It’s early morning. The sky is beginning to groggily make its way to light and I’m waiting on my French press. Coffee is such an important morning ritual for me. I just need a couple of minutes of silence and my cup of coffee and I can take on the day. Most mornings find me up just a few minutes before Mark and Miles so I can embrace this simple thing.
Rituals are funny, aren’t they? They’re the tiniest pieces but when they’re missing, the whole day feels like it’s been thrown off, like our world is rocking. Rituals are more than routines – routines, to me, are just what we are used to doing, the rote of everyday. Rituals are those gems that we relish in the midst of the ordinary chaotic mundane, those comforting signposts that whisper “Everything will be ok.”
I can think of a few more for myself. When I was working long hours on the Hill, I would start my day with a few minutes of reading every morning – nothing terribly remarkable, just whatever book I was working my way through at the moment.
In college, I would read something for a few minutes before going to sleep – something purely for fun (no assigned reading allowed).When my family congregates in San Diego for reunions, we always get donuts from the same shop on the corner. I have no idea whether their donuts actually taste better or worse than any others nearby. The donuts from the Vietnamese take-out shop are in a class of their own, rendered sacred by decades of repetition.
Motherhood brings it’s own set of (ironically ever-changing) rituals with it. There was the nursing ritual when Miles was brand-new – the frequent fill-water-glass-latch-baby-rock-gently while listening to the gentle clicking of infant nursing. Now we have bedtime rituals – a bath, books, songs, a prayer, more nursing.
Marriage, like motherhood, – has its own set of rituals, those quiet stakes you hold on to as you’re carving one life out of two. Mark and I don’t put a ton of effort into formal fancy dates, but on the weekends or when we travel, we love to sit outside and drink coffee in the morning. Walking has been one of our rituals. – so many walks. Beach walks and walks in the woods and walks in whatever city we’ve found ourselves in.
Certain shows have become rituals – Friday Night Lights, Downton Abbey. We try to go to bed at the same time as each other – it doesn’t work every night between homework and work and baby’s schedule, but it’s more the rule than the exception.
Having a baby makes me think a lot more about rituals, since babies basically measure their whole day in routine. But rituals keep serving the same purpose for adults. Without my rituals in place, I’m as cranky and out of sorts Miles without his bath and story. When my rituals are in place, I’m calmer, I’m happier, I have more breathing space to be creative and give my best. (For more on this, I highly recommend Margin, a book that substantially altered the way I handle time and commitments when I read it in college.)
Part of this could be a planner-personality-problem. I’m sure those who tend toward planning hold on to more routine. But I would venture to guess that all of us, even the most spontaneous and unplanned among us, have a ritual or two.
So what are your rituals, those pieces of your everyday that you cling to, that you build around, that you miss? It’s good sometimes to shake out our days and identify those markers of sanity and calm. Find them. Write them down. Treasure them. (And if you’re willing, share in the comments. I’d love to hear about yours.)