After This…

How many times in my life have I said “after this…” then I would be able to do the things I’ve always wanted?

I set goals, I long for change, yet the day-to-day spirals beyond my control. The lie I tell myself, the lie we all tell ourselves at one point or another, is “after this…then I’ll be able to do that.”

As if life will somehow slow down or stop entirely, allowing us to engage in a Thoreau-like existence of meditation and self-improvement in wood cabin, off the grid, away from society.

I caught myself thinking “after this…” today, as I once again face down three months of rehearsals and individual practice time for the musical, while still teaching, while overseeing a student news organization and co-managing sports broadcasts, while still serving at church, while still maintaining relationships.

“After March,” I caught myself thinking. As if March and the end of the musical didn’t signal a chain of interviewing journalists for next year’s staffs, or commence soccer and baseball broadcasts, or who knows what else. Life won’t get easier in March. Or April. Or May.

Even in the summer, though I’m not tied to as strict a schedule, the days and weeks somehow fill and I catch myself saying “after summer…”

I’m sure life has been like this for a while now, a constant stream of responsibilities and personal pursuits, at times quarreling for my attention because I say to one, “After this…” and ignore the other. For some reason—age? experience? necessity?—I’m grasping more fully the reality that “after this…” doesn’t exist.

Each year as people start making and sharing resolutions, whether it’s setting SMART goals or selecting a word to live by or scribbling a bucket list of longed-for accomplishments, I am tempted to join in. As if “after December 31” will signal a complete change of character and I’ll be wealthier, thinner, smarter, more productive, or less single in 365 days.

Instead, I’m shifting my paradigm in 2019: eradicating the trap of “after this…”

I need to embrace the 14-hour days as evidence I am physically and mentally healthy enough to handle that kind of load. I need to look at my calendar objectively, and find the pockets of time that appear—and then fill those pockets with endeavors that don’t include time-wasting vortices. I need to say yes a bit more often to friends and family, to view that time spent as energizing (because it almost always is).

“After this…”, I’ve learned, is a surefire way to collect a few regrets. So if you are also feeling the pull to start something new, as many do with the advent of a new year, I have two suggestions:

  1. Do things.
  2. Don’t wait until January 1.

What Hallmark Channel is Selling Me.

I’ve been watching a lot of Hallmark Christmas movies, and here’s what I’m being sold* while watching:

  1. A magical eyebrow shaper.
  2. Nordic Track/Bowflex/Peleton.
  3. Wayfair. All the time, Wayfair.
  4. Life Alert bracelets.
  5. Balsam Hill Christmas trees (which, by the way, can run up to $1,000).

 

*In addition to the science-fiction fantasy that Christmas is a magical romantic time where all my dreams come true.

Merry Christmas

I wish I had anything profound, comforting, or funny to say this Christmas, but I don’t. I didn’t decorate, I didn’t embark on a baking extravaganza, I barely did any Christmas shopping.

My heart is heavy, has been all year, really, and as such, it’s been hard for me to feel much of anything this Christmas season. But on Christmas Eve, in lieu of attending a nearby evening service, I watched movies and cleaned out my RSS feed. I found two messages that restored my hope.

Every year that I spend Christmas alone, my heart is increasingly tender towards those for whom Christmas is just heartbreaking. But as glib as “Jesus is the reason for the season” often sounds in the public square, these two articles reminded me of the gravity of that phrase. He is the reason, not only for this season, but for all seasons.

Today during our Christmas program at church, I thought about the month after Jesus was born. How long did it take the Holy Family to make it safely to Egypt? Was the road bleak and hopeless? Were Mary and Joseph worried? Anxious? Maybe even a little sad at leaving their home?

Often this is how I feel in January, after I’m back at school and in the throes of musical rehearsals, getting to know new students (a perk of teaching semester classes), and rarely seeing sunlight. Bleak and hopeless. But because of Jesus, I need not let those feelings take over. He is the reason for all seasons of life–bleak and bright, hopeless and hopeful.

Merry Christmas.

An Advent message

When Christmas is hard

A Letter to December.

Dear December,

I’m not sure when it started happening, this horror you bring to my life every year. Perhaps it’s always been this way and I’m just now noticing it. That’s entirely possible. So I shouldn’t be quite so angry with you. It’s mostly my fault.

But other months don’t do this to me year after year.

This week alone I was out until 8 or 9 p.m. every night–three nights work-related, one night spent with friends, one night running errands because of the other four nights spoken for and Saturday completely booked.

This morning I was going to wake up early, go to Jazzercise and run more errands before picking up a friend to go see the musical “Waitress” and then attending a church Christmas party that has had my stomach in knots for three weeks.

When I got home last night at 10:15, my whole being chided, “Julie. Tomorrow morning you are going to sleep in. You will eat your favorite yogurt and a bagel for breakfast, while in bed watching something mindless. Spend a little time writing. You’ll eventually get up and get ready for the day, maybe even vacuum, maybe grade a few papers, maybe even get a jump start on holiday baking. You are taking the morning off. It’s the only way you won’t lose your mind.”

The problem with that chastisement is I have goals I set last January, and guess what, December–you make it nearly impossible for a last-minute push to meet any of them. Plus I have a mountain of tasks, all priorities, that need tending to. I feel guilty for taking a morning off.

So I have to make a choice: meet my goals and complete my tasks, or lose my mind. What would you have me do December?

All the things.

That’s what you would have me do, because it’s what you have me do every year. All the things. Which, for a month that is supposed to be about love and joy and peace, seems counter to your alleged theme and purpose.

The only positive thing I can say about you at this point, December, is that this morning is December 16, which means you are half over, and then I don’t have to see you again for another year.

But I am taking this morning off.

Sincerely,

Julie

 

 

A Long November.

So November is over and I didn’t write as often as I’d planned, but I did do the following:

Spent time with friends.
Spent time with family.
Saw one play and two musicals.
Kept my environs tidy (a big deal this time of year).
Watched movies.
Read books.
Listened to music.
Called senators.
Called congressmen.
Graded. And graded. And graded some more.
Laughed with my students.
Laughed with my colleagues.

Tomorrow is December 1 and a Friday, so for my Friday Morning Soundtrack I will fire up the Christmas music and on Sunday, start thinking about Advent. Time keeps ticking, and while I spend a decent amount of time every day in existential dread, I also spend a decent amount of time every day living a pretty great life.

And I can’t think of anything else to really be grateful for besides that.