A different kind of advent calendar

For about five (delusional) minutes in late November, my family and I contemplated hand-curating our own advent calendars. We had some wild half-cocked scheme about dividing and conquering a treasure hunt, in which each person was responsible for acquiring 8 treats from local businesses and then we’d jumble them in envelopes, and label them with the 24 days until Christmas, and then begin the opening! And it felt like a lot of work, and also, the kiddo seemed a bit deflated, like, suddenly he was having to share the advent goodies with BOTH his parents? So, we wisely let it go.

But weirdly, that little seed of a home-made advent calendar idea has stuck with me. I read that advent calendars, back before commercialization, and plastic casing, and Amazon delivery service, were basically a bit of chocolate and a bible verse that you’d pull out of a small pouch each day. And I imagined compiling an advent calendar for all my momma-friends (and all my friends who mother in other ways, not small humans, but anything that requires care and tending, anything that sees more energy and attention go out, than is coming in), containing a poem and a tea-bag, an invitation to pause. (I thought about it, when I read this lovely blog post from former Pemberton-mountain-dweller, Natalie Rousseau, about the practicing of anointing oneself with oil, and this reality that rang so true for my earlier years as a mother – that sometimes, I would literally get only one small moment for myself, for self-care. (And how many of those moments I squandered mindlessly scrolling through instagram. Oh well. And that time I made myself a cup of tea and then knocked it over… which was just too much, oh little mama, some days were thin, weren’t they.)

My first Ayurveda teacher taught me that the  Sanskrit word sneha means oil, but it also means love or affection. She taught me that to lovingly oil our skin can be an act of radical self-care, radical because so many of us are challenged by offering affection towards ourselves and in particular towards our own bodies. I always think about this when I practice abhyanga, and though it is a quick practice that can be done in just a few minutes, I try never to rush through it. Sometimes it is the only true act of self-care I can manage in a day, and so I try to give the practice my full attention, thereby offering myself as much love as I can.

Natalie Rousseau

If I could offer you all a personalized advent calendar, all you lovely people, whatever your web of relationships and identities, the first little gift would be a small bottle of beautifully-scented oil, in the hopes that you would take a moment to love your skin, love your body, love your self.

And as an added bonus, I’d add a teabag of some lovely herbal concoction, and this poem, from The Wild Matryoshka, who I have enjoyed following this year… (thanks Kera), and who has now become The Wild Remembering (for those interested in folk myth and magic.)

So, my thinking with these last few weeks of December, as we spiral closer and closer to the shortest day of the year, I’d imagine these final posts as little boxes to open, and try to fill them with some offering of delight. A moment of pause. An invitation to regard yourself with the care and consideration you deserve.

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