My husband is more religious than I am. What’s interesting about his religious upbringing is that it’s not something cerebral or cognitive; it is a deeply ingrained part of who he is.
Every time he takes a bite or a sip of water, he recites a blessing under his breath. It’s as intuitive to him as eating as opening my mouth is for me. Every night before he goes to sleep, and every morning upon waking, the first words out of his mouth are prayers of gratitude to God. It’s not something he has to remember to do, or thinks of as a task. It’s as natural to him as opening and closing his eyes.
In the ten years we’ve been together, he has never once missed his daily prayers. Not even when he is about to pass out drunk at 4 a.m. Not even when his beloved grandfather died, and he shook on the bed with silent sobs. Not even when our daughter was born and woke us at all hours of the day and night. Every single day, no matter what, he says his prayers.
I’ve always been impressed and a little envious of this side of him. Never have I been so devoted so consistently to one specific ritual. Sure, I’ve practiced rituals of my own. When I'm going through a difficult time, writing down my “gratitudes” on paper at bedtime has always made me feel better. But it’s something I do when I need it, a go-to ritual, like popping a pill.
A couple of years ago, I went through a long period of practicing meditation daily.
It was a beautiful period in my life, when I felt truly grounded, calm, and energized. But upon my daughter’s birth, I stopped. I felt I didn’t have 15 minutes to “waste” when I could be sleeping/showering/washing baby bottles, not to mention the risk of mentally disconnecting from my surroundings with a newborn in the house.
So when I look at my husband, praising God before he even gets out of bed, I wonder sometimes: am I just a fair-weather ritual practitioner? What does that say about me, that I only “use” rituals like gratitude and meditation when they are convenient or needed? And is it even necessarily a bad thing?
But then I think about other types of rituals.
The kind that may not be as noble as praying to God, but still have meaning. There is something I have done consistently nearly my whole life and that is reading.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to read. And every night before going to sleep, I read a few pages. It’s as ingrained a part of my bedtime routine as brushing my teeth. Sure, there have been nights where I haven’t read before bed—due to inebriation, illness, or what have you—but almost every night I do. The same way I change into my pyjamas, reading helps my mind undress from the day’s events.
It’s important to me, especially now that I’m a mother, to take those few quiet moments of simple pleasure for myself. Especially on days when I’m chasing after my own tail, taking care of my family’s needs and my clients’ needs and my home’s needs—escaping into a book at the end of the night makes me feel that I still take care of myself as well, that my own needs count just as much. That despite all the changes that come with motherhood, I still am who I am.
Reading is such a simple thing, and yet many of my friends complain that they have no time to read anymore since they became mothers. That they literally can’t read, because their child is sleeping in the same room and they can’t turn on the light. That they don’t have the energy to read, because they’re exhausted from sleep deprivation. I can relate to those excuses, much along the veins of how I quit practicing meditation because because because.
But there is simply no way on earth I would ever stop reading, even for a week. It is a part of who I am. At the end of the day, we have time for the things we make time for.
We make time for the things we care about, the things that matter most to us.
I believe that rituals can be an integral part of who we are, or they can be something we pick up, use, and put back as needed. And I’m not sure that one is necessarily better than the other. What matters is what we get out of the ritual. Because ultimately, that’s what rituals are here for: to better our lives. To give us joy, or peace, or meaning. So I’ll keep on reading, as my husband keeps on praying, and when the mood strikes, I may one day get back to meditating.
By: Libbie Snyder
Originally from Boston, Libbie Snyder resides in Tel Aviv with her husband, daughter and two cats. She is the owner of Snyder Communications, a content writing company that provides copywriting and editing services to high tech companies across Israel. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, running, reading novels, writing poetry, checking out new restaurants—and when the opportunity allows, travel abroad. Find her on LinkedIn or Contently.