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Relational Reflections: Yes, another blog, and this one’s from Dr. Nadine and Dr. Zan at True Heights

Rituals Can Connect and Anchor as Time Passes

Dr. Zan’s Thoughts:

The arrival of March provides me with concrete reminders of the swiftness of time’s passage. First of all, I am always surprised when March arrives. It seems that the brevity of February catches me off guard every year. Frequently I have joked that all of us who live in a 4 season climate require February to be a shorter month because our weariness with winter’s inconveniences reaches critical mass. Therefore, March provides us with necessary hope that we will not have to slip on the ice or dig out our vehicles too many more times before those coveted signs of spring arrive.  

Aside from these realities, March also marks a time of celebration in our family as 2 of our 3 children arrived in this world in March. One happened to arrive 10 weeks early during a snowstorm which, according to obstetric nurses, drops barometric pressure and prompts labor. The other came in a more timely fashion on a day that felt much more like spring. How is it that the birthdays of beloved young people and especially of our own children seem to recur with an ever increasing velocity, reminding us that time is both precious and fleeting?

One of the ways that I try to intersect this quick passage of time is to establish practices that anchor us in history and honor the present moment. My favorite birthday ritual with my kids is that I tell each child the story of his/her birth on their special day. There are essential elements that must be described annually, and some years the tale is enhanced by contributions from the larger group gathered for the telling. At this point, my offspring know their own stories so well that they too participate in the telling, sometimes even daring to question my command of the details. Bold indeed! And I welcome the boldness because it implies that they too are invested in this ritual that serves to highlight and enhance our connection.

Part of being human is knowing that “time keeps on slippin’ into the future,” or should it be into the past, Steve Miller Band? No matter which direction it moves, time slips away. Moments come and go. I will continue to urge myself and others to stay alert and open to experience without grasping or forcing it. We need to find ways to manage our time, to use it wisely, to honor its passage, and to befriend it. Perhaps, eventually, we can come to agree with the Rolling Stones: “Time is on my side. Yes it  is!”

Dr. Nadine’s Reflections:

I’m just reading Dr. Zan’s thoughts about time passing so quickly.  I’m sitting in a restaurant – my preferred place to work, over a brew and a burger – and I’m listening to the opening lines of Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is”: “Standin’ in line, marking time…”

Isn’t that so true!  I find myself going through my daily routines, grinding out the usual, regular, predictable activities, and the next thing I know, the day is ending.  I wonder, where has the time gone?

Enter: my rituals.  I’m using the word “ritual” in a slightly expanded way. I’m addressing the concept as something that’s habitual, in addition to celebratory, though these are both aspects of what a “ritual” is.  I love my rituals. They are comforting parts of my day.  They’re predictable and enjoyable, and they transform regular times into distinctive moments.  Rituals can be anchoring and focusing, helping to use the time that we’re gifted with each day in a productive and (hopefully) pleasant way.  Rituals help us shift into an automatic mode, sort of like shifting into gear 5 in your car. Automation isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it frees up our attention so that we can focus on the many new things that we encounter on a regular basis.  If we actually had to think actively about EVERYTHING that we do, we’d never have enough energy to meet the novel challenges that show up in our lives every day.

But it’s important not to let rituals lull you into a foggy stupor, in which you submerge yourself in a murky state of inattention and unawareness.  They can promote and preserve your energy, or they can vault you into vacancy and inundate you with inertia. As Dr. Zan encourages, it’s important to stay alert, experience, and pay attention to the time that you’re given each day.  Don’t let the automation of the familiar activities in your day dull your sense of novelty, or steal your excitement, or cause you to disdain the unexpected.

So use your daily rituals to connect with the present moments; use them to connect to yourself; use them to remind yourself of the gift of time.  Use your rituals, a.k.a. traditions, to anchor yourself and your Dear Ones in your shared histories. And let your rituals remind you that even as time marches on, you can appreciate each and every moment.

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