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.