A Season for Renewal

Photo of stockings hanging on a mantelpiece over a fire

One of the most helpful things I’ve heard in recent years is that “numbing” behaviors and actual rest are two different things. Sometimes, we need that numbing – to just zone out mindlessly into a tv series or on social media. But much of the time, it doesn’t do for us what real rest does, namely, to provide renewal. To fill us up with more energy and creativity.

Renewal comes in many packages. It may mean sitting quietly by a fire, listening to music, and just letting our minds wander. It may come from physical exertion — working in a garden, taking a hike, going for a run. And it often arrives through being with others – having a deep conversation with a trusted friend, going to a social event, or simply being out and about.

During the first 18 months of the pandemic, we did what we needed to survive the worry, the boredom, and the feeling of overwhelm. I have realized in myself that the pattern I set up then no longer works for me. I can easily waste all of my free time with mindless solitary activities, which then makes me feel overwhelmed because there are things I want to get done that I now don’t have time for…which then leads to more of those numbing behaviors rather than doing the things that would be more renewal-giving, thus making it easier to resist the numbing. And round and round I go!

This year, we have a slightly longer-than-normal advent season, which casually (not liturgically) is the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am using it as a season to reset, to be more intentional with my time. To rest, yes, but for it to be a time of mindfulness, not escape. To enjoy being with others. To move away from seeing holiday preparation as a checklist to finish quickly to an opportunity to experience delicious anticipation.

I won’t deny that there are times when escape from the present is needed. But this month, I want less escape, and more experiencing the simple pleasure of what is.