The Ritual

Photo by Jonathan Petersson on

It is still dark outside and the rest of the household is sound asleep. This is the time of year when the sun rises a bit later. We will retrieve the early morning sunshine again when we revert to standard time, but for now I am enjoying the solace of being alone in my favorite place inside my home watching the sun slowly come to life while I sip on my tea and eat my morning repast. 

I have perfected a ritual since I retired that calms my soul and helps me to see life through a rosier lens than when I was rushing around each morning to travel to work. Now I revel in the quiet that brings me peace of mind before my part of the world fully comes alive. It is a time for mediating and praying and thinking and creating. It is the precious “me” time that I need to tackle whatever comes later in the day. 

Sometimes I just sit and listen to the silence. I concentrate on my breathing and the gift of life that I have enjoyed. I can’t hear my heart, but I know that it is working and I suddenly feel the miracle and wonder of simply being. It is a glorious way to start the day, a time for introspection and thanksgiving. 

I was laughing with my daughters the other day. I wondered aloud why all of us, including my husband, are such introverts. We heal by being alone in a calm place where we are free to simply exist for a moment. I asked them if they thought that we were genetically inclined to introversion or if they believe that their father and I created an environment that nurtured their introverted traits. We finally decided that it was a bit of both. 

Even when my girls were babies I most enjoyed the feeding times that happened in the dark when they awoke with hunger pangs and roused me from my slumber. While it was tiring to lose my sleep, it was also quite beautiful to be alone with them hearing only their suckling sounds, their baby coos, and their breathing. Everything felt safe and comforting in those moments. We shared a closeness that imprinted our devotion to each other for all time. 

When they grew older we were all still mostly silent at the start of each day. We felt each other’s presence without much spoken acknowledgement. Mornings were slow and easy with unspoken understandings that we loved deeply. We did not need or even want boisterous greetings or salutations. Hugs and kisses and smiles were our way of awakening, not words. We could sit side by side and know love. 

My father-in-law has come to our house to recover from surgery, an almost deadly bout with Covid, and the death of his second wife. We hope he will agree to stay permanently but he is sending signals that his intent is to return home again. I think of him in the early morning and worry about his future. I also laugh at how different he is than my husband and I. 

Each morning my father-in-law comes to breakfast with a loud and cheery greeting of “Good morning!” I doubt he realizes that he jolts us with his enthusiasm, but we will never tell. We understand that he is the ultimate extrovert. He thrives on surrounding himself with people. He loves to begin long conversations before our brains are ready for such things. Breakfast is filled with lights and discussions and chatter as is all of the rest of the day. 

Now I set my alarm and arise earlier than ever to give my mind time to experience its usual routine. As long as I have my quiet time I am okay with my father-in-law’s cheery talk. I understand that he needs the company of people to heal as much as he needs medications and physical therapy. I grow more well in my alone time, but he does better surrounded my people. He loves parties while I prefer my cup of tea all by myself. 

I have learned how to adjust. I still manage to enjoy my morning rituals. Because my father-in-law retires for bed quite early, I find myself also falling asleep not long after he has retired for the night. That allows me to arise long before the rest of my neighborhood or household comes alive. I still have the moments that I need to successfully jumpstart the day. I am revitalized and ready to take on whatever surprises come my way.

This particular morning I am thinking of a sweet young man who only recently became a member of my extended family. He was a beautiful soul with a million dollar smile. We were all happy to welcome him into our fold. He and my cousin married and eventually became the parents of an adorable baby boy. Their life together were only beginning, but it seemed to be heading in a wonderful direction filled with so much love. 

This young and seemingly healthy man died suddenly from a cardiac incident while my cousin attempted to revive him. His death has shaken me and reminded me once again how fragile and precious life is. I know I can handle my extroverted father-in-law even with my introverted personality. It is only a matter of timing and keeping my ritual of meditation intact. After all, what life is really all about is celebrating each moment that we have. I know I must treasure his “good mornings” because one day I won’t hear them anymore. I hope my father-in-law stays with us. I think we need each other.

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