Anticipation always beats expectation in the journey of life

Editorial & Opinion, Friday, December 28, 2007, p. A8

I am not a morning person, but last week I was wakened by my daughter yelling and I popped out of bed with a smile on my face like I’d had 12 hours sleep. She was hanging the next decoration on our advent calendar, made by her Nana last year, joyfully announcing “daddy, there are only 6 more days until Christmas!”

Do you remember what it was like to be a child, counting down the days until Dec. 25? Having faith in something, simply because you were told it was true – not questioning it, just believing? With the excitement building daily over the holidays, until a fever pitch is reached on Christmas Eve once snacks are put out for Santa and his crew?

Waking up with a full stocking on the end of my bed, and running into my grandparent’s or parent’s room to open it and watch them drink champagne and orange juice was magical. Then we ‘patiently’ waited for mom to get the turkey in the oven (which was always the size of a pterodactyl) before we could open our presents. Finally, it was agonizing as the day progressed smelling the dinner cooking and not being able to eat. Oh the anticipation of waiting for my mom to carve the turkey, so that we could dive into Christmas dinner, especially seeking out the sausage meat stuffing.

Once we stop believing in the magic of Santa, and Christmas, we lose something – not just innocence, but a feeling of anticipation that is hard to find again. Then, it strikes again, maybe a decade later. Remember the pause and foot shuffle at the end of a first date? The nervous thrill of a potential first kiss? Perhaps their hand brushes against yours, simultaneously sending shivers and warmth through the core of your being? Anticipating the first time you would hold hands, kiss, and then hear those three words that change your life. Then it is gone again.

Similar feelings were stirred to the surface on my wedding day – the nervous, excited anticipation of a lifetime together – a willingness to accept everything that comes to us until I take my last breath. Time continued to tick, unrelenting. Routines formed, until I realized that I have forgotten the taste of anticipation.

I had forgotten, that is, until an angel named Audrey entered my life just over four years ago. Seeing my husband hold her in his arms overwhelmed me with the anticipation of a full, happy life for her, and us watching over her.

As the years pound forward even faster, Audrey has given me the opportunity to feel so many things again, for the first time. She brought me back to the wonders of each season, from picking up earth worms wriggling around after a spring rain, to blowing the spores of a dandelion on a hot summer day, to jumping in a pile of beautifully coloured leaves, to making deep snow angels in the backyard. The wonder of experiencing things for the first time is beautiful, but for me, the anticipation is better still.

Now I’ve come full circle, back to a simpler time at Christmas, seeing the beauty in my children’s anticipation. Audrey has been getting more excited with every decoration on the advent calendar, each decoration meaning one day closer to Dec. 25. On Christmas Eve, wide-eyed, she scanned the room one last time before bed, for any signs that Santa was on his way, and speedily got into bed so that Santa would keep her on the ‘nice’ list. She probably didn’t sleep for hours, thinking about the next morning happily. And I also lay in bed for a long time thinking about her reaction in the morning.

On Christmas morning, I was lucky to witness the pure amazement and joy radiating from every pore of her body when she noticed the stockings were brimming, Santa’s snacks were gone and the reindeer treats nibbled away. My son Andrew, for the most part slept through Christmas last year, but this year he got in on the action of our Christmas traditions, mainly by mimicking his older sister, and it was all nothing short of awesome. Andrew started to shake with excitement, and did a little dance with his feet, reminiscent of flash dance.

It is easy to forget those feelings, the busier our world gets. We often can’t help but get caught up in crossing items off our to-do lists, and we forget to live the life right there in front of us.

You’ve heard the cliché: Life is a journey, not a destination. Fair enough, since I don’t see my life destination as a pine box, I see it as a series of moments, experiences, and opportunities to affect others positively.

So it’s time to enjoy the journey and the anticipation – to enjoy the life we are living right now. Maybe today will be the best day ever, and you just don’t know it yet.

Nadine Robinson is a freelance writer and a marketing & communications consultant. Her column appears every other Wednesday. She encourages you to keep your letters and comments coming. Contact her at the.ink.writer@gmail.com

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