Betty Duffy

Friday, December 3, 2010

No more waiting around

Most everyone I know spent Thanksgiving weekend cooking. I myself, not even hosting a meal, spent two days cooking, one for each dinner we attended. I made yeast rolls and sweet potatoes for the in-law dinner, and pies for the out-law dinner.

While I cooked, I listened to music and cleaned my house—not because company was coming, but because if I sat down when there was a lull in the cooking, I would not have stood back up again. And my house was really dirty, because normally, I don’t like to cook so much, nor to clean, so I combine activities on the rarest of feasts.

I might have hoped to end the weekend with a clean house, stuffed to the gills with delicious edibles, but that didn’t happen. It always surprises me how all of that food preparation reaches its zenith and is consumed within about fifteen minutes. And then there is the long denouement of groaning with satiety and the dishwashing and sorting of leftovers and everyone’s pans.

At home, in the dark, we drop our coats and shoes and bags on an endless chain throughout the house as we each make our way to bed. So by morning, I blink at the kitchen wondering what happened to it all, both my clean house, and my cooking. They are gone.

The good thing is that I sort of enjoyed myself while cooking and cleaning and listening to music. I read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift From the Sea” a couple weeks ago for a book club, which is all about how women need to find ways to fulfill their creative urges throughout the different stages of their lives, and she notes that making biscuits can be as creatively fulfilling as writing a poem.

Cooking, at least, moves always towards a moment of consumption—the biscuit moment, the pie moment, the turkey moment—it is now, which is why I keep hacking away at the pie. Tomorrow there will be none.

When I think about the times of preparation, and the rush of consumption that follows, I become sort of confused about Advent and Christmas. I’ve had it in my head that Advent is a time of waiting for the big moment when Jesus is born—that moment that I am also conditioned, like Pavlov’s dog, to think arrives with chocolate, pine-scented candles and an inordinate longing for diamonds.

And when I think about preparing for Jesus’s birth, making room in my heart for the little baby, I assume it means sacrificing until I feel bereft of God’s presence in my life—trying to make an empty hole that will be filled on the 25th. And yet somehow that filling up always happens by way of my gluttony rather than by my faith.

So I’m trying something different this year: not waiting. I’m not going to dig that little hole in my heart that somehow always gets filled with material things; I’m going to concentrate, instead, on the presence of God that is already there.

Pope Benedict writes:

“God is there. He has not withdrawn from the world. He has not left us alone. Even though we cannot see him or touch him as we can the things that surround us, he is still there and, what is more, he comes to us in many different ways.” (Benedictus p 365)

“Advent reminds us…that God’s presence in the world has already begun, that he is present though in a hidden manner; second, that his presence has only begun and is not yet full and complete, that it is in a state of development, of becoming and progressing towards its full form.” (Benedictus, p 364)

It is embarrassing how much of my life I spend waiting: waiting for my next meal, for my husband to come home, for my kids to go to sleep, for time.... Waiting for time? How ridiculous is that? Waiting for something that I already have if I’m willing to make better use of it, or even to appreciate the ways in which it is filled, often not to my liking. The only thing more ridiculous than waiting for time would be to wait for a God who is already present to me in superfluity.

So how am I going to mark Advent? I’m going to keep doing what I should always do to maintain God’s presence in my life: pray, attend the liturgy, talk to my kids about the Season, listen to music appropriate to the time, enjoy the process of creation by baking, preparing the house, writing, and I’m going to spend a lot of time with my kids.

I want to use this time for nourishment, be the baby in the womb, so that the Christmas Season that follows Advent is not a time when I gobble everything up and then wallow in self-loathing, but rather, that this little life that I’ve been nourishing reaches a new stage of development.

Doesn’t sound very penitential, does it? And yet, I can’t tell you how difficult these simple things are for me.


Peter and Nancy said...

This is why Easter, overlooked by stores for the most part, can be so fulfilling . . . less hoopla, plus the Ressurection! Leaves me feeling full.

Peter and Nancy said...

Oops -- spelled the R-word wrong . . . need caffeine . . . :o)

Amber said...

Hi Betty x
One of our favourite sayings in our home is "It doesn't get much better than this, does it". Its for that feeling at the end of a long, chaotic, hard day when peace blankets the busyness left by 5 children. And in the silence and contentment of a day well and truly done, you just want/need to press the pause button.

I have two showers a day, morning and eve. They used to be a quick rinse off, and now sometimes they are long. But every shower is full of deepest prayer, because this is the only time that I am fully consciously alone with God. My eyes are shut to a deeper self, the nakedness, the nothing hidden and the distraction of life by the therapeutic water means that even in waiting for the chaos to subside and the order and calmness and desire to be an organised mother (for which I will be waiting forever to be) He is never far away.