I love this time of year. The weird time between Christmas and the New Year when it’s easy to forget the day of the week. Often these in-between weeks are filled with work — the washing of endless dishes as children are home from school, the putting away of Christmas decorations, the clearing out and organizing of closets to make room for new toys and clothes. But they also offer a unique time to reflect on the past year as well as look forward to the new year.
For the first time in many years, I do not have a list of resolutions to review from the previous year. At the beginning of 2020, I chose not to make any New Year’s resolutions. I was turning 40 at the beginning of February and decided to replace hard and fast New Year’s goals with loose guiding principles for my next decade of life. Now at the end of 2020, a year marked by an unpredictable global crisis, I’m glad I did not make a set of resolutions that would be rendered unattainable in our strange new world. Yet, as I reflect on 2020 I’m aware that in the large swaths of time the year afforded, I created new rituals and routines I hope to carry into 2021.
Rituals vs. Goals
In the last few years I’ve found myself weary of goal setting. My personality type does not lend itself to hard and fast rules, and defining success by achievement feels one-dimensional and harsh to me. The words “habit” and “goal” carry with them certain connotations of self-discipline, “pull yourself up by your boot-straps,” binary success vs. failure. Yet, the words “ritual” and “routine” carry with them feelings of sacredness, thoughtfulness, purposefulness, slowing down, attention to detail.
Routines and Rituals can be built into your everyday and can even become a form of self-care. Once established, rituals are the soft weighted blankets we pull over ourselves to ground us in the here and now, not the regrets of yesterday, or the fears of tomorrow.
Rituals I Hope to Carry Into 2021
One of my good friends once shared with our book club that 2-3 times a week she wakes early to take a long bath before she has to leave for work. As a chronic late-riser, I was in awe of her ritual — the luxury of waking up while the house is quiet breathing its slumber to do nothing other than rest in the ritual of drawing a bath, filling the warm water with scented oils, and climbing in to relax my body and center my mind before a busy day.
I have another friend who makes her children a full breakfast each morning before school. I gravitate towards the hastily poured cereal routine. My friend cuts her bacon in two-inch strips, fries them in a pan, and serves it alongside biscuits or pancakes. I’m sure this routine subconsciously centers her children as they ready for school.
Here are a few rituals I developed in 2020 that I hope to carry into 2021:
Morning Bible Study and Prayer
Establishing this routine meant waking up earlier than my children. Always in the same spot in my home where I can look out a window, I drink my coffee slowly. I write down at least one thing that stood out to me in my morning reading. I try to recall what I wrote throughout the day. I have prayer request cards for each of my children and husband that I pray aloud. At times this routine feels rote and repetitive. Other times it feels sacred.
Making a pot of loose-leaf tea at the end of the day
After the littlest children are tucked in and I’ve taken my shower, I head to the kitchen to make a pot of loose-leaf tea. I open the bag and close my eyes as I smell the scent of chamomile and mint. I scoop the tea into the clear pot and bend close to watch as the leaves expand and float once I pour in the boiling water. Spicy ginger, calming chamomile, tart dried cherries, throat coating fennel — they all mix together and I breathe in their scent slowly, knowing the day is over and rest is ahead.
Just before getting in bed, I often do a few yoga stretches to calm my mind and steady my breath. Down Dog, Child’s Pose, Upward Facing Dog — all are restorative at the end of the day.
Getting in bed early to read
I am someone who struggles with putting away my phone at night. Once or twice a week I try to crawl in bed an hour early. I bring my pot of tea with me and place my phone out of reach and instead grab a book to read. Developing this routine in 2020 expanded my world view from the pages of many books. If you’re not sure what to read, here is a great article with suggestions . . . This became such an established ritual in 2020 that my older two children occasionally joined me — the three of us piling into bed together to read our individual books. The only rule — no talking, no phones, just reading. Their daddy would often have to wake them as they quickly fell asleep in the quiet of our room. I relished in just being together silently. Their big feet next to mine. The scent of their freshly washed hair filling the space between us.
Let me ask – what routines and rituals did you establish in 2020 that you hope to carry into 2021? Were you able to slow down and take in the world around you in a different way this last year? How can we slow down in our routines and rituals as things pick back up in 2021?