The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance for the soul than their simplicity might suggest. — Thomas Moore
Our world is covered in white. It happened one night when we went to sleep to soft snow falling outside our window–and woke in the morning to a thick blanket of white. On the trees. Our back patio. Neighboring rooftops. The mountains.
The soft and continued snowfall feels like we are living in a snow globe. There is something magical about it all. At this time of year, we are almost pushed indoors. The sky grows dark long before we sit down for dinner. The temperatures outside plummet and demand a new way of dressing and moving if warmth is to be obtained. Life within the walls of our homes is put at the center– in a way that may not be a reality during the busier summer months.
Transitioning can be destabilizing. Uncertain. And life can be too. This time of year, the details start piling up. Social engagements increase. Stress mounts. Some may feel disconnected with themselves or reminded of past losses connected to the holidays where images abound of smiling, happy families gathering around the dinner table or Christmas tree to share in a moment that happens once a year. No pressure, right?
Even the most grounded individual can end up feeling disappointed by the unrealistic expectations that prevail in our minds and in our culture. We may return to families that no longer feel safe to us or like a place where we can be ourselves without constant editing. We may choose NOT to return and then, experience a feeling of separateness that is foreign and may seem a great deal like rejection.
If there is one mantra I could gift you for this holiday season–it would be to offer yourselves the love and understanding you crave. Don’t leave it to others. Give it– in whatever form you most need–and take a moment or two to check into what that may be. And offer it to those you love most. No strings attached. Never doubt your power to create a new reality for yourself.
Amidst our most uncertain times, we Dehlins adopted some daily rituals that feed and heal us. One perk to keeping a gratitude journal is that I am able to see what moments I really value at the end of day. More and more, I have noticed that grounding rituals make the list. These are not our personal rituals like meditation or exercise. Think of these rituals as a home culture that you create for yourself and those you love. As you read through, feel free to consider what rituals you currently have and those you might wish to incorporate into your days in order to connect or live more deeply.
Note: These aren’t meant to add stress. Please don’t add anything that feels like MORE on your list or PRESSURE to provide something you do not have to give. Take what you like. Create your own. Stay as you are. Lean into yourself and trust what arises naturally. Life is abundant.
- A morning sendoff for the children. Every morning, we wake up and make a simple breakfast for the children. It is our way of connecting and providing them with emotional and physical nourishment. We usually serve hot foods this time of year. Oatmeal. Eggs. Waffles. Whatever. John picks the music. He is in charge of the fruit, water and vitamins, water bottles, and dishes. I typically make the breakfast and pack up lunches. I like to turn on the fire and plug in some of our twinkly lights in the house. Occasionally, I light a candle. It often smells of coffee as a morning cup is the perfect partner to such an endeavor. Our children leave with hugs and good wishes for their days.
- Comforting/soothing moments throughout the day. Self-care comes in many simple forms. I find that with little effort, I can allow myself to feel cared for while going about my daily work. Maybe it is about infusing BEing into my DOing. I can light a candle or listen to an engaging podcast while doing laundry. I can enjoy music while cleaning the bathrooms. I love the smell of things baking or cooking on the stove during the day, so I make a point to keep some ingredients on hand like cut-up oranges, lemons, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla extract. I put them together in a small saucepan with some water and simmer on low during the days I know I have a bit more time at home. I cook soups or stews. While I do the dishes, I look at the bird feeder outside our kitchen window or feel the soft warm water on my hands or smell a lovely scented dish soap. For an occasional treat while I am out running errands or grocery shopping, I will indulge in a hot beverage from a local coffee shop. Or take my own tea in an insulated cup. I heat up a hot pad and place it on my lap as I do our finances or write a blog post. The key is to infuse what you are already doing with moments of self-care. Try it! I feel like it makes a real difference in how I experience my life.
- A gratitude pause before dinner. When things became really stressful for our family several years ago, I began paying extra attention to our family rituals. I wanted to offer the children (and myself and John!) something stable and grounding amidst all of the turmoil. Prayer was something we had always done before family dinner. Increasingly, our children no longer desired to pray in the traditional sense. Thus, our family dinner prayer morphed into sharing a moment of gratitude. The form doesn’t really matter. Prayer. Gratitude thoughts. A moment of silence. These days, we simply join hands (or not) and each say a few things we are grateful for that day.
- Family dinner. We make an effort to have a meal together each day. Some weeks are easier than others. For some families, breakfast may be the meal that works best. Again, form doesn’t matter as much. This is not another standard to try to “achieve.” Work with what you have. I simply make the effort to prepare something good to eat that is ready at 6 most nights. I try to make it but if I can’t for whatever reason, rotisserie chicken with a packaged caesar salad takes moments to serve up! Be creative. I light candles. Play some music. Set out cloth napkins. I want to make it enticing! This time around our table is not just about providing healthy and delicious food for those I love–it is about gathering and sharing. Making time for one another amidst our busy lives.
