On Advent and The 8 Ball

When I was little, I’d always overhear my dad and my Uncle Van use the term behind the eight ball.

What does that mean? I’d demand.

Even when I learned the basics of pool, I couldn’t quite grasp its meaning.

You’ll understand when you’re older was their standard response.

At the time I thought that meant that they would tell me when I was older. But it turns out that when you’re an adult, you just come to understand the term behind the eight ball because that’s just what being an adult entails sometimes: making hard decisions where you just can’t seem to win.

Parenting only intensifies this, because when you look at your children you realize the stakes are ridiculously high. If you’re a mom and you go back to work, every hard thing that happens is because you went back to work. If you’re a mom and you stay home, every hard thing that happens is because you stayed at home. And, I’ll just speak for myself here, but you can feel free to empathize: every outcome that is less than ideal causes me to question my choices until I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t have been allowed to take that baby home from the hospital after all.

There’s no such thing as perfect, and to end the age-old debate, you really can’t have it all. I know these things in my head. But it doesn’t keep me from the wanting and the expectation of perfection.

I see your Christmas cards with your smiling faces, and your clean, well-behaved, adorable, genius children, OR even better– no children, and even though your life might not be easy, it seems that way. If you’re ever behind the eight ball yourself, you didn’t stamp it on your holiday greetings, am I right?

{And I’m not judging you for having a beautiful Christmas card– a few days ago I posted a photo of mugs of hot chocolate on instagram– one of our advent activities. I think I included the words best ten minutes of my day. I had originally envisioned filling it every year with fun Christmas activities that we could do as a family. Yesterday I took the whole advent calendar down because the kids whined so much about it that I could stand it no more. Somehow that didn’t make my instagram feed. I could take a picture of the sad pile of empty baggies on my desk, but I won’t.}

I’m longing for perfection, but I continually have to remind myself that I won’t find it. Work or stay home, school or homeschool, spank or not spank, Santa or no Santa, and on and on down the list of rocks and hard places. We’re all behind the eight ball. We can’t win. We’re not supposed to win. At least not here.

And then there’s December: when you take all the hard things that happen in your life normally, and add SHOPPING! and HOLIDAY PARTIES! and DECORATING! and SUGAR! And I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted.

But it’s so appropriate. I’m exhausted. I can’t win. Nothing I do is right. Because the answer to that and all of our problems has come, lived among us, and is coming again.

And I don’t have to fill 24 baggies with activities to celebrate this. I just have to anticipate his coming. And what better vantage point is there to await his arrival than behind the eight ball, with the knowledge of my own certain failure?

So if you see me scowling in December– that is to say, if you see me at  all– just know, I’m losing now, but hopefully, one day, I’ll be #winning.

And this is just to make you laugh.