Routines and rituals

By Caitlin Kelly

We eat by candlelight every evening
We eat by candlelight every evening

I’m writing this post with two different streams of music coming into our apartment.

In the living room, our new favorite station, TSFJazz, which we discovered during a taxi ride into Paris on our last trip there, in December 2014.

It’s terrific! We listen to it now as a default choice and I love hearing French all day (I speak it) as well their broad array of choices.

On Saturday mornings, I listen to a reggae show on WKCR, the radio station of Columbia University, learning new-to-me phrases like “large up” (to praise or remember.) On a cold, gray winter’s morning, what better way to start the weekend?

I love rituals and routines, for the rhythm they add to my life.

In a world where things change so often and so quickly, I increasingly appreciate unmoving touchstones.

My daily pot of tea, usually at 4 or 5pm
My daily pot of tea, usually at 4 or 5pm

From age 8 to 16, I attended boarding school and summer camp, each with decades-old routines and rituals, some of which I loved, (we sang en masse after every meal at camp), and some of which I hated, (we had to be back at boarding school by 6pm Sunday evenings to listen to yet another missionary talk about their good deeds overseas.)

What I did enjoy about that ritual was the closing song of every Sunday evening, the lovely hymn, Abide With Me,…fast falls the eventide, the darkness deepens, Lord with me abide…

I can still remember the timing of the school’s bells: 6:55 wake-up; 7:10 out for a walk around the block; 7:25 head to the dining hall for breakfast. Each afternoon someone would bring back to our boarders’ house a huge green basket filled with cookies for our afternoon snack.

For special occasions, like graduation, a bagpiper arrived in full regalia, another ritual I cherished.

Each one of these shaped our days, weeks and months, adding form and familiarity to the inevitable craziness and changes of growing up.

I like how, as an adult, we can create our own rituals and routines, for ourselves and our children. It’s comforting to have things we know we can look forward to, like the Saturday morning pancakes my husband makes.

Jose bought this book -- I look forward to reading it!
Jose bought this book — I look forward to reading it!

A few of ours:

We drink our morning coffee from a thermos, a habit of my parents when I was growing up, which seemed eminently sensible for people who like consuming a lot of caffeine over many hours.

The reassuring red of a British bus, post-box and phone booth
The reassuring red of a British bus, post-box and phone booth

I still plan ahead using a red leather Filofax, a beautiful and sensual way to store the information I need to stay organized.

I love cutting recipes out of magazines and newspapers, sticking them with a glue stick onto a piece of paper I three-hole-punch and put into a binder. Of course, I could do it all on-line and clear my home of all those cookbooks and stained bits of yellowing paper.

But I won’t.

After every game played with my co-ed pick-up softball team, now into our 15th season, we always head to the same local pub. We know the menu off by heart and have eaten everything on it a bazillion times. But it’s where we go.

We eat dinner at home by candlelight, and an overhead light dimmed low. I love the gentle mood that candles create.

Every afternoon at home, I get in touch with my British/Canadian/Irish roots and put on the kettle to make a fresh pot of hot tea. No sad little bag in a cup! I have a selection of herbal, Constant Comment, Earl Grey and fruit-flavored teas. Such a soothing, comforting way to take a break, relax and re-hydrate.

I tend to avoid mentioning religion here, but I also love the rituals of the Episcopal church services I occasionally attend: the liturgy, Nicene creed, the collect, my favorite hymns. In an ever-shifting world, there’s something grounding and, yes, deeply comforting to know what we will say and do collectively.

Every weekend, we dive into three newspapers (yes, in print), the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. Our favorite, by far, is the FT and its magazine supplement entitled (yup) How to Spend It, filled with ads for custom-made yachts and editorial images of $100,000 jewels, an amusing peek into 1%-world. The paper, though, is filled with terrific writing on books, travel, food, gardening.

I’m reluctant to fully unpack and put away our suitcases after a great trip — until we’ve planned our next one.

