IN THE TIME OF WINTER
The new year is upon us, and I am back, in a manner of speaking, from my hiatus. God bless whoever decided it was good to celebrate Christmas at the beginning of winter. They not only capitalized on the season of the first return of longer days, but also blessed us with an opportunity to take this quieter time in the year in which to decompress from the frenzy of "the holidays", and contemplate a few things about our lives. Long nights and cold days have a way of muting the sharp edges of everyday life outside our homes.
Any time that motorcycles are put away in garages and outside sounds are muffled by snow is a good time for me. In the time when people lived an agrarian lifestyle winter was their slow season when work was slack and in fact, people would marry in the late fall and winter, as I believe the Amish do still.
We need winter to recuperate, because "doing" these holidays is not for amateurs, and boy, did these last ones take about everything out of me that I could give, and then some. Something is not quite right with that, is it?
Running concurrent with them, I had been managing a couple of part-time jobs, church commitments, and was needed for running folks to appointments and often having to "hang out" while they did their thing. Really time-consuming. Then there were the illnesses to tend. So that jingle-jangle sound heard through the town was not sleigh bells, but actually my damaged nerves about to give out. I feel the need right now to write about my experience in the hopes that it will help me sort things out, and maybe help someone else to maybe get a different perspective, too.
Here is something I figured out a long time ago, but always refuse to acknowledge once November dawns: my fore-mothers were not involved in outside jobs or all these other activities, and therefore, outside of going to Mass, they devoted themselves
to hearth and home, and therefore could do all the cooking, cleaning and baking they wished. Not that they didn't work hard; indeed, they worked very hard without all the modern conveniences, but their lives were simpler and more focused on home. And my Italian grandmothers could make Zeppoles and Struffuli, because they were not also making French Buche de Noel, and English fruitcake, and nine other kinds of cookies from various lands. And they could keep their simply furnished homes clean and tidy, ready for drop-in visitors, because they were not outside stringing lights and garland over everything, decorating every room in their house on top of all the normal clutter, or going to meetings or practices and running the roads day and night. Do their lives sound drab to you? Maybe I'm weird (oh, of course I'm weird) but it sounds heavenly to me.
Naturally, to be successful in any era, it also helps to be an organized person, and I have slowly and painstakingly learned to be better at this. But I wasn't born that way, and have often been a slow learner. However, is it always the case that the reason we cannot successfully cram more and more into our days because we are just not organized enough? Or, perhaps, instead are we trying to do way too much? Saying yes to people and opportunities when we should say no?
I have been doing some soul-searching lately, to say the least. I have realized that no matter how much or little money we make, one or the other of us has a tendency to want to spend a little more than we bring in. So I potentially have the same dilemma, whether I am home, happy and able to do what I feel I am called to do, or whether I am out there trying to work at all this crazy stuff, sweating and stressing about money and my duties. We will continue to have a problem unless we stop over-spending.
So, with God's help, I am determined to rein in the situation and just in the last week, resisted the temptation to spend about $1,300 on various projects. I also plan to make respectful but straightforward appeals to my husband when he gets in that mood to overspend, and be very careful of our finances from here on out.
A dear friend made me think of something else. She asked me if I was trying to do all this to earn love. Ouch, that hurt, but she was probably right. I think I try to overdo everything in an effort to be the best, or more accurately, in order be worthy, and perhaps the worthiest. Now that is ugly. We all know that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." And that there is "no one worthy, no not one." And that being made right with God, is all His doing, not mine. Accepting His free gift of "being made worthy by Him" is my job. Making Him Lord of my life is my job. Trying, with His help to discern His will and to obey Him, is my job. Remembering this and casting all my cares on Him leaves me feeling refreshed and joyful, and not enervated and exhausted.
I think that is how our work on earth should leave us feeling, too. If what we do is in obedience to God's will and is done ultimately out of love for Him and others, than it may make us physically tired, but joyful and satisfied at the end of the day. If what we engage in leaves us upset and dissatisfied, then we are probably doing things that we were never meant to do.
As far as trying to earn the love, respect and admiration of other people, I have to plead guilty to this as well. How hard is that to let go? Oh, its awfully hard for me. I want to make people happy, and I don't want to be mean, and I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. Well, guess what happens when I try to make everybody happy? I end up just a bit short (just like in my finances) of hitting the mark, coming just this close to fulfilling their wishes, but not quite. Which means, as far as they're concerned, that I didn't do any of it right. And I, at the point of collapse, tend to become a little whiny, a little short and sharp-tongued, and then, oh boy, is everyone unhappy with me!! That's right - NOBODY IS HAPPY!!
Which leaves me feeling lower than a dirt sandwich. So beginneth the cycle anew to earn back my points with the Almighty and my fellow humans.
So, I'm stopping. I am quitting a job tomorrow and a church "ministry" that have kept me tied down for a long time now. I hope that other women will be able to stop, too, whatever it is that they were not called to do, or no longer called to do. If we fulfill the biblical mandate of being a keeper at home, and we do what's necessary to take care of ourselves as well, then I think God will bless us with well-being and His peace.
And as far as getting every piece of tinsel and glitter on everything, going nuts with these gifts, and baking and cooking every recipe that "looks good", then going into meltdown, maybe we need to ask ourselves why. Why do we ruin these holy days that God gives us with so much overkill? One time I foolishly tried to go to the Mall on the day after Christmas. I saw people cussing and fighting over parking spots, and it occurred to me, that indirectly they were engaging in this ugly, sinful behavior in a way that was somehow connected to the humble birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. I was horrified and I went home.
And going home is a very good place to start to get it right.