every day, and that is largely predicated on not being a jerk to myself about the scheduling of things. Because once the schedule is full, and the hours of the day are done, that’s all there is. Full is full. The innkeeper really had no space. It wasn’t a reflection on the innkeeper’s character. Full is full. There’s nothing he could do about that. Space in the inn was finite.
I’m not doing everything on the lists. I know that. I’ll do what gets done and then, around December 21 or so, I’ll say, “F*ck it” and be done with the December lists.
This Advent, may I find joy more often. May I recognize the differences between the WantsTos and the GotsTos. May I empathize when other people’s to lists don’t line up the same way that I’ve decided mine does. And may I be diligent to not add to other people’s already overflowing lists.