Daily Rituals

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Yesterday was tough. My 2yo woke up feeling sensible as they say at his crèche, which is a far nicer word than moody. Every little thing caused an eruption of tears, and he wanted constant hugs and reassurance.

Which was okay. He knows he can have a hug whenever he wants one. But he didn’t want to go to crèche. He didn’t want to get dressed. He most certainly didn’t want his diaper changed. He only wanted to play with a counting game, and even that was difficult because he kept dropping pieces and crying in frustration.

By the time I dropped him off at crèche, I was exhausted. Normally I race home to cram in as much work time as I can, but I decided to swing by a diner that had just opened instead. I was going to have a date with a book.

The diner took over the space of one of my favorite coffee shops, which closed last month, and I was happy to see that the main barista was still there. We chatted, and he brought me the brunch I’d ordered.

A full English and flat white.
A full English and flat white. And yes, there are sausages and a hash brown under the toast.

I spent the time reading Olivia Laing‘s The Lonely City and discovered later that morning that it was Olivia’s birthday.

I was only at the diner for 40-45 minutes, but it changed the course of my day. As soon as I got home, I got through a slew of tasks I’d been putting off because I had to do them in French.

This got me thinking about self-care more generally. As a mom, PhD candidate, and writer, my time is at a premium, and there are always at least half a dozen things I should be doing. I generally procrastinate from doing one task by working on another. If I take time for myself, I feel guilty because there’s something that needs to be done.

Clearly, this is silly. Taking a break can be exactly what makes the next six things happen — although of course that’s not the main reason for taking a break. A pause gives you value and makes your sanity as important as all of the tasks that must get done.

I’ve posted before about how every day I write down something good that happened or something that I’m grateful for and how this has changed the way I experience each day. A long time ago, I was also caught by something a high school classmate said about her faith. She said she appreciated Judaism’s tenet of doing a mitzvah — a good deed — each day. This wasn’t about recognition or even about scale but about taking an action and trying to make your community or someone else’s life better in a concrete way. Since hearing her reflection, I’ve been aware of when opportunities to do a mitzvah arise every day and try to act whenever I can.

Along with these daily rituals, I think I’m going to start a daily self-care action to make some time for myself, whether it’s a long, hot shower or a breakfast date with a book or 15 minutes of sitting in the sunshine just for the pleasure of it. Small gestures accumulate whether directed out into the world or inward.

© 2016 Anindita Basu Sempere. 
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