It was extremely and unseasonably foggy last Sunday morning – the kind of fog that feels surreal if you’re out driving in it because at times it is so thick that you can’t see anything around you. Even the deacon who delivered the sermon at Mass commented on it, noting that he had to be extra careful while driving to church from his home that morning.

“What it really did,” he said, “was make me slow down.”

He went on to talk about what a perfect message and metaphor this was for the season of Advent that was just beginning. And about how most of us start rushing and speeding up throughout the season and in the days leading up to Christmas, when we really should be slowing down in order to properly prepare for it.

I think this is something we should pay attention to not only during the Christmas season, but throughout the year.

We’re much more productive when we take the time to slow down and be fully present in whatever it is we’re doing, rather than when we’re battling our way through an overloaded to-do list. When we’re in race-to-the-finish mode, what usually happens is that we never quite complete everything we wanted or needed to do. And when we finally do stop to catch our breath – or when we collapse from exhaustion – we wonder where the time went and how did it get to
be January already?

Although it is much more noticeable and pronounced at this time of year, this mindset and activity level has become a way of life for many of us. And even if we want to change our pace and our practices, we often don’t know how.

I think the problem is not so much one of speed, but of scenery – meaning the distractions that we allow to cloud our vision and clamor for our attention. We might talk about taking or making time for what’s really important to us, but we rarely push aside or ignore whatever else is going on that distracts us from it. During the holidays, we may intend to focus more on the religious significance, but we can’t do that if we’re still racing around shopping and decorating and making our travel arrangements and meal plans.

During the rest of the year, we may intend to spend more quality time with our family, or work on a specific dream or goal, but it will never happen if it always gets bumped down in priority behind everything else we’ve got to do first.

Perhaps the fog we experienced last weekend was a gift – not only warning us to slow down, but reminding us to eliminate the distractions all around us so we can focus on what’s most important to us.

This doesn’t mean we ignore our other responsibilities and obligations. It just means that we decide on our own which ones are worth our time and attention, and we push away whatever is keeping us from fulfilling them. What we usually discover in the process, ironically, is that we actually get more done, and with more peace and pleasure, than when we’re rushing around trying to do it all at once.

And whether it’s during the holiday season or anytime throughout the year, that’s much more satisfying and rewarding than spending our lives in a fog.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on December 6, 2012.
©Betty Liedtke, 2012

I welcome your comments on this column. Please be aware that all comments require approval before appearing on this blog. This is to protect all of us from unwanted spam.