Outdoor Lantern

Creating New Rituals

Tracey Columns

It’s closing in on that time of year when so many different graduations are on the horizon. We happily attend the ceremonies and then join family and friends to honor our graduate, appreciating these social rituals that mark special milestones in life. 

Whether it’s a graduation ceremony and party, a wedding, family reunion, or a funeral and a wake, rituals deeply connect us to ourselves and each other. These long established practices are meaningful, emotionally fulfilling, and richly satisfying. 

Interestingly, when we pause and consider our daily routines, we often discover another set of social rituals that are smaller, sometimes even tiny, and yet no less important to our over-all well being. 

For example, it was only after my dear old faithful dog died last fall that I recognized the importance of our morning ritual, just me, my first cup of coffee, and Bella curled up on my feet. It was the perfect way to start my day. Or how every time our children drive away from our home after yet another wonderful visit, we all lovingly wave the sign language symbol for ‘I love you’ until they disappear around the first green bend in the road. Weekly coffee with friends at my favorite coffee shop is another social ritual I enjoy, as are those first spring visits to the nursery when the yard is coming back to life and the future looks bright. And singing! Ah, now there’s another weekly social ritual I love.

Just like larger, more significant rituals, these  small, daily moments in our lives give us a sense of predictability, purpose, and stability. They define us and make us feel part of a larger community. Rituals enrich our lives and improve our mood, 

But these days? There’s nothing like sheltering-in-place to land a great blow squarely on the head of so many beloved social rituals. This loss of enjoyable, predictable activities is taking a toll on so many. 

Here’s a question for you, take a moment and identify what you are missing the most while quarantined? Is it the spiritual connection with your church community? Perhaps it’s simply chatting with your favorite checker at the grocery store? Who misses going to their choir rehearsals? Maybe it’s your monthly book club or weekly walk with your friend of many years? Who’s missing their grandchild’s Little League games? 

Though it appears sheltering-in-palace is starting to relax somewhat, the fact remains that those of us in the second half probably won’t be rushing back to our regular activities any time soon. What are we to do?

For starters, please don’t discount your losses, no matter how trivial they may seem to you. And while your at it, don’t judge yourself too harshly for feeling blue because you can’t go to your weekly Canasta game with your friends. Yes, other people have bigger losses right now but you are also juggling a host of adjustments. Talk to friends and family about what you are feeling. You might be surprised to learn about the small social rituals they are sad to miss as well.

Next, try to create alternatives to beloved rituals. Have fun thinking about how can you have a party for your high school graduate and still honor safety guidelines. (Did you see the ‘drive-by’ birthday parade for the man who turned 100? Talk about special!)  Maybe you and your friend need to agree to weekly coffee over the phone or through any number of computer sites, like FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts. Music can still be a part of your daily routine. Simply turn up the volume on your favorite tunes and dance your way into a better mood! (Don’t worry. No one is watching!) Want to feel more connected with your neighbors? Call around and ask if they’d like to be known as the “Rainbow Neighborhood?” Everyone then posts a rainbow in a front window to signify connection and hope for the future. 

Eventually, we will get back to our regular lives but in the meantime, partake in whatever social rituals you can. Put some thought and energy into adapting old ones and creating new ones. You’ll feel better for it.