Advent Series 2018: PART I
“The Christmas pillow! You put out the Christmas pillow!” Hazel Belle is easy to please (and her growing up has been a highlight of my year, hence my photo choice). I bought a throw pillow at Hobby Lobby a few years ago (before the craze hit!) made of those two-toned sequins that you can flip back and forth. I bring it out for Christmas, and the advent of “the Christmas pillow” is apparently a cause for much rejoicing. Why shouldn’t it be? It’s stinkin’ cool.
There aren’t many Christmas traditions that trip my trigger much these days. I’m notoriously anti-Santa; sugar and I are kinda meh; and I’m in that parenting phase when everything fun is about 10 times more work than fun. I don’t mean to be a Scrooge (actually, I’d be happy to be Scrooge. What a picture of grace… but I digress). I love Christmas. I just am not jazzed by Christmas stuff. Except presents. I’m very jazzed by presents, especially presents I buy for my kids, but then I get all guilty feeling because: CONSUMERISM.
I do love advent. I’m new to it, an expert by no means. But I have found myself writing about it this year and am too busy this season to submit my content anywhere but to myself :). SO DO ME A FAVOR AND SHARE if you like it at all. I am going to have to get some name recognition sometime if I expect to sell my picture of my guts (I mean my book) this Summer. You all can help with that, and I need ya. BUT, more importantly, writing is intended to be read. I feel insecure and goofy EVERY TIME I presume to offer my words to anyone, but I think of everyone who wrote things down and managed to change my life, day, or second by doing so. And I press on.
Here’s PART I. (If you’re new here, WELCOME. The ballet crap/stuff/content is important. If you’re sick of it, don’t worry! We get past it!)
The candles ought to be in some kind of evergreen wreath, but my style overwhelmed tradition when I first discovered Advent observance. Back in the day I was on Team Lucy wishing Charlie Brown had picked out a pink foil tree. (Mr. Shultz may have told me I missed the point) Truth be told: I still want a shiny, fake tree, but my husband has drawn a line. I have allowed myself to be a bit non-traditional with my Christmas decor; I’ve wandered far from the traditional, eclectic tone of childhood holidays. One recent year when there was enough money, I lost my mind at Hobby Lobby (and kept it lost at two or three other stores) and built a whole new holiday style for myself, kind of a mid-century modern, glitzy, nature situation. That was the year I finally admitted that I do not love Christmas time. It is filled with pain.
When I was seven years old, I danced my first performance of The Nutcracker and was incurably hooked on theatre, performance, and ballet. By the time I was sixteen, I had danced every lead role in the ballet (except for Clara, but I eventually got over it. Mostly. Let’s not talk about it.). At barely seventeen, I was accepted to an elite training program with a major ballet company. I moved back into corps de ballet roles, but Nutcracker continued to be a huge part of my life with over 30 performances per season for three tiers of audience members night after night. Then, in year three, a crew member made a bad call, and I was thrown from a piece of scenery. The pain and loss of motion from my serious back injury clipped off my ballet career (and for a while, my artistic identity) just as I was cresting into the promise of a professional ballet life.
All the peppermint in the world lost its flavor. Pine scent became forever mingled with the smell of Tiger Balm and Bengay. A day of Christmas shopping downtown required large doses of anti-inflammatories and pain meds that barely got me through an hour. My whole life I had known what Christmas was all about. I understood the vital importance of shepherds in the fields, angels in the sky, and the Virgin in birth, but The Nutcracker had been inextricably woven into my experience of the season. In the same way, ballet had been programmed to be my body’s fullest expression and experience of freedom and joy. When my body was damaged, there was no equivalent resetting of my operating system.
For the first three to five years, I knew I wasn’t fine, but I had no idea just how un-fine I was. I put my head down and powered through Christmas as though I was enjoying it. The next five years, I loosened up and gave myself permission to avoid Nutcracker like the plague, to roll my eyes at the sight of television ads, posters, billboards and to flee retailer after retailer playing the music as ambient noise. I can pick out every possible note, no matter how background it is intended to be. I awkwardly requested that we change the music at office and church Christmas parties. I started writing about it all, and a therapist began drawing more of the story out of me, teasing out the significance of the loss.
Then, I started to learn about Advent.