Monday, March 07, 2011


Every night for going on two years now, J and I have shared one thing we love about each other and one thing we love about ourselves. It's our bedtime ritual and it is often the anchor point of my day.

Most Sunday mornings, he makes buckwheat pancakes for the family, which we festoon with fruit and nut butter, yogurt and maple syrup. We've drifted away from this lately but for a long time we ate while reading and discussing "The Ethicist" column from the New York Times Magazine, each of us presenting a point of view before delving into Randy Cohen's take on the issue at hand. (This weekend I learned that Randy Cohen no longer writes this column.)

Three or four mornings a week I swim laps, often with friends. We usually start with a 500-yard warm-up followed by two or three hundred yards of kick-boarding and chat. And then we challenge each other with ideas for drills to do next.

I walk my dog just about every day, often twice a day when I'm feeling well, almost always with a tennis ball in hand and a pocket full of kibble. I throw the ball, she fetches, and then we strike up a trade. Sometimes we walk with her best doggie friends and my good neighbor, and I get the pleasure of conversation while she spends her time wrestling.

On Tuesday afternoons, some Friday evening, and, now that cancer has added to my daily burdens, sometimes Monday mornings too, I spend an hour listening and caring while a trusted co-counselor works through whatever mental and emotional challenges claim his or her attention. In turn, he or she spends an hour doing the same for me.

For the next eleven weeks, I will go to the hospital every Friday afternoon for chemotherapy. For five weeks after that, I'll go five days a week for radiation.

I check my email nightly before bed. I check it again in the morning. When I occasionally wake up restless, I check it in the middle of the night.

Where am I going with this? I guess I'm just noticing and appreciating rituals. There are some that we choose, some that choose us, some that run their course and move out of our lives. Some that we lean on heavily in our hours of need. Some that become richer for their repetition, some that steal richness from us and that we strive consciously to abandon.

What are the rituals in your life, newly adopted or longstanding, treasured or not?


Paula said...

Most of our rituals, which do not involve chemo or radiation, are soothing and comforting in the midst of life's typical turbulence, and I'd like it to stay that way. Bedtimes, reading, and stories are wonderful rituals for us.

Sunday mornings involve driving to church, full of its own comforting rituals, but aren't complete without listening to Will Shortz's puzzle on NPR on the way and shouting out answers. Then we listen to A Prairie Home Companion afterward, unable to tear ourselves away for lunch.

One of my favorite rituals is coming with Easter, the making of our anise-laced Italian Easter bread (coucoumbina?). One of my favorite aunts made me one every year until her death, and now I continue the ritual with my family.

I wish you more comforting rituals and fewer arduously imposed ones in your future.

Anonymous said...

I have tons of rituals, we talked about this last week even. I think they are a wonderful way of creating constancy in a life of eternal upheaval. As long as they aren't Samskaras (or habits we rely on) they are wonderful.

I have a smiling red Buddha whose belly I rub a certain # of times every night before I go to bed.

wonderful post

Kerry said...

Rituals keep the boogy-man away...make us feel safe and give us something to look forward grandchildren had no rituals prior to thier coming here, nothing to look forward to or keep them anchored to a safe spot. Establishing simple routine 'juice boxes on the trailer' every afternoon gave them a happy thing to look forward to and was the first step towards detoxifying and destressing thier little lives...on the other hand, our rituals,late dinners in the gazebo, Scrabble on rainy afternoons are gone, along with many others that only involved two adults! Now, storytime, and breakfast at the island on weekends have become family rituals...more will evolve I'm sure. Having something to look forward to can equal hope that tomorrow will be a better day! Peace~Kerry

Jarnsaxa said...

Often, Amy gets in the water with me; she arrives as I am about to leave to get on with MY morning rituals before seeing patients. She starts her warmup while I start my cooldown. Today, before my cooldown I was chatting with the gentleman in the next lane...and Amy SPLASHED me every time she did a racing turn! And not just a little, a LOT!!! And I thought 3 things: 1. She's on chemotherapy and she is STILL faster than me! 2. She's splashing me so much I'm screwing my eyes shut! and most importantly, 3. I am so happy that she is here and that 1 and 2 are happening!!!! Your new SwimOutlet suits are SOOO cute, Amy!!!

Delaney's Duds said...

One of my favorite things. I was under the illusion that I was laid back with no set plans. Wrong. I like what i like, when i am used to liking it. :o) Rituals to me = comfort, consistency, security.
I agree with Paula, bedtimes and accompanying stories warm my heart up. Sometimes these times are cozy snuggling with the girls, sometimes they are not. Occasionally bedtime is turbulent and unsettling as I try to understand what is going on in my 5 year old's head processing through her/(our) troubles.
Coventry Farmer's market in the summer. Car talk on the radio (Delaney still remembers the first episode she ever heard)
I am waiting on 4 wiggly teeth for a tooth fairy to start her traditions....
I made an advent calendar for my girls. Each day is stuffed with an activity - cookie or gift making, photos with Santa, watching the grinch. Love it.
The daily routines of coffee, working out, lining up my equipment at the edge of the pool, supersitions of kissing the roof of the car going through a yellow light.
creatures of habit. the specifics may change, but still there.
Love you Amy. Thank you for sharing your love so freely.