It’s hard for anyone to talk about and think about their own bad habits, let alone write about them. Habits are things that we pick up, that sometimes cocoon us, sometimes hold us back. Rituals are the little things we do each day, or the routine that surrounds us. As I become more aware of my own bad habits, I’m also thinking about the rituals that have evolved around me. For example, when we lost Flossie, my mornings felt empty. She would often come and sleep next to me after Dan had gone to work, and I found this comforting. So there was a hole in my day, and it just compounded the loss even more. The morning ritual was broken. I didn’t find anything to replace it, and I don’t think I will because every cat is different.
Since Chocolat and Marmalade came into our lives, mornings are different. If Dan leaves the door open, I will awake to find Chocolat looking out of the window, perched on the sill. Marmalade will be exploring the room, or using my feet as a chew toy. They have soothed that morning emptiness. Mornings are becoming a joy again, even if some days I oversleep after staying awake until 3am watching films, reading or writing. The cats are so playful that they zoom from room to room and up and down the stairs playing tag with each other; their energy is infectious. I find myself laughing more often, even if sometimes they need prising apart when Marmalade thinks its acceptable to kick his sister’s head with his hind legs (they are definitely playing and usually very loving with each other).
Maybe it’s liberating instead to think of life as a balance of rituals against bad habits. Everyone has things they do that they would rather they didn’t, but I’m learning to be more accepting of my habits and find ways to work around them. I realise that a lot of the time, I have to have a ‘reward’ for doing something – the carrot rather than the stick. If I do something because ‘I have to’, my enthusiasm dries up quickly. It’s much better to think about things in terms of how they will make things better for you or for someone else, or yes, you can have a piece of chocolate or a cup of tea after you’ve done this. If I think of writing too much as ‘work’, even if it is, I’m less likely to want to do it. Yet once I’m writing, things start flowing.
Writing often has little rituals surrounding it. Making a cup of tea or coffee before I sit down to write is mine. It’s simple, and signals that it’s time to start writing. Even though I’ve struggled the past few months with an internal tug of war between procrastination and writing, I’ve still kept that small ritual. Depending on the weather (and location), I also like to wrap a blanket around me, and create the illusion of a cosy writing nest. So much in life is ritual, even if nobody thinks about it that way. For example, I don’t like putting milk in the mug with the teabag or coffee before the hot water has gone in, and I’m convinced that tea or coffee made this way doesn’t taste as good (!).
“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?” – Muriel Barbery.
I tend to read before I go to bed. Nothing wrong with that? Well, it is if its 3am and you’re using your iPhone as a night-light. I tell myself only a chapter or two, but before I know it, it’s 4.30am and I’m on the sixth chapter. Yes, its a bad habit, but one that I’m reconciled with. Sometimes you just have to let it go and accept that everyone has their quirks…
“The telling and hearing of stories is a bonding ritual that breaks through illusions of separateness and activates a deep sense of our collective interdependence.” – Annette Simmons.