I have always loved the concept of ordinary time: the parts of the liturgical year outside of the seasons of Advent and Lent and the holidays of Christmas and Easter. Mostly because it sounds poetic, and because I love the idea that even prosaic things are worth naming and recognizing.*
When I was home in DC a few weeks ago, I took a break from catching up on work and planning my wedding to go to the 5:30 Sunday Mass. It made me nostalgic for being in high school and spending Sunday afternoon on homework and then getting pulled away to go to Mass. I both resented it—since I was a) a teenager who didn't want to go to church and b) stressed about finishing my assignments—and secretly enjoyed the enforced break.
Since I graduated from high school, I haven't gone to church as consistently, but I will pop in every now and then. Somewhere along the way, I came to enjoy the Mass as a meditative space. It's quiet, outside the hubbub of ordinary life. The service is repetitive enough week to week that your mind can wander, but with enough novelty (the readings, the homily) to give your brain something to work with. And high ceilings feel conducive to deep thoughts.
This last time, I glimpsed a program that announced it as the third Sunday in ordinary time. I remembered how much I love that phrase. I thought of how January and February often feel like the very definition of ordinary time. After summer travel, fall bucket lists, and winter holidays, they feel like back-to-normal, like a deep breath. I love the feeling of hibernating. When I lived in DC and had a community garden plot, I loved that the garden was hibernating too and I could take a break. After a few years without that lull—grad school meant very little downtime and Liberia meant endless summer—last January and February brought feet of snow and a welcome pause before the crazy travel schedule of the rest of the year. (Along with omicron and seasonal depression but we are going to gloss over that.) So even though they are cold and dark and boring, they are secretly some my favorite months of the year.
This January and February have not felt like that. With our wedding in October (simultaneously
nine eight months away and right around the corner), it feels like a crucial period to make sure we have our key vendors in place, and I've been stressed about everything we still have to do. Plus this year I have already traveled to Cambridge for strategic planning, DC for a final wedding dress decision, and Egypt to visit our office there.
So when I saw that program, I thought, man, I can't wait for this time next year when the wedding is over and we'll be in ordinary time again.
And then almost immediately I realized that's not how I want to be thinking. I don't want to wish away the time between now and the wedding, or anything after that. If we are lucky, the next few years will bring extraordinary times as we embark on starting a family. Why would I want to wish away these years, which promise to be full of celebration and transition and newness?
I realized I sometimes see activities and projects and events as hurdles on my way toward a quiet, peaceful, obligation-free life where there's nothing to be stressed about. Because as much as I love travel and adventure, I also love routine and normalcy. But so much joy lives in those activities and projects and events. I want to lead a full life, even when it stresses me out.
We had a good conversation the other night about how it's easy (particularly for me) to feel like all my free time should be spent wedding planning, like I am only allowed to relax once I've made it to the end of my list. But adulthood, in some sense, is an endless list. The trick is embracing it, and setting it down at some points to enjoy yourself. (Or, as a sign on a former coworker's desk read, "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.") We are fortunate that our lists are full of good things that we chose. And I am going to choose to enjoy this full season.
* In writing this post, I googled it and apparently "ordinary" in this context comes from "ordinal numbers," not "opposite of extraordinary." Which ruins it a little bit so I am sticking with my definition.