Friday, November 4, 2011

Routine and Ritual

It's a fine line, sometimes...

My daily routine is ritualistic most days.  A way to bring my self, my life into focus, prepare the way to get things done.  Some days, such as yesterday, I begin to resent the restriction of it.  Unlike most days, where I force myself through it, yesterday I gave myself a break.  You will notice there wasn't a blog.  There also wasn't much else.  :-)

Not true, I should give myself credit -- there was lots done, many errands, much work.  And a whole lot of sitting around with my hubby on the downstairs sofa bed watching DVDs.  It was exactly what I needed.

Seems kind of funny, after the previous day of awareness and spirituality that all I wanted to do was zone out in front of the screen.  I kicked myself for much of the early afternoon.  But then, once I'd managed to get done all the things I had to get done, I simply embraced it.  I needed to sit with my hubby and watch DVDs more than I needed to reflect or write or clean the oven.  And that's OK.

I have to keep reminding myself WHY I gave myself the daily routine, including meditation time, writing time, exercise time, reflecting time, etc.  It wasn't to constrict myself and make myself feel bad about failing to do those things.  It was because, knowing my propensity for checking off to-do boxes, the only way I would allow myself the "ESC" (extreme self care) would be if it allowed me to check off a box.  (I even assigned myself a weekly bubble bath, so the time wouldn't feel wasted.)  It was to make sure I actually looked after myself.

And yes, there are those days when I still DO need to schedule in some me time, because I'm still likely to get carried away doing other stuff and ignore myself.  But ignoring the routine yesterday was, in fact, giving myself some me time -- just in a different format than usual.

I still had to talk myself into it, though.  Those check-boxes can be a curse as well as a blessing!

It's so easy to get stuck in routine -- even a good one.  And for rituals to stop meaning what they were originally meant to mean.  Sometimes they need some shaking up.  Sometimes they need some letting go.

With my family and loved ones, for instance, I always make a point of saying "I love you" when hanging up from a phone call, or saying good-bye in person.  You never know when or if you'll have a chance to say it again.  Overall, it's a good thing, I think.  But then, several years ago, I was on the phone with a recently ex-ed, being screamed and cursed at, and finally realizing what a horrible excuse for a human being he truly was... and as I was hanging up, it popped out of my mouth.  Oy... stupid habit, way to give him power, Lyssy.  Around the same time, an abusive family member phoned to similarly scream and rage at me for being so stupid as to get into an abusive relationship in the first place, and hung up with "I love you."  From both sides, it didn't really mean what it was supposed to mean, it was just routine.  (Of course, the combination of those two phone calls definitely helped me get to the "ah-haa!" moment about how I ended up in an abusive relationship!)

My sister and I both sang in the church choir from an early age, so while most kids were at Sunday school crayoning the baby Jesus, we got to be like the grown ups and stay for the service (hey, it was exciting for us to be considered grown up, and we could sneak books in under our choir gowns for the sermon!).  Within a couple of years, we had the regular Sunday service and communion service and wedding and funeral services memorized perfectly (my sister would even hold perfectly accurate Anglican weddings for her stuffed animals, but that's a whole other blog entry...), both the parts we actually got to say and the parts the ministers usually said.  (Once, when I was an older teenager, I was asked to give the readings -- and accidentally launched in to the minister's spiel when I was finished, because it just flowed so naturally from my brain.  He was gracious and let me finish.)  I loved the ritual, the calm, the knowing exactly what went where, the lack of surprise (decidedly different from my real world at the time), the comfort of the words and gestures.  But then...

One day, I actually read the words of the Nicene Creed.  Somehow, I was reading it with fresh eyes.  And when I saw all the "I believe"-s I'd been rattling off for over a decade... I froze.  Here I'd been declaring two or more times a week, in God's house, all the things I believed.  But I wasn't sure I actually did believe these things.  I'd never thought about what the words actually meant until that day, just the comfort of the ritual.  And suddenly, it was topsy-turvy.  I mean, let's forget for a moment about all those references in the services to God as our father, and my experience of fatherhood at that time, because that's a lifetime of blogs in itself.  But how about in the Creed itself, " all things, visible and invisible."  Pretty mighty stuff.  How do I know if I believe in all things invisible?  Does that mean everything invisible, like poltergeists and stuff, or just church-y invisible things like angels and heaven?  How do you know which "all things" are supposed to be on the list?  Will God be mad if I've forgotten to consider an invisible thing I don't even know about yet?  My father saw giant coke bottles chasing him home one night, but nobody else saw them; I saw things happening right in front of our faces that everyone else seemed to be totally oblivious to -- where do those things fall on the scale of things I'm supposed to believe in?

When you grow up in a family of gaslighters and questionable mental and emotional wellness, announcing you believe in all things visible and invisible can open a rather large can of worms.

I mouthed the words from then on -- although in later years, I would subversively insert "she" and "mother" and "her" into the recitations, just to make a point.  ;-)

That ritual lost its meaning.  But others took its place.  Some came and went, others are still an important part of my life today.  I'm sure there's some I have that I'm not even aware of, but I do try and take them out of my pocket every once in a while, hold them up to the light, check for wear and tear and fault lines.  Some are still useful and comforting.  Some have gone the way of all things visible and invisible.  What gives me comfort one day doesn't necessarily do the same the next -- but here I am, writing again, despite the "vacation" yesterday.  Today it feels good, yesterday it would have been just another chore.

When the ritual becomes mere routine, it's lost its meaning.  Time to shake it up, do something different, see what happens -- whether you miss it or feel relieved it's gone.  Put it back in your pocket, but not if it's poking you in the arse.  :-)

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