Take me someplace where we can be silent together.
– Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things
While time seems to have multiplied as the pandemic rages on, for many, space at home has vanished. Prior to the pandemic, my husband traveled a lot for work. Now we are together all the time, attempting to work all while navigating parenting a vivacious, curious, and all-engrossing two-year-old. Prior to the pandemic, we climbed all over the park, enjoyed play dates, and went to every mommy and me class the library offered. Now, her entire world consists of Momma and Dada. We are her teachers, her playmates, her captive audience, and sometimes even her pretend pets…ALL THE TIME. She also hates wearing pants, sometimes pees in the clean laundry basket and sometimes she “trust” falls backward and expects to be caught.
Last week, that ended in me heading to urgent care in the middle of a pandemic getting X-rays to confirm I’d broken my nose (By the way, I am fine. It is healing and we are working on curbing the trust falls). We are all just trying to function in this new normal through daily life in a small space, but now our home feels even smaller, making creating space more challenging.
One afternoon early into lockdown, my pantless dictator miraculously went down for a mid-morning nap and I went to make myself a cup of tea. I filled the teapot with water and placed it on the stove. This teapot happens to be one of my favorite objects. It is oddly shaped, with a curved handle and a small red whirly gig at the end of the spout that spins when the water begins to boil and the whistle sounds. I have had it for years and it brings me great joy. So, I put it on the stove to boil. I left the whirlygig up so it wouldn’t whistle and wake the sleeping dragon. As the water heated, I chose my tea bag and placed it deliberately in the cup with the string wrapped around the handle.
Enjoying the silence, I listened for the water to boil. As I poured, I saw and felt the steam rise from the cup. I inhaled and felt the fresh tingle of peppermint. I had forgotten how much making a cup of tea could ground me. It is in the quiet waiting first for the water to boil and then for the tea to steep that allows me to find space in my head. It was rare to be alone with my thoughts while I prepared that cup of tea. Parenting a young child often means I may not have a lot of breathing room, but I can try to create internal space with my intentions and focusing on making tea despite the chaos around me. It is the mindful waiting that allows me the space to breathe. The ritual gives me a sense of calm purpose.
“We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn’t have the specific ritual you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet.”-Elizabeth Gilbert
During this pandemic, I have found calm amidst the chaos and uncertainty by creating small daily rituals for myself and my family so we can find some internal space and structure. In order to stumble through daily life on top of one another, we need space in our heads to work, play, create, breathe, and find joyful moments of both togetherness and separateness. These rituals have become a healing balm for burnout and fatigue. Regardless of what happens throughout the day, these rituals serve to provide structure and consistency. They are like lighthouses guiding us through the fog of present uncertainties.
I have two personal rituals I now commit to every day. One is that I make a cup of tea each morning, and the other is that I wash my face and apply lotion just before I go to bed.
My morning tea ritual is possible while parenting a two-year-old because she has a morning painting ritual. Every evening, we set up her easel with fresh paint and paper. It has become part of her bedtime ritual. I choose and place my mug and teabag on the counter, which is part of my bedtime ritual. When she gets up in the morning, her space is ready and while she paints, I make tea. When we perform these rituals together: we both usher in the day with a sense of joy and purpose.
Before bed, when I wash my face, I play a highlight reel of my day in my head and wash away any negativity. When I put the lotion on, I am sealing in all the beautiful moments I have gathered.
Having these rituals does not change the circumstances we are in. This challenging time continues to be difficult to navigate, but unlike this pandemic, these two rituals are a simple remedy, take less than 10 minutes and provide so much space. For just a moment I can pause, breathe, and take it all in.
5-Minute Meditation: Creating a Daily Ritual
Close your eyes. Feel your feet on the ground; relax your jaw and shoulders. Take three deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through your mouth. Sigh the breath out. Release sound. Feel the gentle, consistent rise and fall of your breath.
Bring to mind an everyday item in your home that brings you joy.
What color is it? What is the shape, the texture, the weight?
Imagine a simple activity you can perform using the item.
What activity might you already be doing to which you can add this joyful object and the magical ingredient of intention?
The most important thing to remember when creating a ritual is to believe in the sacredness of it and to fill it with intention. Commit to creating this moment of internal space every day, breath into it, and perform it with purpose. What simple but sacred ritual can you create that brings you a moment of internal space?