- Regular time to share/play/learn as a family. This typically happens at 7-8pm in the evening. Many times our older teens aren’t present for this or it may not happen if it is a heavier homework night. On a fairly regular basis though, we will play a quick game of Rook or watch thirty minutes of a documentary (just finished Eyes on the Prize!) or read a book to a child. Reading a more challenging book to a child has been something we have done since the children were little. We read Little House on the Prairie this way. Little Women. The Goose Girl. To Kill A Mockingbird. I recently read Wonder to Winston. John is currently reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X to our daughter, Clara. Christmas books are a wonderful option this time of year. Reading out loud slows everyone down and provides relaxation before bedtime.
- A bedtime pause with nurturing moment. I so remember when the children were small–what a feat bedtime could be! To make it through! It helped me to have a sequence of events that we worked through each night that signaled bedtime for the little ones. Baths. Pajamas. Reading time. Nurture moment. Lights out. As it turns out, we still enjoy a simple bedtime routine with our tweens and younger teens. They do get ready on their own (praise be!)–but we meet with them about fifteen minutes before bedtime. The lights are out. We cuddle them. We allow them to muse. I am always amazed at what is shared during these small moments. Emotions that don’t appear in the light of day are whispered as their brains and bodies slow down a bit. I may rub their feet with lavender oil. Or massage their backs. Heat up their blankets for extra warmth. Tickle their backs. Or just lie down with them as the secrets of their hearts pour forth. John tells “pickle stories” during his time with them–silly stories involving a main character that is…yes! A pickle. They are ridiculous and light-hearted and the kids just love them. Our older teens are much busier in the evening. For them, we try to make the effort to hug them and wish them a good night (John likes to kiss Maya on the head). Closing the day with a form of nurturing is a way of communicating love to those we cherish most before the separation of night that enters in the form of sleep.
While many of these suggestions involve children, the concepts work wonderfully well for those who are single and couples too. Adapt them as necessary. Take what you like. Leave what you don’t. It is an empowering feeling to create your own world within your home. It can provide you a place of refuge amidst stormier times or just a place to feel wonderfully rooted in your own life.
Now tell me, won’t you? What daily grounding rituals help you feel safe and connected to yourself and those you love? Please share in the comments section below.
Love this. Things we do without realising . I guess being recently widowed and having adult children one at home it’s so different.
My morning ritual usually sees me catching upon the day’s news while still warm in my bed. Contemplating the day and what I can avoid doing!
Feeding the cats gives me pleasure they know it’s time they wait patiently, while they eat I eat Breakfast in bed!! no rush no stress.
Driving I Like to listen to a classical radio station, that’s my nurturing moment . my job as a social work family supporter is stressful and emotional at times , never knowing what crisis I’m going to meet when I arrive at the office !
During the day food and coffee is a focus ! Driving to appointments again with my radio on gets me in the mood for reflection,
Driving home I listen to a drive time show I like the music and the chatter. Helps me to unwind and reflect. Have I made a difference today? Are my families safe? By the time I reach home I’ve usually switched off.
My cats greet me wanting food then cuddles and I take time to nurture them and myself again with food Social media and hopefully contact with my family scattered around! And best of all my bed I love my bed and I love my sleep …precious sleep.
During the day I have thoughts of loneliness and feeling overwhelmed but I survive each day stronger ..and free from guilt and trappings of religious dogma and unrealistic expects to be perfect
Best wishes. The thoughts of loneliness and feelings of overwhelm will subside. I promise you. One day, you will conquer all of life’s broad ridges. Loss is tough, but there is healing on the other side. I like how you make time for reflection, sleep and food. I wish that I had something simple to add about my daily life; but I am recovering from a Christmas 2015 organized kidnapping, drugging and rape that happened to me. I am a young mother in Orem, Utah, and I still just be ‘me’… Well, all I have is the heart to sign in here. Evil and wickedness still give me pause, as I, too, overcome my obstacles through personal strength and conviction. I hope that all of this community has a great year, 2016! I will check in again at some future date as I am busy with grad school. ((three cheers to truth and reason which I reckon will overcome all !!!))
Wow your home seems amazing and filled with love! What a great example to follow, thank you
What a lovely scene you painted! Very warm and loving. I recently finished reading simplicity parenting and this reminds me of a principle the book heavily focuses on yeah I love! We are a family dinner family too, and I’d love to add a more calming breakfast ritual ink the mix like yours. Thanks!
Thank you Margi for the profound wisdom expressed so well in your blog post. I believe you have identified some critical survival skills for individuals and families experiencing life-changing transitions. Learning about and Implementing the concept of grounding was key to maintaining my sanity in the face of panic attacks, etc., associated with re-claiming responsibility for my life after living as a TBM for 50 years. I learned about grounding myself through various types of body work, including yoga, Tai Chi, Feldenkrais, meditation, and poetry (especially Wm. Stafford, D.H. Lawrence, and Robt. Bly). I admire how you and John are teaching transitioning Mormons how to thrive during the process of finding their way. Oh how I wish I would have had this blog post 29 years ago when I began my emancipation!
such a lovely read 🙂 well done mama!
Thank you for that beautiful blog post.
