Saturday, December 3, 2011

Voiceless Advent

You'll read many theological folks this time of year who suggest that we resist the general craziness of the Holiday season if we can.  You'll read the work of many writers who are yearning for a more contemplative Advent, even as the pace of life in December ramps up to unsustainable levels.

I have often wished for a quieter Advent myself, and this year, my wish has been granted.  But as is so oftent the case in the ways of granted wishes, not in the way I expected.

I returned home from Thanksgiving with a whopper of a cold.  For the past week I've had a very sore throat which I've been trying to keep from developing into a cough.  I've been much quieter this week than usual, and when I have spoken, people have backed away.  My voice comes out as a squeak or a growl or a whisper.  And then I cough for about 2 minutes.

I've weighed everything I've thought about saying this past week:  "Is this worth the hacking cough that will follow?"  I'm humbled by how much can remain unsaid.

I've taken a few days of sick leave, which is unusual for me.  When I've been in the office, people have been avoiding me--all the sick people are home, and those who remain are trying desperately to avoid germs.

This week has not been one of my weeks where I was scheduled to do a lot socially; if I had been, I would have cancelled.  My week has slowed considerably.  I haven't had too many deadlines at work, so I was able to take my sick days without too much worry about projects going off track.  I've slept more than I usually do.  Yet even with all my sleep, I've been bone tired, so I haven't done as much as I would in a usual week.  I've had just about enough energy to choose which holiday special to watch in any given day.

As always, I wonder why it takes illness to get my attention, to get me to slow down, to get me to rest.  For one thing, it's one of the few remaining acceptable reasons to cancel plans.  I can call and say, "I'm terribly sick, so I'm not going to risk infecting everyone at work."  I can't call and say, "You know, I'm just not up to this event today."

When I've wished for more contemplative times, I haven't thought of contemplation in terms of lost voice.  My inability to speak has thrust me into a more contemplative space, but I miss my ability to chant the liturgy of the hours.  I want to sing the Advent songs.  I want to talk to people; this is the time of year when people are more willing to talk about their deep yearnings, and that's the kind of talk I miss throughout the rest of the year.

My cold is receding, so I'll likely return to the noisy world soon.  I hope I can take some of the messages of my voiceless first week of Advent with me though.  I want to measure the importance of my words and only utter the ones that have a mission.  I want to carve out time for Advent devotions and the Advent wreath, whose candles remain unlit.  I want to feel healthy enough to bake cookies and other activities which may seem frivolous, but which connect me to my past.

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