If you grew up in the Christian tradition, it’s the first day of Advent. If you didn’t, it’s Wednesday.
I did grow up going to church, following the Christian calendar and celebrating the four weeks of waiting leading up to Christmas. Even though I don’t go to church anymore and don’t find much about organized religion to follow, I love this season. I love to put up my little Nativity set, contemplating the state that young mother must have been in during these last few weeks. I love my Advent wreath and lighting the candles every night. I love the idea of intentionally waiting for something or someone to arrive; in this case, a baby, which is something so many of us can relate to.
Advent is defined as “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.”
In many ways, COVID and all its variants has put the entire world into a long season of advent. We are waiting for the arrival of a return to “normal,” whatever normal is or was. We’re all living in various forms of “not yet” and “maybe next season.” I suppose in the Western world, we’re waiting to have, be and do anything we want whenever we want to. It might not be such a terrible thing if that doesn’t return entirely.
In my own world, I’m waiting, too. Waiting to give this big talk next week that I’ve been working on in one form or fashion since this spring. Waiting to see if this moment is the fork in the road I believe it is: the one where I get to make a choice about forward movement that looks different from any path I’ve ever been on. And yet, it’s exactly because of the path I’ve been on for 26 years that I’m now coming up to this particular fork.
Waiting is a peculiar thing: we spend so much of our lives waiting for…something. Waiting to be asked out by the person we have a crush on. Waiting to graduate and get out of our small town. Waiting to get that job or pay raise. Waiting to get married, have a baby, get divorced, be an empty nester. Waiting for the call from the doctor’s office. Waiting until the time is right to make that big move. Waiting. Always waiting.
Here’s what I didn’t realize until I started putting together this talk: real life is happening while we’re waiting for our imagined life to start. For all the many years I waited to be a movie star, I was raising a child, falling in love, getting lots of education, taking care of and losing parents and grandparents, finding new challenges and so much more. But because none of that looked like what I thought I was waiting for, I dismissed it as filler until my real life could begin. Of course in looking back, I see I was living a life that looked nothing like what I thought I wanted and yet, it provided so much of what I needed and brought me joys and sorrows I never could have imagined.
And now, I’m standing at this fork, realizing there’s a possibility of change, growth and disruption. If that comes, it will bring its own joys and sorrows because that’s what life is. If this talk is just a talk, and I leave the conference and go back to my normally scheduled life, that will bring its own set of joys and sorrows, too. But either way, I will move forward, waiting for the next opportunity, the next joy, the next challenge. And either way, I will be living my life because the definition of advent is an ongoing piece of being alive. Our job is not to miss the living that occurs while we wait.