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August 10, 2022

Routines vs Rituals—& why we Need Both to Live a Peaceful Life.

 

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I have two full-time jobs.

When I say that, most people think what I’m really saying is that I have two part-time jobs that add up to one full-time job and that I just don’t know the difference. That explains the mild smile, the odd chuckle, and the frequent eye rolls.

But no. I really have two full-time jobs. And yes. I work seven days a week.

Sure, both jobs are work from home and both jobs allow me to be flexible with when I work, but they’re still full-time. I also write a lot. I write for Elephant, and I write other forms as well—fiction, non-fiction, humor, satire—and I’m starting to get fairly successful at getting them published. So any free time I have I spend writing.

If you’re thinking it’s a lot, well it is.

It. Is. A. Lot.

But I love every second of what I do. And I’m finally at that point in life where pursuing my passion has turned into multiple jobs that pay me. What could be better than that?

The only issue for me is time. I have to plan my days meticulously. Even for someone who has always been anal about schedules, my life is even more scheduled now than ever. And that’s why routines are important—I wouldn’t survive otherwise.

I have to get up at a specific time. I have to cook on specific days and pack lunches for the rest of the week. I have to do laundry on specific days. I have to clean the house and hand wash dishes at specific times. I have to grocery shop on specific days. And then I have to organize my days into working two full-time jobs and writing.

In a wonderful article called “Ritual vs. Routine,” writer Terry Nguyen says, “The word ‘routine’ carries a connotation distinct from that of ritual. It implies a rigid sense of structure, with time management and productivity prioritized. A person might rely on a routine for the sake of accomplishment—an ideal tied to capitalist ideals of labor and production—rather than personal enjoyment or spiritual fulfillment.” Nguyen quotes a London-based artist Kate Southworth who says, “But rituals on the other hand often have an intention. I think the framing of that intention to be as important as its enactment. It’s a form of resistance to let go of the rational mind of habit and routine.”

Most people, I find, have a dismissive attitude toward routines. Because, let’s face it: doing the same thing over and over again can be boring. I live such a regimented life that most people I know are fairly flabbergasted by it. But for me, my routine is comforting. Given the extremely long hours I work, it doesn’t matter that I love doing what I do, it would still be extremely stressful if I didn’t have my routines.

So no, I won’t complain about routines. They saved me. Especially after my big loss in 2020, having these routines helped me face my new life—my new normal.

But after reading Nguyen’s article, I started to think about my rituals. Amid the repetition of my routine life, did I have any rituals of my own? Did I do anything that affected me profoundly?

The article describes rituals as “an activity that eases a person into a focused mindset, a liminal state that is conducive for thinking, creating, or just being. Rituals can be an artistic process, a meditation, a communal celebration, or a simple act of observation.”

What were the ritual in my life, if I had any at all?

I’m grateful to report that I do have my own rituals—three of them. And given the life I lead, I need all of them so I can think, create, and just be.

Making Indian chai

One of my biggest pet peeves is how companies like Starbucks have co-opted the word chai (meaning hot milk tea in Hindi) into all of their nonsensical fru-fru latte drinks and call it matcha chai or Chai Crème Frappuccino or Tiktok Iced Chai Latte or Dirty Chai Latte or some other such rubbish. I’m not a big coffee drinker but I love my chai. I drink this hot beverage at least seven times a day (and I understand when Sheldon Cooper offers a hot beverage to anyone who appears upset).

Yes, a good, hot cup of chai can change anyone’s mood from sucky to beaming with happiness.

I love chai at all times but my first cup as soon as I wake up in the morning is the best. Getting fresh milk and adding water and boiling it in a pan over a gas stove, mixing in Assam or Darjeeling tea, waiting for the color to change from white to cream to light brown to a healthy chocolate brown color, then pouring it into a cup over a sieve and then adding one spoon of sugar, mix and sip.

Heaven.

That first sip carries me through the entire day. It’s spiritual, it’s calming, and it’s a meditative ritual that sets me up for a brand-new day—every day—in the best way possible.

Going for a walk outside

I can be tired, exhausted, and have no time but I always, always go for a walk for at least an hour every single day.

Most days, I walk outside. I live in a city and am surrounded by traffic, dust, street dogs, cars, smoke, and noise but walking through all that and inveigling and maneuvering my way through gives me so much peace. I don’t listen to any podcasts or music when I’m on my walk. I look. I watch. I listen. I pay attention.

Walking is a way of communal celebration for me. I’m outside with people and the whole wide world, as polluted and dirty as it may be. But that one hour rejuvenates me and calms me unlike any other. It’s a sacred ritual to me.

Talking out loud to myself

Don’t worry, y’all! I ain’t losing my mind or anything. (Not yet, anyway.)

But I do talk out loud to myself in the privacy of my home. I have full-on conversations with friends and family. I give imaginary interviews. Over time, I’ve been able perfect a thought or an idea by discussing it out loud. I analyze, I provoke, I get angry, I argue—all with myself.

I talk when I’m happy. I talk when I’m sad. I talk to myself when someone upsets me. And guess what? It really calms me down. Don’t believe me? Try it. This is a ritual that really works for me and helps me navigate the stress and issues in my life unlike any other. I can bet it’ll work for at least some of you.

These are the routines and rituals that help me lead a fairly stress-free, calm life.

What about you? Do you have any you’d like to share? Do any of my routines and rituals remind you of yourself? Or someone else? Let’s get a conversation going here!

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