As we make the Advent race past mile marker “Gaudate Sunday” (the third week) we move into the winds of the pre-Christmas rush of our society. The media, on behalf of those who sell things, have slowly morphed these two weeks into a time of busyness, purchases, attractions and scattered thought.
Many will find that their propensity to be annoyed, triggered and over-run by anxiety and stress will flare up in these last two weeks like a wildfire in a dry forest. And of course, the only way to keep the forests of our minds and souls wet, will be through stillness, silence, mindfulness and prayer. And of course the great irony is that those very sources of wellness will often be crushed by the frenetic activity which they are meant to mitigate. It is a deadly spiral: less silence, more lists, less stillness, more activity, less “no”s and more undiscerned “yes”s. It can be a perfect storm. Add to that the inevitable many griefs we experience in this season – lost friendships, fragile relationships, deaths which haunt us of many kinds – and the storm-winds themselves catch fire – as if the wind were not difficult enough.
So how do we manage in Advent as we approach the light, just past the altars of our lives? How do we live so that we do not fall prey to death-by-a-million-“Christmas expectation”-paper-cuts?
One solution is to simply notice that we are being triggered by things which feed our propensities for being triggered. By that I mean, we simply acknowledge that we are human and that we will be triggered. Then we stop the action, look at the source of the trigger, and slow down the action. The way to fight your demon is not to attack it, but rather too look long and deep into its eyes and say “I see you.” When we do that, our demons feels heard and the hair on their backs lowers and flattens. Lions may indeed lay with lambs in this season, but the lamb keeps one eye open.
Advent is a season in which to see that the light is coming into the darknesses of our lives and to slow down enough to let the pupils of our souls adjust. That way, we do less fumbling in our darknesses, cause less harm to those around us, stub our toes less often on the steps as we make our way to the One who Comes.