How to Make Life More Exciting

warhol-waiting
I blame the microwave oven. Apparently it was the gateway drug that fueled our insatiable desire for immediacy. When you can cook an entire dinner in 30 seconds, why wait for anything?

I was shocked to see that our neighbor put up her Christmas tree the day after Halloween. I tried to imagine a plausible explanation. Perhaps she was leaving for a two-month trip to New Zealand and wouldn’t return until Christmas Eve, and she certainly wouldn’t want to have to unpack AND put up the tree? Then I started seeing and hearing of more people doing the same. I saw one house with a Christmas tree in their window and a jack-o-lantern on the porch.

Look, I’m not the Christmas police here. I’m not exactly sure what the “appropriate” time to put up your tree actually is. I only point it out because I see a bigger trend here that involves more than just the early onset of Christmas.

It involves the concept of waiting. Or rather, our increasing disdain for it.

For example, people look at Kim and me like we have lobsters coming out of our ears when we tell them that we don’t know if our baby is going to be a boy or a girl. One lady, upon learning that this was our third child, gave us an “oh, isn’t that cute” look, and went on to assume that we of course found out for our other two. When we told her we hadn’t, I’m pretty sure one of the fuses in her brain burnt right out.

Whether it’s finding out the gender of our babies, to carrying credit card debt, to putting our Christmas trees up that day after Halloween, to nuking our Thanksgiving dinner in a minute or less, we have turned into a culture that can’t wait for anything. Of course, we have perfectly reasonable explanations for any of these actions, but are the actions really necessary?

I realize that I am in danger of inciting a holy war. Trust me, that’s not my intent. I only bring it up because it seems like we are systematically eliminating from our lives one the greatest things about childhood: anticipation.

I think Andy Warhol was right: Waiting for something DOES make it more exciting. At least that’s what I’ve found true in my own life.

Don’t get me wrong. Waiting is HARD. It borders on downright terrible sometimes. It’s not surprising that when we have the opportunity to NOT wait, as we often do once we become adults, we want to skip to the last page and see how it ends.

When we do, we get a momentary thrill of instant gratification, but we lose something much greater. One of the reasons Adultitis is so rampant in our lives is because we are in such short supply of anticipation.

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating, especially this time of year:

It’s quite tempting to skip to the end, to sneek a peek, to make the magician reveal the the secret to his trick. Especially when you can. Resist, my friend. Don’t rob yourself of the misunderstood and unheralded joy of anticipation.

What do you think? Am I on to something or is Adultitis getting the best of me?

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Comments

  1. Paul Partridge says:

    Although it wasn’t decorations, I did start listening to Christmas music (mainly at work) the week after Halloween, but more because it helps build my anticipation for the concert I’m going to next month. One of my favorite bands is Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and it is their Christmas CDs I’ve been listening to. Also doesn’t help that only two of their five CDs are not Christmas music and the themes of those two sometimes get a little…dark for daycare nap time.

  2. I’m not sure technology has made us a better society, but certainly a more impatient one. Expectations have been raised to the point of super-human levels and it’s difficult to relax and unwind. Everything gets faster and sooner (perhaps it’s because I’m getting OLDER?!) and less impersonal. I commend those who are holding firm and not getting sucked into the hype of the season, whichever season it may be, and living more simply. Just because a particular thing or behavior is popular, doesn’t mean it’s good or good for us.

  3. Agostino says:

    I could not agree more. Seems that when we went to artificial trees we enabled ourselves advance the date of Christmas preparation. Who wanted a cut pine tree drying out 8 weeks in their living room?
    The increasingly early kickoff of Christmas upsets the balance of the seasons. There is a lot of time between Halloween and Christmas to experience the changes in Nature which occur so rapidly in this time. To jump straight to Christmas bypasses the autumn of the year and in analogy, the autumn of our lives. We don’t know how to appreciate the maturity of elements, the fruits of long, hard labors and the rewards they bring. You are right, the anticipation of watching that tomato on the vine as it ripened and swelled only made it taste that much better when I finally was able to pick it from the vine that ripe afternoon and enjoy it there in the garden.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great article – I think your spot on there xx Enjoy the countdown, don’t start Christmas too early its gets too average and looses the magic xx in my head I’ve planned my decorations and I’m really looking forward to putting them up. :-) xx

  5. Diane says:

    You are right on!! Instant and disposable. Instant gratification and when that no longer works, we dispose of it-marriages, children, anything does not have instant results. What happened to the waiting, the teaching our children to be patient? To be a part of the wonder and awe of Christmas. We have stolen the most precious part of our children’s lives, by not teaching them the enjoyment of anticipation. As for your Third child–many blessings on you!!! why not have three more and make a real point!!!!

  6. Marie says:

    I totally agree with you. We have become a “give it to me now” society! I think we can definitely appreciate something more when we have the opportunity to anticipate it. We have 5 children, and we did not find out if we were having a boy/girl for any of our births…my husband said, “This is one of the few surprises in life anymore, and boy or girl, we’re going to love that baby just the same!”

