I’ve been thinking about rituals this afternoon. Have you ever thought about all the rituals we have in our lives? We have rituals for birthdays, anniversaries, deaths. Rituals play an important part in our lives. If you look up the definition of ritual you’ll usually find it’s somehow connected to religion:
“A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.”
But not always. I also found this definition:
“A series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone.”
Like a monthly visit to an older family member. Meeting your girlfriends for coffee. A regular golf date with your buddies followed by beer at the clubhouse.
I’ve been thinking about rituals this week because on the 21st Drollery and I will be “celebrating” our 44th anniversary. While we always do something special for that day, we ALSO do something special for the anniversary of our engagement on November 22nd. We don’t make a huge deal out of it, but every single year we go to Starbucks for a cup of coffee or get a piece of pie from Village Inn and reminisce about that day (which I mentioned briefly in Life is a risky business!).
Now an engagement may not seem like something to concoct a ritual for, but I would disagree. It was a huge milestone in our life together. And I think milestones deserve rituals. We need to be able to look back and take stock of and celebrate the milestones on our journeys.. Milestones like graduations, retirements, divorces (yes, seriously — I didn’t say they had to commemorate something fluffy all the time), realized dreams, meeting goals… There could be so many things.
I’ve always been a collector of milestones. I keep most of them in a small tin box. Rocks, a little glass bird, sterling silver ballet slippers on a ribbon, a dragonfly, a beryl stone… Every one of the things in that box has a special meaning to me. And everyone of them deserves a little ritual of their own. Admittedly I haven’t taken the time to create one for each of them, but there is so much potential there. I should at least mark them on my calendar. But I do take them out from time to time, handle them, and relive each of those moments. Life can get you down now and then, but there’s something encouraging about looking back at how far you’ve come instead of ahead at how far you feel you have to go.
What are the milestones in your life that could be an encouragement to you if you created some kind of ritual around them? Other cultures are so much better at this than we are here in the states. In Judaism at 13 when a boy is considered a man there is a bar mitzvah to celebrate. For girls there is a bat mitzvah. For girls of Hispanic decent there are quinceaneras.
What do we do for our children to remind them they are now responsible people when they come of age? What about when our daughters “become women”, when their bodies say you are now ready to birth children? How many of our fathers take their daughters out for a date and talk to them about the traits of a mate for their lives and the importance of them respecting themselves? I bet it would be so much more effective coming from dad than mom.
What about the first time our sons get some kind of job or take on extra responsibility around the house? Do our mothers take the time to tell them they’ve “become men” now?
Ok, getting long winded and frustrated here because I can’t find the words to say what I want. Perhaps this should have been two separate posts. But what I think is important is that we learn to WATCH for those milestones in our lives and the lives of our family and friends and CELEBRATE them. Keep momentos in a special place or container, for they have become “holy” objects on the quests in our lives.
Joan Halifax, an American Zen Buddhist teacher, anthropologist, ecologist, civil rights activist, hospice caregiver, and the author of several books on Buddhism and spirituality asks,
Where are the threshold rites that mark living and dying, mourning and marriage, birth and childhood, vision and darkness?
Our culture pays little heed to recognizing and naming the thresholds of our lives. I think we need to be initiated into the idea of celebrating life because there is so much darkness around us…
Now that I’ve trampled all over this subject in an entirely TOO random way, I’d like to ask if any of YOU take stock of the milestones in your life? If so, what are they? Do you recall them with special momentos? Can you share them with us? If not, make a list of those times and feel free to share that with us, too. I would love to hear all about it!
(This is an OLD post that somehow got shuffled into my drafts folder Lord knows when! Some folks had already commented on it. So I brushed it up a bit and changed the date info on the comments. No, Linda, you did not post to this and then forget you did it today! I am clueless. Nevertheless, here it is — AGAIN! Apparently!)