Whether or not you’re Christian, I’m sure you’re aware that Thursday is Christmas. In my house (and I’m sure in many houses around the world), that means lots of hustle and bustle of preparations to be “ready.” This past weekend, my family (without me, thankfully) went shopping, with others, to be sure, to get the last minute gifts, and a friend of mine said yesterday she had picked the last item needed to make a certain gift and would be spending the next days until Christmas making it. Even today, my Mom plans to stay at work to itemize her list of gifts and presents to make sure she’s prepared for the gift giving of Christmas day.
Many times we think about being ready as having the necessary i’s dottend and t’s crossed in preparation for some main event. I think when we do that, we let ourselves down. When we focus on the end product only, we miss the little things happening along the way.
Last night, my brother and I helped out our Mom finish compiling materials necessary to send out the family Christmas letter. She was working to beat the clock of a pre-Christmas post-mark, but as we folded letters and stamped envelopes (and tried to delicately open some we decided needed letters), we allowed ourselves to enjoy the moment, laughing at the absurdness of it all (especially those who will say, “I wonder who opened this up before me?). My Mom even said, “I don’t think I’ve had this much fun putting out the Christmas letter before.”
In my house, we’ve been having a lot of discussion about the Myers-Briggs taxonomy lately, particularly the last letter, whether one is a Judger (J) or a Perceiver (P). These indicate how one prefers to live life in a more structured or spontaneous way and also how one relates to schedules and deadlines. A “J” person usually feels most comfortable with structure and tends to be good with deadlines and schedules, while a “P” finds pleasure in spontaneity and views time as a renewable resource with deadlines as more elastic than immovable. I think it’s good we have both of these, but there is something to be said about the P (which, as far as I can tell, I’m not) that allows one to be more present and embracing of the moment. Who get’s to enjoy life more: one who works now and plays when (and if) the work is complete, or one who plays and enjoys things now, saving work to the last minute (and accepting the consequences if time ran out)? There must be a balance in there somewhere, right?
In any case, I think being “ready” is overrated. I’ve given myself the leeway of the “12 Days of Christmas” for some of my presents, and even longer than that if necessary. I’ll also be wrapping up some “IOUs” or “in the coming months…” certificates, as well as at least one “certifate redeamable for…” Will any of my gift recipiants enjoy their gifts any less if they open it on 3 January instead of 25 December? I doubt it (and I hope not!).
When we’re so zeroed in on checking off our “to do” list, we set ourselves up to miss way too much. Is it more important to enjoy myself in the process of celebrating or to make sure I have all I think I need in order to celebrate? Will I enjoy myself any less if there are no Christmas lights on the outside of the house? (Our family is answering that question this year, and as of now, I think the answer is, surpring for some — no!)
We need to throw out our needs to be “ready” and replace them with desires to be “open” — open to the smiles and beauty that can pass us by when we’re looking the other way, open to the opportunities that we shirk because we decide we’re too busy with other things, open to the unknown and unforseeable opportunities that lie ahead.
Though I may not have my bags packed, that doesn’t mean I’m not open (and “ready”) for the journey ahead!