A counselor once told me that rituals are important, not only with your spouse, but with family members and friends. The older I get, the more I agree with him. Traditions are important too, but rituals are something different.
When I was growing up, my mom and dad would get up early and drink coffee in the living room. If I woke up early enough, I would eavesdrop, but usually it was stuff that didn’t interest me. After two cups, Dad would jump up and get in the shower, and Mom would start fixing his breakfast. After my dad died, I think that little ritual was one of the things Mom missed the most.
Sharing a meal is a ritual that is very important. It’s a time to pause and enjoy not only the company, but all of our senses. My husband and I recently went on vacation to Colorado with our family. Getting three granddaughters at the table at the same time can be a challenge, but it’s worth the planning. And when a somewhat wild white-water raft excursion turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip, Becca, 14, decided it should be a tradition. I agreed, but added we should have a ritual of standing in a circle and saying a little prayer while still on dry land.
Maybe doing something the same way day after day gives us a sense of security. Everything and everyone seems to move quickly these days. Call me crazy (many already have), but I get comfort in reading the Sunday paper sitting in the same chair every week. I watch “Good Morning America” every weekday and miss it something fierce when we’re out of the country.
Reading the news, whether printed or online, is a ritual many people tell me is important to them. That’s why if the paper isn’t available, it’s a serious problem. It throws you off when something familiar, something you enjoy, is simply not there.
I asked a friend if she had any rituals. She said she didn’t have any because she lives alone and every day is different for her. I bet her $5 she had at least three rituals. I had her tell me about her morning. She has a very definite morning ritual – two cups of coffee, one bowl of Cheerios, and she sits in the same chair at the kitchen table and reads the paper while she eats. Ritual.
She calls her mom at 9 a.m. every morning. Ritual. And she has a routine when she gets home from work. She gets the mail, sits in the same chair to look through it, changes her clothes, pours a glass of wine and reads her personal e-mails. Ritual.
After collecting my five bucks, she laughed and said, “Maybe that’s why I don’t like to go out of town. It messes up my rituals.”
Another friend said walking her dog Remy at the same time every day is important to her for relaxation and exercise, but she knows it’s more important for Remy. When her dog Cody died, she said it was a ritual she missed terribly and that she was anxious to get another dog.
When life changes, rituals change. The thing to do is create new rituals, some just for just yourself and some with others. It’s a comfort – so comfortable, in fact, you may not even notice it, but it’s there. And it’s all yours.
Reach Bonnie Bing at firstname.lastname@example.org.