November 29, 2012

What I know about rituals

My girl made this a year ago. Its still on our front door.  I wont be on a lifestyle show anytime soon.

Christmas has the capacity to go one way or the other. Your heart either swells at the faint sound of Christmas songs or it drops like a lead weight.

The role of ritual at Christmas doesn’t always have to do with religiosity or spirituality its often the family ritual. The way of doing things the way they’ve always been done. I sent an email out to my family on the weekend asking them for the details of what they would be bringing to my house for Christmas dinner.

My mum always brings the ham and a green salad with pieces of avocado that she rips apart with her delicate fingers. It sits atop a large blue plate with green fruit painted across it. I like washing it up at the end of the day, standing in the kitchen with all the women in my family. There is much to be learnt over a good wash up.

My aunty always brings the potato salad that tastes good the next day on day-old white bread.

My sister, well, she has a handicap this year given that she just gave birth. I’ll just tell her to bring a kind smile.

My dad he brings his big personality. Lucky for us his partner can do a mean Thai chicken ball.

We are in the space between believing and not believing with our kids – as they range from 2 to 13 they all have their own ideas about the magic of the season. The youngest thinks that the Westfield decorations are the epitome of wow and the oldest is just hoping for the chance to hide in her room and stalk people on instagram.

Me? Christmas is a heavy time of year. I thought about it last year. I thought about it the year before and the year before that. I try to shake it off, I try to focus on being grateful, on living in the moment on being thankful for happy, healthy babies but my mind has different ideas. Its like seasonal affective disorder with tinsel. Its inevitable.

When my girl asks me if I love Christmas as much as her I don’t lie, I just say its not my most favourite time of year. I don’t want to tell her to story of her first Christmas when I unwrapped gifts and sobbed into her new red gingham dress wondering where my husband was. I dont want all her Christmases, as she moves forward in life, to be about the back story of her mum.

My research for my thesis tells me that in order to enact mastery over sadness I need to create new rituals that acknowledge what has happened and to find new ways to move ahead.

This year Ill keep forcing my smile while I focus on the avocado, the potato salad in a roll with the tiny pieces of boiled egg that stick out, and the warm smile of my man from across the table whose eyes speak louder than his soft voice.

And the fact that the girl whose dress I sobbed into all those years ago was actually the best present anyone could have asked for.

My ritual. My baby. My new beginning.

That’s what I know about rituals.

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Join the conversation! 17 Comments

  1. Oh Sarah, this is divine. After growing up in a house where we “just got through” christmas, with it causing more sighs of inconvenience for my Mum. I have decided it’s never too late to start traditions, and my christmas build up is full of them. So unlike me, my babies can look back on their christmases as joyful time and not with worry that their mother is hating this day as much as every other. Sorry that was a bit dark, but I promise you my christmas’s now are anything but.

    Reply
    • Lightness and darkness go hand in hand. The sighs are the hardest part – the walking on egg shells. Your comment about not looking at your mum reminds me that while I do smile I probably should try harder – there is time and place to move on from the past and in a good way every year I think I edge further and further from it x

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  2. Oh Sarah, I am moved by this so much. Loved your sensitive and wise spirit. Loved the beautiful way you have with words. xx

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  3. Isn’t it amazing how one bad Christmas can affect the next?

    Last year’s Christmas saw my mother-in-law and I spending Christmas Eve lying in a pool of someone else’s blood, trying to save their life after their moment of stupidity. As a result, this Christmas I look at the red decorations and shudder.

    I’m nervous about it.

    I’m bloody terrified and my MIL is the same. So much so that we’ve decided to forgo the usual IL’s Christmas Eve celebration this year in favour of a day out in King’s Park for a family BBQ on Boxing Day. The only thing that is staying the same will be my mother’s side’s dinner but I’ll be on tenterhooks all day just waiting for something to go wrong.

    I’m just praying that having a good Christmas this year will cancel out last year’s disaster.

    xx

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  4. beautifully written! I guess you take the little special moments of christmas and hang on to those moments for dear life! i hope your christmas is full of new and happy memories with your loved ones!

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  5. Christmas for me = stress but as Lisa says, that’s probably more a learnt behaviour than anything else. This year I’m doing zero hosting over the festive season & I’m nearly up to date with my shopping so I’m making a pact right now to sit back & enjoy the tinsel (figuratively speaking, I really do hate the stuff). I hope your christmas is a merry one x

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  6. I’m lusting after green salad plate. Beautiful post Sarah…

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  7. I’ve struggled with Chrisrmas since I lost my Dad 11 years ago. And then, since moving to Sydney I’ve found it even harder. I miss my family and the cold and the traditions that just seem totally incongruous here. Now that I have my own children I have the opportunity to start from scratch and create new rituals for their childhood.
    I started writing a new post for your link up, but realised I’d already got a post that said it all – so I’ve dusted that off instead. Hope that’s ok.
    Much love to you Sarah xx

    Reply
    • I think I have to work out at some stage C how to pack up my stuff and just hand over christmas to the kids…any tips would be greatly appreciated.

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  8. Oh Sarah your writing is so haunting, so beautiful. I am guilty of taking it for granted that Christmas is a happy occasion but can easily see how it can not always be the case. Will be thinking of you and yours this year xx

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  9. Luckily my wife takes care of all the Christmas stuff – But Christmas day really is special for me. I look forward to it and revisit my childhood in the lead up to it especially now through my Kids.

    I lost my brother just before Christmas – but every time I think of that loss I am reminded of our better times. That’s my ritual and that is his gift to me every Christmas – the inner hurt followed by the joy of remembering the laughter we created.

    Reply
  10. Beautifully written.
    I like the idea of creating new ritual. It seems a better option than holding on to the past. I think that is why I struggle with some traditions, the clinging on to something that is no more, for me that just carries the hurt instead of easing it a little.

    Reply

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