For Jose, it’s an hour of quiet time every morning, listening to music, reading or just thinking, before I wake up. Plus his cup of hazelnut coffee.

Every year, the Rockettes perform their Christmas show here, a beloved tradition for many New Yorkers
Every year, the Rockettes perform their Christmas show here, a beloved tradition for many New Yorkers

What are some of your favorite rituals and routines?

36 thoughts on “Routines and rituals

  1. I have a few rituals: every morning I have to have a cup of tea. I also like to check as many things as possible each morning, including email and Facebook and blog stats, before I start my day. Before I fall asleep I say a prayer for good things to happen tomorrow. For a while I did daily meditation, but I fell out of it due to time constraints in Germany. I’m now trying to get back into it with varying success.
    But my favorite ritual happens after I accomplish something big or important, usually finishing the first draft of a story or getting something published. After I’ve let the sense of accomplishment settle in, I play a song i only play during this ritual (“Voodoo Child” by the Rogue Traders), do a little dance to it if I’m in a place where dancing is appropriate. I usually blog about it at some point, depending on the accomplishment. And in the evening, I have a drink, usually a beer or a glass of wine, or if I’m in a really good mood and I have the ingredients, I have my favorite cocktail, Electrified Lemonade (vodka, sour mix, and blue curacao. It is deadly good). It’s a fun ritual, all considered. My previous roommates also enjoyed it…mostly because I asked them to join me for a drink though.

  2. themodernidiot

    After my accudent, working out and walking the dog; but with the two hours commute and the routine work day, I’m having trouble establishing a set schedule

      1. themodernidiot

        I can usually get 30 about three/week, but need an hour daily just for lumbar. Try to sneak-ercise during day like push-ups and core in desk chair, cervical on vommute, and planks at lunch. Frustrating. Don’t know how y’all do it!

      2. Only because I work at home (no lost commute time) and I prioritize exercise and my dance classes. I could make more money if all I did was work but I make enough for what we need and have a life that generally makes me happy. No more $$$$ would make me happy enough to screw up the rest of my life at this point.

      3. themodernidiot

        Ah I forgot! Commuter cheater 🙂 If luck is on my side, Ill score a work at home gig. I say luck because I need that icing on my hard ass work to get it!

      1. Hi. Am glad to be back. I have been flat out with writing projects and major family matters this year and have had to sharply ration social media time. Hope to have some more time for my online blogging friends now and into 2016.

  3. i love rituals too, and sometimes create them without even realizing. that’s how you know they are natural and comforting, you do them over and over because they bring you a calm, a peace, a knowing…

    in my cottage i wake up with my boyfriend on sunday mornings, one of us runs out and grabs the paper, we make the coffee, love the steps to get it ready, the process, the scents, the sounds. we look at the front page headline, discuss what we think it will mean, i take the crossword, fold the page in quarters, get out a pen with a feel that i like, he takes a section to read. we discuss as we go, i throw answers off of him, he brings up stories he’s reading, we listen to a pandora station we’ve created, all filled with piano and all kinds of quiet and beautiful music, or sometimes twangy americana, and wend our way into the day. it is one of my favorite things –

  4. I really love this post. I find my rituals shift a little depending on where I live. When I was in Southeast Asia, most mornings I headed to the nearest local outdoor market to journal and read the English papers while having hot coffee, usually kept company by the elderly. That was my favorite.

  5. I love the smell of incense, but only in a church. Growing up Roman Catholic, attending Catholic school, the smell reminds me of the comforting ritual of Mass. I love a Sunday AM NY Times with coffee. A cup of tea before dinner or in the bath. You’re so very right–it’s a rhythm developed over the years that is almost Pavlovian.

  6. I, too, love rituals and routines. Rising early (very early), morning coffee and morning pages. I was just interviewed for a website called “My Morning Routine,” and will share the link if you’re interested. Someone once asked the Dalai Lama what, in one word, did he consider the secret of happiness, and of living a fulfilling life? He replied, ‘Routines.’

  7. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Wednesday links | A Bit More Detail

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