In my reading travels last week I came across a snippet advising that if worries plague you incessantly, write them all down on small pieces of paper, fold the papers up, put them in a sealed jar, shake them up, and then take them out, shred each and every one to bits and throw the lot away. The theory here is that the mind treats thoughts like physical objects, and if you destroy a representation of the thought, the underlying idea is less likely to shanghai your attention.
I do worry, but not enough to invest that much effort in shutting the worries down. I got to thinking, though, about rituals—spring cleaning being one—that we imbue with emotional significance. Spring cleaning isn’t just about vacuuming up dust bunnies, putting the hammock up on Mother’s Day isn’t just about summer being right around the corner.
Because we are largely an immigrant nation and one that values diversity, we’ve lost some of the old, old culturally significant rituals (my Irish ancestors celebrated a LOT more saints’ days than I ever will), and even lost sight of the power of ritual altogether. Courtrooms are full of it, as are churches, but the home used to be a locus of ritual as well. While ritual can reinforce backward, rigid ideas, it can also be a source of creative self-expression, comfort, and identity.
One friend always has something planted by St. Patrick’s Day, even if it’s a single set of onions. Another says a prayer for the safety of animals, children, and other drivers before turning the key in the ignition of her car. I get out of my lawyer clothes (especially those fussy idiot shoes) before I allow myself to sit down at the computer and attempt any creative writing.
Some of these small observances require that time goes by when a transition is underway or a hot topic under consideration, some put a pause in a headlong day, some mean we have to get out of the house and see the sun, or otherwise jostle ourselves from one seasonal routine when another is close at hand.
I’m going to think about this some more. While I am the last person to defend routine for its own sake (boredom is the enemy), I can always use emotional support and a sense of meaning and peace in my life.
I may try that worry obliteration ritual, for example.
What are some of your small habits that help make the day meaningful and manageable? To one commenter I’ll send NOT a copy of Darius (we all have one, right?), but rather, an advanced reader copy of Once Upon a Tartan (title may change), my second Scottish Victorian. I think this is the best book I’ve written so far (and yes, it has a bunny in it)…