We all know that horrific 2 o’clock in the morning feeling when our minds are racing ahead to all the “TO DO” lists still undone. In such a state, all the great “what if’s?” teem up to feel paralyzing. In such a frazzled state, fear and anxiety quickly spring forth and cloud our perspective. Likewise, we are prone to feeling anger when we become fatigued and too beset by demands and stimulation. We become easily irritable.
These pervasive pathways towards negative emotions come to us humans very easily and we constantly do battle with each one on a daily basis.
All this reminds me of a great response to the enormity of the burdens we carry: simply put one foot in front of the other and continue following a basic routine. And Fred Rogers in his Mr. Rogers Neighborhood TV series, exemplified this better than anyone. At the beginning of each show, Fred would walk into his studio home and do the same simple rituals. He would first sit down and remove his work shoes and then replace them with tennis shoes. Then he would put away his coat in a closet and put on a sweater.
That was it. Then he could get on with the plot.
When I became a teenager and figured I had outgrown the show, I thought such displays to be merely corny and way too boring to be seen watching. But now, in the hindsight of middle age, I see the TAO-like genius of it.
Because it is the doing of ordinary things like just putting on shoes and changing our clothes pretty much exemplifies the majority of our time spent on earth. Few of us get caught in the act of lighting the world on fire by doing some brilliant operation or procedure. Most of our adulthood occupations and career consists of mostly very rudimentary details that we have grown very comfortable doing and become second nature to us. Even those special ones with prestigious jobs such as brain surgeons or world famous inventors—still pad most of their 9 to 5 time doing the so called mindless tasks of clearing their desks and filing items back into their correct places. Even airplane pilots have automatic pilot to guide them most of the way.
What we learn is that simple organizational tasks such as trash removal and dish washing also help to organize and comfort our brains. They serve as building blocks on which fancier notions can flourish when the time is right. Robert Fulghum explores this hypothesis in his fine book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” especially as it relates to the critical imprinting of our social skills at a very young age.
I have noticed too, while meditating on dog walks, how particularly fertile and productive my mind becomes while in the midst of putting my one foot in front of the other and simply getting in to a good rhythm as a bystander.
It’s also funny how little we adults want to learn painfully new tasks that we have no frame of reference for. We much prefer the safer zones of robotically brushing our teeth or driving our car without changing the commute.
And it is the things we dearly want to control the most in our lives; like sickness and mortality with ourselves and those we love, that we soon discover we have absolutely NO control over at all.
In fact, in most cases, the wisest thing we can do, when life seems to be dealing us too bad a hand, is simply go about to our routines and embrace them like Fred Rogers shows us in his syndicated TV shows. It guards us against fear and anxiety and centers us away from feeling emotions like anger.
And perhaps most of all, it teaches humility. We learn that the best things that happen in our life, almost always happen when we relax and let God take care of what we need. In fact we often are our worst enemies when we try to feel important and think too much of impressing others.
And I think this is a great thing to remember during the Christmas holidays as this is a notorious time for people to become disillusioned to the point that they announce that they even HATE Christmas due to what it has morphed into.
And taken on face value: with just the traffic and the crowded lines in stores coming to mind, it is very easy to arrive at such a declaration.
The only way to circumvent such emotional roller coasters, is to remember how insignificant our performance is anyway in the big scheme of things and to busy ourselves with putting one foot in front of the other and simply doing the best we can.
But to really live this lesson in a substantive way I would submit that we need to do more than just immerse ourselves with the sequencing of our routines. We need to honor and think about the 4 word phrase “GOD IS WITH US.”
Any other priorities or intentions of the heart during the holidays become pale imitations of the real point of Christmas, and at their worse; become mere exercises in ego building. When we clear ourselves off the stage and remember the central event of Jesus Christ being born, it is only then that we can fully feel joy in the “here and now” no matter how demanding the festivities seem.
It is NOT up to us to save Christmas or make everyone around us happy. Unlike the TV commercial—Christmas CAN happen WITHOUT us—very nicely too as a matter of fact.
Armed with this knowledge and belief, this becomes the point where we truly understand what love and giving (and forgiving) are all about. We become softer and more forgiving to ourselves and other people. We can lose all the emotional baggage as we take great comfort in getting on with the business of tying our shoes and getting dressed.
Ironically we end up feeling more special when we live Christmas this way. And we like people much more in the process as we see all of us as fellow recipients of God’s gift in the form of His only Son. And in the process, we can feel mighty glad to be off the central stage. Our shoulders are now free of carrying any big load as we return our perspective back to carrying out the day to day acts that please God and are within our limited sphere of influence. There really is a lot of truth in that familiar saying that simply showing up on time for the daily roll call is 99% of our success. That and maintaining our faith as believers who get to witness all the great works of art that God reveals to his people every day.
And there you have it friend—Without even addressing your “To Do” list. In just one fell swoop of the heart—you are guaranteed to have a Very Merry Christmas!
New International Version
Luke 2:10—“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
New International Version
Mathew 6:34—“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”