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.
I love this post! I am going to do the same thing! You are absolutely right.
Yes! To all of this! Thank-you for sharing with us Carole.
I have found over the years (because of what I see at work and because I am getting older) that anything can be taken away at any time, and one wishes one had appreciated more what they had when they had it.
This is not morbid, it is simply the life lesson you point out. So it has made it easier for me to appreciate my habits, no matter how they are labeled, and appreciate the now moments. It is a long process to achieve, and probably has a zen name associated with it.
I agree, it often takes a disruption in our routines (by a pandemic, death in the family, or some other major upheaval) to make us realize what we had and move forward with a better appreciation of our time with loved ones.
Intentions mean a lot, for sure. I’m not quite ready to consider it a ritual when I haul the trash cans to the curb on Friday, and I’m grateful for my morning routine that lets me get ready for the day on autopilot so I can think about the important things coming at me each day. But there are small rituals at our house like intentionally checking in at Sunday dinner about the week ahead. Like caring for the berries my husband eats for breakfast every morning because he feels better when he does. Yep, they’re there. Good thoughts for a Monday.
I think even for those rituals we recognized as such, having them taken away without notice really made us treasure them more. I know that our Friday night family dinners mean so much more now (and not just because they’re a night I don’t have to cook!). Knowing that we have a evening each week to gather with the loved ones we were separated from for so long is such a gift. Thanks for starting off my week with a reminder of how lucky we are to have these rituals!
These are such good thoughts for a Monday! I think a lot of us thought about Kym’s post…living an intentional life in everything. Yeah… not easy, but absolutely worth it… for everyone. Excellent post, Carole!
This sounds like mindfulness to me, Carole, which is always a laudable goal. I admit I strive to do it, but it is human nature to take things for granted, and it takes great effort not to do so over time. I will think about this for a while, I think.
Mary K. in Rockport says
Excellent. A life lived with zest and gratitude.
Judy Shaw says
Very interesting post, one that makes us think!
Beautiful, Carole! Beautiful sentiment, beautiful post. XOXO
Jo-Ann Coles says
I love this. It is easy to take the things we enjoy for granted and let them all slide by almost without notice. I have been striving to pay more attention when we’re all together (whether the ‘we’ is my family or my group of friends), to listen more intently, and to get pictures of the little gatherings but not be so consumed with documenting that I am no longer present.
Oh Carole, yes! I was thinking about ritual and routine this morning while I washed last week’s sheets and made the bed with fresh ones. That’s something I do EVERY Monday and after I do the hospital corners and get everything tucked in tight, Marc makes the bed the rest of the week. On Monday nights, he makes a point of commenting how much he loves getting into bed because the sheets are smooth and tight (and even). and that gives me so much joy! I’m not sure I ever would’ve thought of changing sheets as ritual. but for my marriage, it is!