The Gift of Rituals at Midlife

Rituals at Midlife


Sameness. Comfort. Meaning. Commitment. These are the cornerstones of rituals, the sacred rites we practice throughout our lives. Ebbing and flowing with time, rituals catalog our memories and breathe meaning into our life stories. It is hard to reach midlife without riding a sea of changes: in our relationships (divorce, loss, children launching), our careers, and our physical bodies. When you feel like you’re drowning, rituals are buoys to hold onto and regain balance.

My favorite ritual from childhood was our Sunday night family dinner. On this night only could we stray from routine and eat in the den in and watch television- while we were eating! (Remember, these were the old days, pre-cable TV!) My father would grill foot-long beef ribs, dripping and salty, with a loaded potato on the side. As a special treat, my sister and I were allowed to choose the shows we watched (after 60 minutes, of course.) Drunk with power and grease, we invariably chose a double feature, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney; my parents undoubtedly bored to tears in the background. Unbeknownst to them, they were giving us a gift that would last a lifetime.

Sunday night dinner with my sister and parents morphed into Sunday brunch with my husband and our kids. My kids grew up and our family rituals had to adapt to new homes, new people, and new cities.  We could always count on those rituals, predictable as Christmas morning stockings filled with Gummy Bears and precious gifts, to remind us that some things are constant no matter where life takes us.

As I embrace this new phase of life, single and with an empty-nest, I find myself establishing new rituals to keep me afloat: Monday night dinner with my life-long friend, a steady practice of yoga, regular Sunday phone calls to connect with people I love. Some of my rituals will never change. If it’s Sunday night, you can find me in my den with a thick steak and a hearty cabernet, binge-watching HBO. I am full and happy.

If you have rituals that help you stay balanced, please share them in the comment section!

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