My husband and I are blessed to have our two grown children and their families living with us. Our family dynamic has evolved…. “transitioned”…. over the past couple years. Our family rituals include hugs every morning from the grandkids before I leave for work. We eat dinner all together at least 5 nights a week and the preparation is rotated between each family in the house. Once a week the husbands and wives have their own date night. We play family games once a week on Friday night.
We’ve grown closer as a family now that we don’t have the callings we had in the past that pulled us away from our family.
Sunday’s are a family day spent creating memories….either all together or in smaller family units.
Love this. Grounding rituals include doing my yoga, writing, making art… Being in nature (when it’s nice out) grounds me. Drawing close to friends and family who do love and accept me in middle of my transition helps ground me. Thank you for this. I needed this.
Thank you so much for the mantra. It’s what I most needed to hear right now.
Chelsea–Thanks for the comment. It sounds like I should check out Simplicity Parenting!
Carl–What an amazing spread of resources you have found. Thank you for sharing them. I will have to check out your poetry recommends. Thank you for participating in the blog as we slowly grow and develop it a bit!
Butlin81–I wish I could just respond directly beneath your post. Maybe I will figure this out! I did want to respond as I related so much to your grounding rituals. Glad you commented! Thanks!
Thank you for sharing everyone! I sure appreciate your openness and offerings to the transition community!! Love to you!
Love this! I couldn’t agree more about the importance of grounding rituals. We also switched from a rote prayer at dinner time to a moment of gratitude where everyone shares something they are grateful for. My kids have told me how much they have grown to love this little ritual.
Now that it is just me and the hubby, finding meaningful rituals other than letting the dogs out has become difficult. I like the idea of sharing something we are thankful for at dinner. Good ideas Margi. Thanks for writing and sharing 🙂
Tell us about your dogs. (I recently read a fascinating book called, “Dogs that know when their owners are coming home” by Sheldrake. It documents incredible abilities in animals for emotional connections similar in scope to psi travel.) Anyways, I miss my red healer, Sophie who would grieve when a chicken was butchered. Such a wonderful, sentimental pet who drove me nutty during her puppy years. Now, she is in heaven, but pictures (selfies) of us from our jogs still give me that feeling of world domination. 🙂
Another excellent post, Margi. Thanks!
I have found the spiritual practice or discipline of Sabbath observance to be rejuvenating in a way that treating every day of the week in the same way could never be. I reserve the day for worship, reflection, walks, naps, religious or spiritual reading, conversation, classical music. I leave behind my work, my workouts, the Internet, the TV, the news. I enter sacred space each Sunday and enjoy it for 24 hours before beginning again the work-a-day world.
Rediscovering or recreating a more meaningful Sabbath is such a wonderful piece to this puzzle. I hope to write a blog post about it soon. It was lovely to hear what activities/rituals mean a great deal to you. Thank you!
Loved this post, thank you for sharing! The morning routine sounds so lovely. We have always used reading and then snuggles as a way to wind down with the kids before bed and we do eat dinner together most nights. Hot cocoa before bed in the winter is frequent. Board games that have sat in the closet all year come out much more in the winter. Bundling up for a walk, or even playing Just Dance on the Wii are ways we connect through exercise. Laying down by my child who has a hard time waking up in the morning, rubbing her back and staying a few minutes to help ease her awake seems to make a big difference in how her day starts. Another thing that seems small–we got an espresso machine last year and it has brought the joy of low cost lattes, cappuccinos, etc into our lives. 🙂 It is truly a morning treat, something I enjoy on my drive to work most days!
Such beautiful moments! Thank you for taking the time to share them. I love how you recognize that morning is hard for your child and how you have a ritual that kind of honors that. An espresso machine sounds like an amazing idea!
This piece is a beautiful one!! You and John are doing wonderful work in helping Mormons at various levels of transition from the faith. The costs you have paid are significant, but I hope that you have comfort in knowing how many people you have supported. Although I have never been LDS, I am married to a BIC native of Logan , UT who is a graduate of USU . I have long watched as his transition has unfolded and it has been a painful experience to witness even at a distance. His family has long shunned and diminished him – and they don’t even know it; Yet, he has grown in his compassion, empathy and spirituality and it has been an important and beneficial life journey. Keep up the great work knowing the value of the support you and John provide to the many LDS who are living in transition.
I am so sorry for your husband’s selfish extended family. To even think of putting over a dozen years into a child/person… and then treating him that way is nauseating. It is deliberate. It is character disordered. It is under the guise of religion, but it is cruelty. He is lucky to have you! My family does similar. Mormons have a distorted sense of reality. My family gave me gag gifts for Christmas and auspiciously kept me out of the annual family photo shoot… ((bites hand))
I love you! You are one amazing lady Margi! Thank you for being in my life! I like the way your words change normal ho-hum daily tasks into lovely treasured cozy home moments. This is a post to read then re-read over and over again!
No, Time di&71#82dn;t talk about that because they didn’t believe that load of lies that ignorant douchebags fall for. Plus, they recognized that the importance of the bigger issues far outweighed that bullshit.