making time for rituals
Tomorrow is my birthday. I have it all planned out. I'll dig into Nutella and banana pancakes over breakfast with my family, share lunch and a beach hike with a close friend, then gather my favorite couples to raise a ruckus at a country music singer/songwriter concert at my favorite local winery. I even ordered my own lemon Birthday cake – hold the candles.
Years ago in the land of dirty diapers and sleep deprived days, my husband came up with a brilliant idea. Birthdays should be holidays. No work, no school, no excuses. The birthday person gets to call the shots. Deciding on the activities, the food, the company. We have taken snowboarding and indoor skydiving lessons, gone to art museums, boated in the Monterey Bay estuary and geeked out at a Star Trek exhibit. Not only is the day always special, the act of planning provides time for reflection on what makes us feel happy right now at this moment in our life.
Even in our toughest years the Birthday holidays have provided something to look forward to with anticipation and look back on with joy. Indeed, if I had a book of the best days of my life it would start with these 3 days each year.
Families are complicated organisms. Every day is a series of trade-offs and negotiations. For working moms and dads you totter between a growing list of things “I wish I had time to do with my kids” and the frequent feeling that you aren’t doing anything to feed your own soul. Setting aside Birthdays gives my husband and I the chance to say guilt-free “hey this is what I need right now.” It gives me the chance to show my work colleagues that it is possible to be a parent and a successful executive. It empowers my son, even from his preschool days, to be the one in charge of setting the agenda for at least one day.
We all need rituals to celebrate the uniqueness of our family and to remind us of what matters. It doesn't have to be Birthdays. I am struck by the beauty of my friends who faithfully honor Shabbat and those who work together in a local soup kitchen each Thanksgiving. One family I know makes one night a month upside down day where they have breakfast for dinner and snuggle up watching cartoons.
We are all working harder and faster than ever. Life won’t slow down unless you are intentional about setting aside time for the rituals that replenish you. For me that starts with a big syrupy bite of pancakes!
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