There’s nothing like getting the flu for Thanksgiving to get Advent off to a slow start. Until this weekend, I felt like the beginning of the holiday season had pretty much missed me.
But I’m getting caught up.
I spent Saturday evening at a holiday potluck party with old friends and their families at a church I used to attend, and it felt like a Thanksgiving do-over. There’s a big, red wreath on my door, and travel plans to see family at Christmas have been solidified.
And today it snowed all day, in pretty, big, wet flakes that covered every branch and limb. It’s beautiful – our first snow of the year.
Advent is about waiting, preparing. In the middle of the holiday bustle, it asks for quiet.
The quiet of falling snow. Of a cat curled up for a nap. Of a warm cup of tea. Of noticing. Of wondering.
How can joy come to fill us to overflowing if we haven’t first cleared space for it?
The flu didn’t leave me much choice about clearing space this year. Being sick will do that to me. Body and mind won’t let me do much more than rest. The normal stuff of life goes on pause and fades into the background as the simple rhythms of sleep and wake, food and water, come to the forefront.
Nothing makes me present like being sick. After forty-plus years, I’m still trying to absorb the lessons in that. How being mindful of my breathing becomes natural, when the rest of the time it’s nearly impossible. How anticipation no longer rules my thoughts, and frustration with all I may be missing out on doesn’t arise.
In the midst of those gifts, it’s also hard. As an extrovert, the isolation of illness can be depressing, especially when I’m feeling well enough not to be sleeping most of the time. And as a single, it can be scary to wonder who can help take care of you. I’m so grateful for the friends who checked on me and brought medicine and groceries. But there were times I would’ve given a lot to have someone to bring me a glass of water instead of having to find the wobbly energy to get it myself. And in the night, when my temperature was spiking, I couldn’t help but wonder when anyone would know if I lost consciousness. If a dangerous fever came while I was asleep, who would know? (I’m grateful for phone alarms and for apps like kitestring that will send a text to a contact if you don’t check in within a prearranged time.)
There’s something in Advent that’s about aloneness to me. The aloneness of John in the desert. The aloneness of the pregnant Mary with an unbelievable story. Aloneness did not last forever for either of them, but it was there for a time.
And so I’ve entered into Advent, forced to be quiet and alone and present, and looking for the lessons.