2016 knocked me for multiple loops, and the stress going in to 2017 wasn't much better. Although I had developed the habit of writing every week, soon it devolved to every 2 weeks, then every month. It wasn't that I lacked anything to say; I had lost my writing ritual, and re-gaining it has been one of my great challenges.
Actually, during this last year or so, as my children and I have adapted to any number of startling and profound changes, we have found that a number of our rituals have either been seriously modified, or eliminated altogether. We are not living in what we had once defined as normal circumstances, so we adapt as we can to a narrower version of what normal looks like today. Less material things, unless they are a necessity, was of course the first change we made. Living in a motel room the size of an efficiency apartment necessitates that we keep the "stuff" down to an absolute minimum. With a growing teenager, clothes need to be purchased at intervals to make sure they fit properly, and are not worn out. Space needs dictate that for everything that comes in, something else must go out. Such is the law of living in small spaces. And with a small kitchen with little storage space, groceries are bought while keeping in mind where exactly can said groceries be stored, and for how long.
With every item or habit that was left behind with our last place there were a couple of little rituals that take place around my pay days that I kept in place, at least to the extent that I could. I suppose that because even in trying times, evn the smallest thing can lend a little comfort.
I surprised a couple of my co-workers the other day by stating that I have never been on a vacation in my entire adult life. Never. Anytime I use vacation days, I either have something to do, somewhere to go, or I have to, for some reason or another. And even then, I usuallyend up performing some task or running some errand that I otherwise would not have had time to do. Or as my daughter put it last night, when I commented that we didn't have anything that we had to do until late tomorrow, so we could relax during the day, "No. You will find SOMETHING that needs to be done. You always do."
As a single parent of two people with moderate to severe issues, I find myself often in the unenviable position of hyper-awareness of the kids moods (a survival skill), and micro-management of their needs to make sure that their issues don't overwhelm their achievements. This is a second full-time job outside of my regular full-time job, and that is with only advising my son, who as an adult, still has some level of difficulty managing his own affairs. With my daughter, I am seemingly always in full "Mother on top of everything" mode: emailing teachers, touching base with her sitter, and generally making sure that I am never caught off guard by any of her words or actions. Or lack thereof. I am "on" at all times, and rarely ever alone, either at home or in the car.
Which is why I try to protect my payday Friday breakfast.
I work an alternate work schedule, called a 9/80. All this means is that I still work 80 hours, it's just compressed into 9 days instead of 10, which results in me having a day off every other week. My regular day off is the Friday after payday. So my RDO ritual is basically unchanged since my daughter started school: On my day off, I take her to school myself, which she loves, run whatever errands I need to run, and I treat myself to a breakfast that is NOT fast food: cooked by someone else, in a restaurant, and served to me on a plate that I do not have to was myself. Mercifully, thanks to places like Dennys and Norms, this is something that can be done inexpensively, but it is one small pleasure I reserve for myself, once every two weeks. I get to eat one meal alone. No moderating arguments. No trying to engage a bored teen in conversation from the other side of a phone. No warnings about only ordering something if you are going to eat it. Just my favorite meal of the day, eaten in peace, with some favorite reading material by my side, and a cup of coffee that I can drink while it is still warm.
Of course as my financial situation has fluctuated, I have had to occasionally forgo this part of my day off Friday ritual, and I feel seriously deprived when that happens. Much like Ashley with the Hello Kittys, this is sometimes my only little glimpse of joy, and reminder that not life was always this way. Sometimes it is my gift to myself for continuing to do what I know is the right thing to do, even as my paycheck disappears into bills and obligations the minute I get it. I suppose I see it as a little act of defiance: I am bold enough to spend $10-15 on myself, by myself, once every two weeks. My little admission being that I do need some sort of little break to make up for the vacations that I don't take.
Which I am hoping to change in the next couple of years. With two of my sisters and my mother to soon be out of town, I now have a reason to try to find ways to get out and travel. What with taking real vacations, and actually going somewhere, I may not need my small rituals anymore. But I may just keep them, just because. Comforts, even small ones, are hard to find, and worth keeping when you find them.