We have a ritual on workdays. JB comes home from work, we open a bottle of wine, and we sit out on the deck and talk about our respective days. This is harder on him than I; he is an introvert around people all day and I am the extrovert who works alone at home. Of course, there are times when it isn’t a piece of cake for me, either. It isn’t that I’m talked out; it’s usually that I’ve spent way too much time in my head.
But every day, no matter how late JB may come in the door, we become active participants in this part of our day. We even do this on days he works from home. It would be incredibly easy to blow this little ritual off.
There are lots of legitimate reasons (excuses) to do so. We’re too tired. Had a bad day and don’t feel like talking about it. Dinner needs cooking. Laundry needs folding. Flower beds need weeding. Owning a home demands an immense amount of maintenance kind of chores.
In our hustle and bustle world, it’s easy to buy into the belief that there is no time or need for shared companionship, shared silence, or shared communion.
I regularly write about the need for routines in our lives as they allow us to efficiently use our energy. I also write with regularity about the need for ritual in our lives so that we can connect to ourselves and to God.
But just as we need ritual to connect with ourselves, when we choose to share a life with someone – whether it’s a spouse, domestic partner, housemate, child or parent – we need rituals that allow us to have a shared communion.
We need these shared rituals with people we don’t live with as well – it’s why a special dinner serves to anchor reunions with far-flung family and friends, and why we so often find ourselves gravitating toward the kitchen table whenever we visit other people’s homes.
From my perspective, shared ritual is one of the most inexpensive luxuries we can provide to any of our relationships. We are giving one of our most valuable assets – our time and attention – to another soul.
Our end of the day ritual serves to reconnect us after we’ve spent most of the day apart. The simple presence of each other allows us to feel comforted. It allows us to communicate both the important and the seemingly trivial happenings of our time apart.
It removes us from distractions and the outside world and invites us into the safety and sanctity of our shared life.
It also the critical reminder that we are in this life together – and that one of the roles in the humanity we all share is to serve as a witness to each other.
We humans aren’t meant to traverse this world alone; being witnessed is part of the shared human existence. Research has shown that we humans are wired for connection. Personally, I believe that God created us to crave connection because being seen in this human experience is a critical part feeling value in this life.
We form relationships – love, friendships, families – so that we are able to provide this powerful gift to others and they provide it to us.
One of the universal truths I’ve come to understand is that simply feeling comforted by another soul in this shared existence on this earth is powerful.
I’ll confess that I’ve spent much of the last week before writing this blog post deep within the philosophies of living. Maybe it’s my approaching birthday, the volume of solitude I had whilst on sabbatical, or maybe it was the recent passing of a friend that has me diving into the tenets of a well-lived life.
I’ve pondered forgiveness, grace, love, presence, motivation, power, intimacy, and the fears that keep us from pursuing what we most desire, so please forgive me if this sound too soap box-ish.
I don’t understand why we choose to share our lives with people – be they friends, lovers or family – yet day after day we choose our crazy-busy life over being present with them.
Well, let me rephrase that. I do understand why we’re too busy: fear. We fear intimacy, being vulnerable, being seen as weak, being seen as imperfect.
What I am struggling with understanding is why our fears are so much more important than love.
When we choose busy over people we are choosing our fear over love.
We are fast approaching the summer months. The kids are out of school. Book clubs are taking a break. The evenings are longer.
Might I challenge you to step away from your own busy-ness and create a shared ritual in your own life, if not daily, then at least weekly?
How would it feel to provide the powerful comfort of your attention to another human being on a regular basis?
How would it feel to receive that same attention in return?