The Ceremonial Moment

Tonight at 10:00 Milt and I plan to turn off the television and go to bed.  I know that doesn’t sound like big news, but it will be, for us, a return to something we used to do but have neglected—a bedtime ritual.

We’ve been reading a wonderful book by William Doherty entitled The Intentional Family—Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family ties.  It is strange how we can let earlier lessons go by the wayside.  I actually included a chapter on using rituals to strengthen couples and families in my book, The Lonely Place, but  . . .

In his book, Doherty talks about becoming intentional as a couple or family.  The intentional part is to not just let the events of every day come at you like a windstorm, but to pause and enact small rituals to offer time and space for connection and even communion with one another.

So, tonight when we turn of the TV, we “intend” to light a candle and turn on some pretty music and hang out in bed together.  We want to talk in dim light.  We want to snuggle and touch each other.  At our age, we may be reaching more for the aching muscles and sore joints than the hot spots we once focused on, but the goal is not sex but the physical need to be in direct contact with someone you love.

I can’t wait for 10:00.

It sounds strange that somebody like me who has made a life study of what human beings need in order to thrive should be excited about a 10:00 date with the man I have been with for over 20 years.

But it isn’t so strange.  Milt and I work together, cook together, and do all the many things that two lives require, and we do it all (in the moment) in a little one bedroom apartment in St. Paul, MN.  It is pretty easy to forget to be intentional about that precious space between us that we simply call love.  The boundaries blur quickly between work, personal time, and we time.  Neither of us actually leave “work” space to return to “life space.”  This, coupled with two wild creative minds dancing through each day, can lead to a loss of care for the self and couple.

Here is a typical scenario.  Morning coffee (the first greeting of the new day together) at some point—too soon, really—switches to the big notebook of to do lists.  And the evening winding down supper hour is too often punctuated with, “Oh, did you take care of _____today?” That combined with TV and open lap tops, and FB.  Not good.

So, our goal is to re-examine our basic routines (very different than rituals) and to become more intentional about these critical times of the day where one hat should go up on a hook and the slippers come out from under the bed.

The important times of the day to become more intentional about are those morning gatherings, the lunch period, the evening transition into down time, and bedtime.  Forming small rituals around these times that honor our inner need for communion and connection is not difficult.  As Doherty says, it takes a bit of intention and commitment.  I am appalled at how careless we have become with our own and each other’s most basic needs—to feel loved, nurtured, fed.  I definitely did not “intend” for that to happen.

It is a bit like climate change in the home.  It can happen without our awareness.  It can happen as a consequence of carelessness of precious resources (the family) and being too focused on making a living or putting out fires.

And like climate change, my plan is to reverse it slowly by becoming more intentional.  I can easily see our routines—but I want to search for those daily transitions and look for where we can form small ceremonial rituals that connect us more to each other, to spirit, and to the great unknown.

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