Weekend Reading
December 10, 2023

When I was growing up, the Christmas season was a big deal within my little family unit. This included Christmas Eve and Day and all of the traditions that came with them.

But it began at the start of the advent season, the fourth Sunday before Christmas.

As I get older, I give more thought to advent and what it means. The holiday season sneaks up faster with every passing year, and my relationship with the holidays becomes more bittersweet and complicated.

There’s some joy and sense of festivity for sure. There’s also melancholy, loneliness, and dipping into memories, both good and bad.

I feel the push and pull of wanting to take time to observe and honor the season, yet I also feel caught in the undertow of the end-of-year scramble.

Increasingly, I finish December with great disappointment in myself for not doing the things that I said I’d do (with so much hope and enthusiasm!) at the start of the year.

The sense that I’ve let myself down is much worse this year than usual.

The word “advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus,” which means “coming.” Adventus is a Latin translation of the Greek word “parousia.”

Parousia means “a coming” or “a presence,” technically; in a Christian context, it refers to the second coming of Christ, which is the arrival that the advent season anticipates.

As a kid, I loved all of the fun rituals of the advent season: skating in the park, going to see window decorations in stores, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, carols, holiday movies.

I also loved it’s celebratory, sparkly energy. Lent, which came in the springtime, was somber and serious, even if it culminated in a celebration of rebirth on Easter Sunday.

By contrast, advent was four full weeks of hope, wonder, and joy.

I know that many of my friends who have young children feel that the holidays are really no longer about them; the season is now devoted to creating something festive and fun for their kids.

I don’t have children or a family of my own to care for. So I ask myself, what do these weeks of advent can mean to me?

Coming. Arrival. The words invite me to believe that something new, something miraculous, something altogether different, is on the way.

Belief that something different is on the way is the thing—the main thing, anyway—that has gotten me through every difficult period of my life.

In times of grief or sadness, I’ve held onto the belief that grief softens with time.

In periods of depression, my wise mind has been able to remember—even if my brain questions it—that my outlook will change. It has always changed, with time.

When I was in recovery, I wasn’t sure what life would look like on the other side of my eating disorder. At first, I found that uncertainty intolerable, but it ultimately became a source of comfort. Uncertainty is frightening, but it’s full of possibility in a way that the familiar never can be.

“It’ll get better,” I once said to a friend who had just mentioned that she was having a hard time.

“It has to!” she replied.

This friend is a bit older than me; she’s had lots of fascinating life experience. She said those words—it has to!—with conviction, because she knew that they were true.

Another friend once told me that, as he gets older, he’s starting to believe that hope is a kind of moral imperative.

I don’t know, but I do know that hope is essential to living.

Hope. Faith the unseen. Belief in the possibility of change, of something good being on the way, of things not always being as they are right now: it allows us to put one foot in front of the other even if both feet are dragging.

If I sound fatigued or hungry for change, it’s because I am fatigued and hungry for change. But this isn’t meant to be a sad post.

I’m making space in my heart for the twinkly, warm sensation of anticipation that Advent offers me. And I’m inviting you to make space for light in your heart, too.

Speaking of the season of light, I want to have some weekend fun while NYC is still decked out in tinsel.

I’m also committed to keeping important promises to myself as 2023 wraps up. I’ve got a big deadline pending and lots of loose ends to tie up for work, and I’d love to do that in time to enjoy Christmas Eve.

So, I’ll be taking the next two Sundays off from Weekend Reading posts. I’ll be back on 12/31, so that we can have a soulful check-in right before the start of 2024—a year that is yet unwritten.

My next post will also include some article and recipe links.

I’ve gotten so many emails from readers who miss the roundup part of these weekend newsletters. Believe me, I also miss having more mental energy for reading. I’ll probably link to fewer weekly articles and recipes moving forward, but I haven’t lost my desire to share what sparks my mind and touches my heart.

OK, friends. Happy second Sunday of Advent, happy afternoon, happy December. I’ll catch you at the end of this month.

May your days till then be merry and bright.

xo

 

 

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    5 Comments
  1. I too am single and childless and I get those moments, rarely, but I do, of questioning my reasons or my purpose for being or doing certain things and I have to tell you something beautiful. You speak of Advent and Christianity so I am going to assume you believe in the Bible. The God of Love that put us on this beautiful planet has given you such a precious gift. You will only know how many lives you’ve touched in the hereafter. There are so many, too many of us walking wounded, damaged by parents and people who were damaged themselves and experiences that traumatized us in ways we aren’t even aware of sometimes and posts like yours connect and heal both body and soul.
    Thank you for allowing God to use you.
    You spoke of the second coming of Christ and how short the days seem to have gotten, it’s because the labor pains of earth are almost at an end.
    He is returning very soon to take those who have chosen His way of truth and love and to purify the universe once and for all from sickness, death and sadness and all the other effects of sin.
    That to me is worth the expectation and the wait.
    So question your self no longer, you are fulfilling your purpose in a most marvelous way.
    May the blessings of God continue to attend you.

    • She didn’t say anything about believing in the Bible, certainly not the way you presume, nor is such a belief necessary in order to reach the thoughtful reflections written here. It’s simply wrong to project your supernatural beliefs onto the author here. It also comes across as condescending to say “Thank you for allowing God to use you” as she made no such claim and does not pretend to be an obedient vessel for a higher power.

  2. “It always seems impossible – until it is done” ~ Nelson Mandela

    These words have found me, carried me and surprised me in all these years. I hope they offer comfort, Gena. Thank you for showing up

  3. I have been religiously telling myself this lately ‘it has to get better’ these past 3-4 weeks have been unbelievably emotional and just when I think there is no more to give,the heart finds a way to pull through.
    Wishing you all the joy and love this season can bring Gena xoxo

  4. Dear Gena,

    I am so happy to hear that the weekend reading roundup will be returning soon!

    Good luck with your end-of-the-year work projects. I wish you a very merry Christmas and happy New Year. Thank you for this blog and for everything you do as a nutritionist. Your kindness, thoughtfulness, and wonderful recipes are much appreciated by me and so many of your other readers.

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