A little while ago, Kym wrote a post about rituals and she considered the difference between a ritual and a habit. Many of you left thoughtful comments and I’ll admit that I’ve been thinking about this post for several months now. I think I’ve ruminated on it long enough that I’m ready to share my thoughts with you and I’m going to focus on rituals and routines.
When I think about routines, I think about the things I do daily or weekly. Things like having our kids over for dinner on Wednesday nights, going to Kiwanis on Thursday nights, knitting while I watch television, Friday Night Snacks, reading before bed, listening to podcasts on my drive to work. These things are important to me and they enrich my life but I don’t put a whole lot of thought into them. They just sort of happen . . . and I’m glad they do.
What I’ve learned, though, over this last year or so, is that it’s very easy to take those routines for granted. It’s even possible to become bored by them. Wednesday again? I guess the kids are coming over. Thursday again? Time for Kiwanis and the same old menu choices. Get out the cheese and crackers because it’s time for Friday Night Snacks. It can feel mundane and unremarkable. Until it gets taken away by something out of your control, like a pandemic. Or your husband getting hit by a car.
All of a sudden your kids can’t come over for dinner. Your meetings are cancelled. You aren’t driving to work because work is closed. You can’t read before bed because your mind is wandering and you find it impossible to concentrate. Your Friday Night Snacks are for one because your husband is in the hospital. And now you long for all of those familiar routines. You yearn for the boredom of the life you took for granted. You chastise yourself for not paying attention to every little detail of every ordinary moment.
What if, instead of having routines, we had . . . rituals? What if we treated the things we do over and over again as sacred? What if we set an intention to add meaning to our schedules? What if we gave as much importance to dinner on a Wednesday as we did to a holiday meal? You may be thinking that would be too much. You may be thinking that the big things won’t feel like big things if we make all the little things feel like big things, too. I don’t think that’s the case, though. I think if we honor the things we do repeatedly, if we pay attention to the details of everyday life, we will enjoy it more. We will value it more. We will love it more.
There are things I already do that are rituals. I write in a gratitude journal every morning while my coffee brews. I meditate. I have seasonal rituals like changing the wreath on the front door and switching my coffee mug to one with a beach scene on Memorial Day weekend. I consider these things to be rituals because I approach them with thoughtfulness and intention.
I’m going to challenge myself to create more rituals rather than going through the motions associated with routines. I’m going to savor those moments when I read in bed, luxuriating in soft pillows and crisp sheets with Dale right beside me. I’m going to prepare our Friday Night Snacks with gratitude. I’m going to greet the kids with hugs. I’m going to remember that nothing is certain and each moment matters.
I invite you to join me on this journey.