  7. Jeanette Burmeister says:

    Jason! I am thrilled that you are waiting to find our what your child is on the day it is born. I agree totally about waiting. I think this whole rushing the event is nuts!!!! I absolutely cannot believe stores open on Thanksgiving. And what is worse, there will be people there. I am not a football fan so after polishing off the big meal, I would rather visit with friends and family. So, you are not alone in your thoughts.
    Have a great day!
    Jeanette

  8. Debbie says:

    I like to have Thanksgiving. Then watch the Christmas parades after the turkey is in the fridge. Chocolate santa’s should go on sale only after I get to eat my turkey sandwich. I am boycotting a major chain because they are having ‘black friday’ thanksgiving day. this stores need for money by denying their staff’s holiday with family upsets me. I love my christmas tree, the lights, the dusty smell (it’s fake), the cat eating the tinsel, keeping the toddler grandson from climbing it. BUT…….not before I have turkey!

  9. Wanda Klimaszewski says:

    I agree! What bugs me is that right after Easter they start putting out the bathing suits and
    summer clothing. I always yell – “Stop rushing my life!!!!” As for finding out the sex of your baby before it is born just so you will know how to decorate the room or the right color of clothes to buy ba humbug!!! It is like opening all your christmas gifts and then rewrapping them to open on Christmas day. This shopping on Thanksgiving is just wrong!!! Now can people put material things over the time and memories of their family. All this stresses me out!

  10. Wanda says:

    I agree! We are so pushed and rushed we don’t take the time to enjoy what we have. Sometimes I think it is not just the killing of anticipation, but the rush to be “first”. “I’ve had my tree up since November 1 and my Christmas shopping was finished in September.” I really want to say… it’s a holiday, not a race. Some people in my office love to gloat, I’m done with everything!

  11. Sarah says:

    Hhhmmmm…this is a toughy. On the one hand, I see your point…that we are far too driven by instant gratification. And I am personally NOT a fan of decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. But on the other hand…why NOT put up your Christmas tree whenever the whim strikes you? It almost sounds like one of those made up rules you warn us about that Christmas trees and other related decorations can only be displayed during a certain time frame each year. ‘Tis a puzzlement…

  12. Terrie says:

    I totally agree with you. I admit to putting on Christmas music in mid-November, but that’s because it makes me happy and I only have a short time to hear it. But even as a kid, my sister would tear the house apart to find her Christmas presents early, rip them open and re-wrap them (truth). If she found one of mine and would ask me if I wanted to see it, I would reply, “Nope. I want to be surprised.” She could not fathom this at all. I see in my own kids the same behaviors. One would definitely be a “finder and ripper” (she still believes in Santa now), and the other will be a “savorer” who loves the anticipation. On the other hand, I’m also the one who goes into a depression the day after Christmas because I am so bummed “the big show” is all over.

    I hate waiting as much as the next guy, and I am eternally grateful for the invention of the microwave oven, but I agree that some things are just worth the wait, no matter how painful that wait may seem at the moment.

  13. Tracy says:

    You ARE on to something. We have 4 children and waited to find out the gender of all 4, and I absolutely love when others do the same. I was once listening to a radio talk show and the host talked about how there are very few real surprises in life and how it is important to embrace and appreciate the surprises – I have never forgotten that. And what do we remember most from all 4 births that we will never forget? Very clearly the announcement for each, “it’s a boy/girl!” I am so glad to have those 4 moments.

  14. Lindsey says:

    Thanks for the great read this morning. I can totally relate… I have been itching to decorate for Xmas, however, I am holding back and waiting and then I will turn up the Xmas music and dance around the house as I decorate with my daughter (and my husband may help a little, although I can see him finding something to do in the garage :). And waiting to find out what we are having (or not finding out at the ultrasound), is the way to go. There are not too many BIG surprises in life and we are grateful no matter what gender the baby will be…. OH the anticipation!

  15. I actually read something last week talking about putting up Christmas decorations up early instead of waiting until after Thanksgiving because it gives you an extra two weeks to enjoy the season. I wish I could find the link now but basically, the woman was saying Christmas is her daughter’s favorite season. And because she only has a limited number of Christmases until her daughter grows up and moves out, she is going to get every day out of each Christmas that she can. Even if it means putting up her decorations early. Thinking about it from that perspective, I like the idea of not waiting.

  16. Debbie says:

    I love the anticipation of Christmas…and I get to smile in anticipation with my decorations way earlier! Pollyanna would always find the cup half full either way as I do…but my cup is a little cracked! Enjoy kids!!

  17. debilyn says:

    I like waiting for Christmas. I must admit, however, to listening to a few Christmas songs or watching a Christmas movie in June/July. (Just a couple, not for days on end, here.)

    I do hate to see “Hallow-mas” in the stores. As my youngest daughter says, “Thanksgiving gets lost in the shuffle when that happens.” Thanksgiving is an important holiday in our house. Not that we aren’t thankful the other days of the year, but we do like having a day set aside to be truly thankful for the past year. It seems to make Christmas more special when you take the time to be thankful first. So, I’m with you on this one.

    And, yes, we waited to know the gender of all three of our children until they were born. I don’t regret it one bit. I kinda feel sorry for those who find out early. To me, they miss a little excitement that way.

  18. Carol Jushkewich says:

    I say AMEN!!!