Teddy and I have a lovely morning routine.
He wakes up every day at six o’clock and I go into his room and start singing a Teddy-themed version of Steve Holy’s “Good Morning Beautiful.” As soon as I start singing, he quiets down, even if he’s been chattering or crying; when he hears the opening words of the song, it’s as if his body relaxes and he knows that I’m about to turn on the light and scoop him up. It’s both a comforting routine (a sequence of actions regularly followed) and a meaningful ritual (a ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed in a prescribed order).
For many years, I avoided the word routine. I thought of routines as mundane, boring.
Now, I crave routines and rituals, and I feel a little unhinged when I don’t have them anchoring me to my center.
I noticed recently that I sometimes feel a little cranky on the weekends. Right now, thanks to part-time maternity leave, every weekend is four days long. And I notice that my crankiness is sometimes caused by my days having a lack of intention or purpose. As much as I’d like to be free-flowing, wake up and just go where the wind blows – I don’t thrive when I wake up and just see what happens. Doing that breeds anxiety and I start trying to numb or cover with non-helpful things. (Chocolate, coffee, soda, TV, etc.)
But I also have a difficult time balancing between underplanning and overplanning. I don’t want to have my day scheduled out in fifteen-minute increments – but I also don’t want to let valuable time slip by without making the most of it. When I don’t plan at all, it feels like my life is happening unintentionally, and isn’t as eventful and enriching as it could be.
It’s tricky to manage that balance.
I think at the minimum, I can attempt a morning ritual – a few moments each morning for meditation and prayer. If those involve reading or writing, that would be lovely, too. That kind of morning ritual has always been centering for me – writing morning pages, reading from one of my favorite meditative texts (Each Day A New Beginning), and perhaps drinking a cup of tea. (My love-hate relationship with coffee continues.)
I also have been considering my evening rituals. (See here, where I talk about trying to adjust my bedtime rituals so that I wear actual pajamas and don’t listen to podcasts while falling asleep.) Improving my sleep hygiene is always a goal. And I have another secret vision, once my sleep has improved and I don’t fall into bed immediately after Teddy goes to sleep. (Seriously, people – sometimes we’re talkin’ seven-thirty at night.) I’d really like to have an after-dinner hour that’s devoted to music, reading, light housework, and talking with Tee about our days. This is a very sweet and quaint ritual in my mind, but in order for it to be feasible, I need to start sleeping better at night. Because some days, I have to go to bed at eight to make up for only getting three hours or sleep the night before.
It never quite feels like there’s enough – enough time with Teddy, enough energy to do everything I need and want to do. The days feel so short. My sense of “never enough” has lessened a little since my Radical Action of cutting down on my TV watching; that’s helped a lot. But I’ve been thinking of other ways to help me dispel the myth of ‘not enough time.’
Lately, I’ve been having to press my reset button a LOT. I’ve been brushing up on my self-compassion – taking self-compassion breaks, a la Kristen Neff. I think that’s one more ritual that can really help me – taking a moment to stretch and and practice quiet self-compassion and just be before acting or doing. (When in doubt, do nothing – How To Be KEM, item number five.)
The power of a ritual is that it’s an automatic signal for what’s about to occur. My morning song tells Teddy it’s time to wake us. Having a meditative morning time triggers a peaceful and calm start to my day. Putting on my after-dinner hour playlist will be a trigger that it’s time to wind down for the night.
And for Teddy, he has songs that are sung throughout his day that help him to know what’s coming – “Me and My Teddy Bear” and the pie song at bedtime, the poop song (a KEM original) when he hasn’t pooped for a day, and a song my Nana used to sing to me (“A Bushel and A Peck”) when it’s time for smiles and baby boy giggles.
It’s so easy to give those things to my baby boy. Now I just have to remember to give the same gifts to myself.