For the last few years we’ve spent our Christmas holidays in a house we have near Nashville, TN. After selling our place in Chicago at the height of the housing boom we bought this house in the middle of nowhere to escape the big city. We wanted a change of pace, a new view outside our windows, a fresh perspective and we got that. Unfortunately, a few things happened after that- First, we discovered that we’re not “country” people. Living full-time in the middle of nowhere was making us crazy. Second, the bottom fell out of the housing market which meant we could not sell the luxury log home on 18 acres in the middle of nowhere.
Lucky for us we stumbled on the vacation rental track. We organized the place to optimize the experience and began to rent the house on a regular basis. It worked out so well we were able to make our way back to Chicago over time. But we always find our way down to Nashville to spend time when the rental calendar allows in the spring and summer and at Christmas and New Year’s.
The Christmas trip always sneaks up on me.
I try to keep mindful of the season, to foster a sense of wonder and waiting. I try to keep my mind focused on why I celebrate this particular holiday and generally I fail pretty well. I find myself distracted and worried. Then as I begin to shift the balance back, taking care to still meet my holiday obligations of gift giving and travel planning I find I am drowning in all of it. There are moments, lots of moments, that are beautiful and mindful and real, even in the chaos of the travel and holiday madness and I’m thankful for that.
Today, a few days away from the feast of the Nativity I open my email while sitting in a comfy chair in between arrivals of family members and friends visiting. I am catching up so that I can clear my plate for the next days again. No less than five emails in the box start with “There’s still time!” My heart jumps a little, I know I have forgotten someone or something. I might have left the lights on in the house. I might have gotten confused on which gift was for Chet and which was for Henry. I might have forgotten to get anything at all for Miles. There’s lots to do to get ready, to prepare. The emails want me to know that there is STILL TIME!
And then I’m panicked. I think they count on that. Same day delivery and last-minute shopping was made for people like me who float a little aimless this time of year, procrastinators and seasonal hopefuls. But instead of caving today, only a handful of days before Christmas, I’m going to change the context as much as I can because there is still time- not for shopping and cooking and cleaning and wrapping. Those things will cycle through quickly. If a gift isn’t wrapped we don’t miss all that much. If a sink has dishes when the guests arrive or the countertop a bit sticky we’ll all survive no worse for the wear really, but if I move through this next few days losing track of the reason I celebrate this feast then it wears away at me, it tears down the purpose and the resolve and the motivation to move forward. This context of knowing why I continue to inch ahead is fuel for the journey, now and tomorrow and the next day and the next. It’s where the joy is born, where the celebration is rooted, where the beautiful moments reside. And I want to be there as much and as often as I can.
There’s still time.