This is the time of year when I am filled with ambition. I want to do everything. I want to decorate the house. I want to do special arts and crafts with the kids. I want to volunteer. I want to listen to every Christmas hymn, anthem, and ditty. I want to say yes to every invitation. I want to run more. I want to prepare for the new year and new challenges. I want to get a job and do it well. I want to be a better mother.
I want to do everything I normally do (or everything I say I normally do but secretly don't do) and then add, add, add.
I know it is not possible. This is not a post about that. I don't need anyone to tell me "you can't do it all." I get that. I am not frustrated by that. I am not actually trying to do it all.
This is a post about wanting to do it all, and hoping that the want never goes away. This desire to do and be everything fuels me. This is such an exciting world; I get to be in it.
But ambition, when allowed to run rampant as it does this time of year, can be a bit maddening. It really needs direction. I say that because this week has flown by, and I feel like I've done everything and nothing. When, yesterday, I suddenly realized it was November 30th and that tomorrow (which is now today) would be December 1st, I was completely shocked.
How did it sneak up on me?
It was, rather suddenly, fish or cut bait time for several seasonal traditions that I wanted to start on December 1st. I decided to fish.
Or, rather, to bird.
Two weeks ago at our church we participated in a morning of prepping for advent. (Never mind the strangeness of preparing for a season which is all about preparing for something else.) I happily found myself at a table with my three children and my husband, and four out of the five of us were PAPERCRAFTING together. Imagine my insane delight.
The idea is that each paper bird holds a part of the nativity story, and that each day in December we would read part of the story and talk about it as a family. Thus, through the season of advent, we would hear the Christmas story bird by bird.
So yesterday, when I suddenly realized the date, I got motivated. Madelyn and I finished it all up at home together. We found the sticks in our backyard together. We added numbers using stickers from my stash together. I added the verses and yarn by myself, and Maddie hung them on the branches by herself. I was so happy that it worked. That there were ways she could help. And that we actually did it in time to start "using" it today.
As I sat there trimming out 25 verses and tying on 25 pieces of yarn (which takes a lot longer than you would think), I realized that my seasonal surge of ambition was finally being directed somewhere. I felt calm. I felt productive. I felt hopeful for everything else that is coming this month and next year.
I thought, one thing at a time, just do one thing at a time, and enjoy the time you are choosing to spend doing this one thing. You can't (and don't want to) snap your fingers and have all 25 birds done at once. You have to do it bird by bird.
Bird by bird!
How could I possibly have forgotten about Bird by Bird? I've loved this book (whose title has nothing to do with papercrafted advent birds) since my freshman year of college. I had this passage tacked on my wall over my desk all through grad school:
Say to yourself in the kindest possible way, Look, honey, all we're going to do for now is to write a description of the river at sunrise, or the young child swimming in the pool at the club, or the first time the man sees the woman he will marry. That is all we are going to do for now. We are just going to take this bird by bird. But we are going to finish one short assignment. -- Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
One short assignment. Done.