I needed Advent this year. Of course I need it every year, but this year I needed the peace and preparation in a way that is made clear precisely because one lacks peace and preparation. I was not too concerned about that, though.
Advent is one of those mysterious things that can take care of itself. Advent has a way of seeping into the souls of those who are even remotely liturgically inclined. Advent is awesome. Advent can work itself out when given even a sliver of space and, despite my failings, there are still many Advent-shaped slivers in my soul for it to wedge itself into.
I was quite busy the week before Advent, but that meant that I didn’t have to worry about things like cheating on my Advent grocery challenge because I did not have time to go to the grocery store.
And then Advent started. I am pretty sure that today concluded the third week, but I can’t even remember all that has happened.
We started Advent with a drive from New England to DC. I was exhausted and emotionally drained and so Josh agreed that we could leave on Saturday evening and drive through the night so that I could rest at home on Sunday. We got back in time for our regular Mass but ended up sleeping through it and going to a Spanish Mass that evening. That was nice since it meant that we didn’t have to think about the translation… more on that later.
Then I returned to a job which has become so stressful it was surreal. For real, folks. I had thought that things got bad in July, but this was a whole new game. I held out with my resolutions for a few days: I saved grocery receipts and took pictures.
I started posts about why I don’t buy into “real food,” why menu planning doesn’t work for me, and about frozen burritos (the short version is that I feel guilty about them for about 5 reasons but buy them anyway). I even used the horrible crock-pot to ensure that we had overcooked legumes ready to eat in the evening.
A bit of background for non-Catholics–a few minor changes were made to what we say in Mass (not to be confused with en masse, though it is that too). These changes were implemented starting the first Sunday of Advent, and in some places (namely, my head) it has caused enormous disturbance.
I managed to stumble into Mass during a few of my workdays, and it was hilarious. In my sanity-deprived state it felt as if the Bishops had come up with a new game. The rules are confusing, but basically I “win” if I can get to the point of Communion in a state where I can still receive it (meaning I can only have so many blasphemous thoughts during the first part of Mass or else I won’t be able to repent fast enough).
There is nothing wrong with priests getting so confused by the prayers that they pray all of the new versions of a single prayer and ultimately get so turned-around that they walk out of mass without actually concluding it. This is all part of life. But it does mean that the rejuvenating peace of the liturgy has taken a short break in my life to delve into deeper areas, and rather than being a place of rest, midday Mass was about as stressful as work for the first part of Advent.
Then there was something of a blur with finishing exams (plural “exams” for one class–let’s talk about this later) and something else about work.
Then we drove back to New England. And by “we” I mean “me” due to a messed-up rental agreement. The drive was quite slow thanks to rain and then snow, but we made it just in time (9:00am) to get to one of the latest Masses that day being offered in honor of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. A new bishop in town means that all the priests go to chill at the Cathedral, but everyone is still obligated to get to Mass. I was not actually grumpy about the lack of midday and evening Masses, just incredibly tired and trying not to sin by being too proud of myself for staying awake through the excruciatingly long homily.
The longest weekend of my life (that is a bad thing, by the way) went incredibly well. Josh and I did not get to spend much of the weekend together, so late during the night of the drive back I decided to tell him about all of the things that had happened that would probably make me a complete emotional mess later. It made sense to me at the time but somehow did not make it more relaxing for Josh. Huh.
We got back around 2:30am and went happily on with our lives, though perhaps my back was a little red from my repeated self-congratulations at holding it all together at work with only a cup or two of tea.
Then I went home.
I was surprised to find that the noxious scent permeated even into our bedroom and gave me a headache in record time. I texted Josh that the smell was the worst ever and that I would be out of the apartment until it was time to meet his train.
When Josh finally got to experience it for himself he told me that it was far worse than he expected. I reminded him that I had told him “cant stay home drug smell is worst ever.” But Josh said that was not helpful since there was a tremendous gulf between the worst it had been previously and this.
We were both so tired that we took at least an hour to figure out what to do. Staying in a hotel did not make sense. It is a crazy waste of money considering the fact that we have an apartment! The property management certainly would not do anything after hours, and calling the police seemed downright stupid. The only people at risk were ourselves and the neighbors behind the science project, so it was not as if we had a clear-cut need to protect children.
We finally went to a hotel, and ended up doing the same thing the next night since the smell was still pretty stinking bad and I had no idea how to check the drug interactions between what I was inhaling and the pain medication needed to sleep with the headache it induced.
We came home the next evening and I stayed in bed moaning about the cold while Josh successfully managed to ventilate the apartment to the point of only minor brain-damage.
We kept going to work and I kept being confused: how could we be so busy and stressed? Neither of us is “career oriented,” we don’t have children, we have minimal obligations… so how can things have gotten to the point where I am so beyond stressed that I just shrug and announce that I will celebrate Advent in January?
Clearly I am insane. And perhaps that is why I am both happy and yet still concerned about my moral standing given how incredibly self-centered and shallow this all is. But I still have faith that Advent will make it through somehow. After all, Advent is wonderfully long this year, so it still has time to snatch me into silence and peaceful preparation. I hope.
- Advent Grocery Challenge
- Risk and Reality