Christmas morning when I crept downstairs to start breakfast before everyone woke up I realized we were out of milk. I couldn’t believe I’d missed this detail after more than one trip to the market the day before. I flew to the store hoping to return before anyone discovered I was missing. I grabbed the milk and, thinking my speediness had left me time to spare, I ordered a latte at Starbuck’s – only to discover the guy in front of me had ordered six drinks! My best efforts to be ahead of the game were thwarted by coffee. The penny the man left on the counter did little to reassure me I’d get back on schedule.
While waiting, I noticed the store clerks tearing down the Christmas displays to put up the Valentines. Out with the jingle bells and in with the hearts. The day was just dawning and we’re already moving on to the next holiday. This made me feel more behind schedule. I’d just finished wrapping and mailing my Christmas creations days before. Now I’m being reminded to make my Valentines!
When my coffee was finally ready, I headed out the door and spotted another display being assembled. This one was filled with chocolate Easter eggs. I did a double-take. Cadbury eggs already? The sight hit me as hard as the eight degree wall of cold I exited to. I felt like I was teetering on the brink of insanity. Couldn’t we finish one holiday before we started another? On Christmas morning it’s already time to get a jump on two other holidays?
Minutes later, I walked in my door and found everyone up long before I thought they’d be. This reminded that the retailers don’t set today’s pace – we do. We blame them, but if nobody bought their Christmas presents in October we might get to celebrate Thanksgiving in its’ entirety. Who am I to pass judgment? My first thought Christmas morning was I needed to get milk because we might perish without it.
Before I could think more about this, my attention was shifted to the fun of opening gifts and celebrating a birthday – Jesus’ birthday. The only one I know where gifts are exchanged in honor of the person being remembered rather than given to the honoree. This idea being one as paradoxical as all the others we see at the holidays. Fortunately, I got lost in the fun and it wasn’t until dessert I came back to the thought I started the day with.
Chase prompted it by asking everyone at the table if they had any New Year’s resolutions. It was a legitimate question but I couldn’t help sighing. On to the next the holiday we’d moved, and now in one day four holidays had competed for my attention. When I want my God consciousness to be at an all time high, I’m being reminded how fast the clock ticks. Everyone, not just me, is driven to get a jump on things.
The week before New Year’s illustrates this like no other when everyone starts making their resolutions. Eating right, exercising more, and getting organized are recurring themes. Everywhere you go you see Gold’s Gym membership offers and storage containers of every variety. While folks are exchanging their Christmas gifts they’re also picking up more bins, calendars, and cleaning supplies than anyone could possibly need. Before holiday travel is finished plans are being made for Spring Break. The next thing on the horizon is what we’re celebrating rather than the birth of Jesus, which is the only event that makes a meaningful future possible. Gone is the time to contemplate how this should impact the year ahead.
Culturally we’re so acclimated to getting a jumpstart we hop over the manger onto a wave of hearts. We go from “God so loved” to “I love!” Not with ill intention, we just want to be ahead. So much so, we make lists of what we want to accomplish with little thought to whether or not we can accomplish it.
I’m sure Chase wasn’t the only person on Christmas that brought up the resolution question. I’d bet a majority of Americans already had their goals. It probably started with the first extra serving of rich food they ate. Indulge before you abstain. Dive in then pull back. These are classic patterns, and why so few resolutions are successful. We plan for them ahead of time and burn-out in less time than it took to create them.
Why does the cycle continue? We’re so restless and distracted, we just do it. We say we’ve got a “plan” but we’re actually just getting on the next train running, never looking to see if it’s headed where we want to go. We don’t pause long enough to live in one moment, before we consider the next. It’s a crazy cycle that isn’t fueled by retailers, consumerism, or any other dynamic – it’s simply thoughtlessness on our part.
If I have one great hope for 2012 it’s that it won’t be a blur. I know it’s going to be filled with lots of exciting changes and I don’t want to miss savoring them simply because I’m afraid of falling behind. When the next holiday, or big event, rolls around and someone asks if I’m ready, I hope I can say, “No, I’m not. I don’t even have a gallon of milk in the house!”