I come from a family where OCD runs rampant,and while that has often been a bit disruptive, one important thing that I’ve learned from watching OCD in action is the importance of ritual, so today’s emotional assignment is recognizing the rituals already in your life and adding more.
Obviously, rather than anything involving black candles or weird chanting, rituals are just a series of acts that you do in order to commemorate something. I think the “something” is where most people get stuck.
Church used to be the big place to get your weekly dose of ritual, but most younger folks, especially in big cities, don’t go to church anymore. Putting aside the debate over the value of religion, one thing not attending church has done is excused people from the habit of performing certain acts on a regular basis- acts they are comfortable with, acts that they’ve learned over the years are cleansing and soothing. These acts could not be more vital to your well being and to your relationships, so what do you do if you’re not religious?
You make your own.
Take a look at your life now, your day to day life, and think about any things that you do every day, or every week. Do you get coffee at the same place each morning? Do you meet the same group of people at the same bar each week? Do you perform “going to bed” activities in the same order each night? Do you have a date night? And now, looking at these events, how do you feel when you’re doing them? Because rituals aren’t about being in a rut from doing things the same way all the time, but rather drawing strength or getting a deeper meaning from them. If you look forward to exchanging pleasantries with the coffee cart guy on the way to work, and smelling the coffee in your hands as you walk to your office and gear up for another day, taadaaa, you’ve got a ritual.
Now it’s time to look around at the relationships in your life, at the things you value, and start making them more important. It’s time to start creating activities for yourself that are as filled with meaning as any religious holiday. There’s so much more out there to commemorate. Here are some ideas, and most of them are things I actually do:
- Go to bed at the same time as your partner- even if it means that one of you gets too little or too much sleep. Drifting off to sleep conversations are some of the most amazing.
- Start a weekly group email with your family, especially if you’re spread out around the country. Just update each other on random things.
- Find an exercise/dance class you like, and go to it weekly. Follow with a nice long shower and eating whatever you want.
- Email/gchat/text a far away friend daily, even if it’s just to say what you had for breakfast that morning.
- Find a pet store near you, visit it regularly, and pet the kittens.
- Go to a big chain bookstore, buy a fancy coffee drink, and read trashy magazines.
- Paint your toenails while watching America’s Next Top Model, or any other trashy show you would like.
- Buy fresh fruit, bring it home, and cut it into tiny pieces. It tastes much better this way.
- Go see moves opening night.
- Call your dad when a news story comes out that confuses you and ask him to explain it to you.
- Pick a song on your IPod, and when that song comes on, you have to dance. That rule applies if it happens to come on in social situations as well.
- Never end a phone call with someone you love without telling them that you love them.
Some of these things may seem a little silly and even precious, but any of these things are just a series of behaviors until you attach meaning to them. You may think that if you really cared about these rituals, you would already be doing them, but that’s not the case. Most emotions, especially ones concerning other people, are just looking for a way to be expressed. Your assignment is to find comfortable, soothing ways to express them for yourself. And then repeat.