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When I began deciding what kind of ritual I wanted to implement into my life, I decided that I did not want it to be merely a temporary part of my routine. To the contrary, I wanted to find a ritual that would help me accomplish something in my life. I wanted my ritual to be filled with purpose, a ritual that would serve me well.
I decided that I wanted to involve my girlfriend with my ritual. I thought that having someone else involved with my ritual would help me “stick to it.” Also, I thought that “my” ritual could become “our” ritual and therefore it could serve as a tool that would cement our bond. Something that I thought would be a great ritual revolves around healthy eating. Although eating healthier serves many interests to most people, it is especially important for me because I am diabetic. Over the summer, my girlfriend and I found a hanging body in front of our doorstep. Although I believe we have both worked through a lot of the trauma associated with witnessing a suicide, we both started eating a lot more ever since. We must have found some comfort and control in junk food, since unhealthy eating temporarily made things feel better. We have both gained weight from this behavior and both think that it is time for us to eat healthier. I want to incorporate the ritual of planning out a weekly menu with my girlfriend every Sunday, and then following the meal plan.
The specifics of the ritual are as follows: Every Sunday afternoon, my girlfriend and I sit down together and come up with different healthy recipes to try out. We compromise and come up with a breakfast menu, a lunch menu, a dinner menu, two snack options and a healthy dessert for each day of the week. We print out the menu and then follow the pre-established menu daily. Although we each have very busy schedules, we decided that this ritual would serve as a tool to promote compromise as well as a healthier lifestyle.
In Black’s article The Value of Rituals in Family Life, the five purposes of rituals really helped shape what I wanted to get out of my ritual (Black, p.484). In terms of “relating” I chose to make sure that my ritual helped “maintain” the positive aspects, specifically the good communication, in my relationship. I believe that the ritual I chose to do really helped me communicate better with my girlfriend because of the fact that we had to compromise and discuss any bumps that happened along the way. Although my girlfriend and I both had some setbacks with the ritual, we were both involved and this “involvement… may be seen through the lens of a ritual” (484). Our ritual, much like our relationship is shaped by effective communication, however this ritual also helped us alter our communication style to include more compromise.
When it came down to “changing” (484), I wanted this ritual to mark two important transitions in my life including that of “moving on” after witnessing a suicide. I believe it was my witnessing of this tragic event that led me to begin overeating, therefore the fact that my ritual was changing this reaction-behavior, leads me to believe that the ritual really did help with a transition. Another transition that my ritual helped me accomplish was that of transitioning to a healthier life style. I am diabetic and my overeating over the past 3 months has taken its toll on my health. Since I implemented this ritual into my life, my blood sugars have been much better. I’ve been wanting to transition into living a healthier life for some time, however, it seemed as if the very though of changing gave me a lot of anxiety. My ritual made the “change more manageable through familiar enactment” (486). Enacting my ritual helped make the transition process less intimidating.
Black also talked about “healing” (484). Although I don’t believe that I needed my ritual to help me with “recovering from relationship loss, trauma, or betrayal” (484), I did want to use it to help me with another type of trauma, trauma associated with my witnessing a suicide. My ritual gave me better structure and helped keep my thoughts more organized. I believe that this level of structure made me better organize my feelings and thoughts around the trauma.
When Black began discussing how “celebrating” was one of the purposes of a ritual, I thought that this was very true. Food and mealtimes in general are very important parts of both my culture and that of my girlfriend. Since implementing the ritual of meal planning and healthy eating, we have been cooking a lot more, and thus, eating dinner with each other. Dinner time especially became a sort of nightly festival, one that gave us both the opportunity to “hon[or] life” (484) via mealtime conversation. Black made an interesting note about “bicultural and interfaith couples [and how they] face particular dilemmas regarding celebration rituals” (490). I think this is a very valid point and I believe that this has been an issue in my interfaith/bicultural relationship. For instance, during our meal planning, we need to both be respectful of which foods we want to cook (certain times of the year, for instance, during Lent, the menu might need to be altered). Although this might cause some minor stress, it has helped us be more sensitive to each other’s cultural and religious needs.
Symbolism was an important part of the ritual as well. Every Sunday, we would go to the same café where we first met. This café was symbolic of a new journey in each of our lives and we thought it would be nice if we attributed that same symbolism (new journey/healthier life) to our ritual.
Although a lot of planning went into the ritual, things did not go perfectly. Although we always sat down and planned our menus on Sundays, we did not always cook the meals that were planned. We are both graduate students who work. I noticed that life “happened” and therefore there were times when we wouldn’t have the time or energy to cook the meal we planned. I would not call my ritual a failure even though it wasn’t followed 100% of the time. I got a lot out of doing this exercise. Because of the nature of my ritual, I eat home-cooked meals most nights. This helps me have a better understanding of what goes into my food, and therefore enables me to lead a healthier life. Communication between my girlfriend and I has improved and has become more mature. I believe that the communication required during this ritual (i.e., the compromise required to collaboratively build an extensive health-conscious weekly menu) has helped my relationship.
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