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I began writing this blog a week ago. I started in the morning before I left for work, and I was promptly swept away into a sea of long, long hour and mind-numb nights. Truthfully, the fact that my week was so difficult makes what I had intended to write about that much more relevant, and even critical for me to consider each day.

If routines compose the structure we build our lives upon, then rituals are the rich upholstery softening all the hard edges. It is my routine to wake up at a certain time, to do laundry on a certain day, to follow a certain order when getting ready in the morning. I get on the same bus, head to the same office to do the same work; this is my routine. The rituals are just for me. I choose a warm beverage reflective of how I feel that day (coffee when I’m feeling businessy, tea when I’m calm, an eggnog latte when I’m festive and/or in need of self soothing). I choose my music. I arrange my pens just so. These small things are ritual.

After I work out, I take a shower. Routine. If my workout is at night, I might shower by only the light of my favorite candle, standing there until the hot water washes away the literal dirt and figurative weight from my day, the dim light leading me toward sleep. I also routinely wash my dishes (you’ll be glad to read (In fairness, husband is in charge of dishes.)). It is a little ritual of mine to, on the first meal after a dishwasher unload, use the spoon left accidentally with my silverware by a favorite roommate many years ago, because in the midst of something as mundane as eating cereal, it gives me the pleasure of nostalgia.

Life is so often a series of motions that we make without thinking; we are conditioned to do the one and onto the next ad infinitum. When we allow ourselves to step outside the rote actions we take, life becomes just a little more. In most cases, for myself, ritual is nothing grand. I’m not suggesting we attempt to pull off a Catholic-style blessing before bed. It’s just a moment of awareness, of honoring the fact that even if a day is nothing special, we certainly are. Treating moments with a little ceremony, a little more thoughtfulness and perhaps a hint of decadence doesn’t take away from the efficiency of a busy workday but rather enhances it. Life is not just lived in the times away from our routines, but in the glimpses within them when we allow ourselves a small ritual.