Inspired by James Clear, who wrote Atomic habits and said, “my goal is not to reduce life to the fewest amount of things, but to fill it with the optimal amount of things” I have been reflecting on what an optimal advent and holiday season looks like in my life. It has little (surprise!) to do with gifts (bought the pan mentioned in the last post). It also has little to do with social events, or perhaps to put it better, social events are extremely precious and must be sifted through with great care.
I am blessed to have more opportunities than I can possible commit to. I know that I am not alone in this. Everyone seems busy and organizing anything instigates an endless round of emails, text, and WhatsApps about scheduling. So clearly the optimal advent will involve careful, intentional, discernment when it comes to who I will spend time with, how and where.
Gabe Bult, a young man whose video work and commentary on Youtube I tend to appreciate recently said about productivity: “the goal is not always trying to do more; it’s to cut everything out that is non-essential so I can focus all my attention, money, and energy, on the things that are truly important to me.” He was talking about work but in a sense this applies to life in general. I could try to do more, I could tire myself out and irritate my family, I could rush from thing to thing and not be truly present at any of it, OR I could make the difficult decision and say “no” to some invitations and opportunities.
This is something each of us can and must do. We cheat everyone involved if we try too hard to be nice and be all things to all people.
I think of the story of Martha and Mary and how Jesus says that just one thing is needed.
Things that matter and are worthy of our time and attention, people that matter and are worthy of our affection and care and love. I know we are open and loving, but there is still only 24hours in a day. As you approach this season with its buying and wrapping, with its food shopping and preparing and house decorating, take care of yourself and of others by being rightly discerning. Who is it essential you spend time with? Give them your time and full attention when you are present.
A bit off topic but adjacent enough to be an illustration of use: I hear many people tell me that they are sad their grandchildren do not go to church. I know one woman, she is as busy as everybody else, she does not have a time machine or any extraordinary skill that I know of, and yet she brings her grandkids to church with her consistently. Sometimes their mom comes, sometimes mom has an appointment or is away with dad, or just needs to sleep in, in steps grandma, every.single.time. That is a woman with focus, who has decided what is essential and optimal and pursues it with the vigour she has. She is lucky her children will even permit the grandkids to go to church, some families won’t. Still, I am positive this means saying no to other options, including sleeping a little longer, having a clean car, enjoying the quiet of said car, going to lunch after church…
As the seasonal calendar fills up I encourage you think of that grandma, or the sister in the story with Jesus, or the productivity guru, whatever helps! And then slow down, make the right decision, and pursue what is important to you. What the you in a year (or 5) will have wished you did. If you do you will enjoy a most memorable and satisfying holiday season.