ritual of reflection

I’m a gal of ritual.  Slightly different from routine, ritual to me signifies something greater — a symbolism that recognizes deeper meaning.  For instance, the bedtime routines we’ve established with our Little Ones often feel like ritual, as we change our day clothes for pajamas, or lift our voices together in Thanks.  These simple daily acts remind us of something greater.  The trick with ritual is to pay attention, so that it doesn’t become mundane, routine.

As far as ritual goes, there are many that may accompany a new year.  I prefer the simple, small and ordinary:  taking down the old calendar, hanging a new one.  There is something about readying ourselves for this trading places that calls us into reflection, isn’t there?  Now, I’m a bit of a sucker for introspection anyhow, and can spend too much time being stuck in my head for my own good, but it is nice to have a check point, a bench mark, to line up and look back, take stock and recalculate course before headlong marching into the next year.  Isn’t it interesting to see, perhaps, the meal plans scribbled in margins of this same time last year?  Or the events that we so looked forward to, now come to pass? To recall birthday celebrations, even plans gone awry?

Our family keeps a number of calendars: a wipe-off white board hung in our kitchen, easy access to last minute change of plans, quick glance of the month.  We keep a master calendar on the computer that contains all the nitty-gritty appointments, reminders, date nights and school activities.  My favorite, though, is the family photo calendar that I create every year, featuring our best family photos and memorable moments from the year prior.  This calendar gives great opportunity to contemplate the year.  We reflect on our growth and change that the pictures illustrate so clearly, as the Little Ones bodies have thinned out, their physical prowess grown mighty, month upon month.  The Eldest has taken it on as his job this year to flip the calendar forward each month, and he will revel you with his in-depth memory of the stories that our photos tell, the Story of our family.

Little pomp and circumstance will accompany the task of washing clean 2011 from the white board, or even presenting our newest photo creation in place of last year’s.  But this practice, this marking of time’s passing, will again call to a deeper meaning.  As I reflect on 2011, I wonder how I’ve grown, if I’ve grown.  This year has brought it’s share of surprises: upheavals and provisions.  I’ve accomplished things that I didn’t anticipate, and I’ve been disappointed in my own sense of limitations.  I’ve surrendered.  I chose a word, an intention for my year: breathe.  This breath has been my undercurrent, even if I haven’t been aware of it.  What will my word be for 2012?

I know that I’m not alone in my need for ruminating on the year as it closes.  In a sense, isn’t that what New Year’s Resolutions are about?  We set goals for ourselves, getting to work for some sort of betterment.  But resolutions are short-lived and disenchanting; often full of failure.  I’d rather reach for Grace.

I’m thankful for small acts that make me pause.  We’ll ring in the New Year as a family, cozy and full of anticipation for all that 2012 will bring. I will do my best to be awake at midnight to kiss my dear husband, then dash our lips across sleeping foreheads of the babes we love so much.  Later, with my little helper by my side, we’ll take down our old calendar, “oo” and “ahh” over how much everyone has grown, and perfunctorily hang the new calendar in it’s place.  But with each of these small rituals, I will pause for a moment, to pay attention and consider.

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