About a month ago, I stumbled upon a book called Sundays Are For Lovers – a collection of Q&A articles with various designers and artists about their Sunday rituals (Lines & Shapes). It got me thinking again about a post I wrote a few years back about rituals in the midst of a busy touring schedule. A few years on, a long break from tour, and a handful of different homes, I felt like I needed to check in with myself again about my romantic notions surrounding traditions. As they are something I long for and aspire to integrate into my daily life, I never truly give myself the time or mandate their importance, making me think that maybe I don’t need rituals as badly as I think I do. I hear people talk about their weekly soccer games, daily writing and meditation regimens, and I have a difficult time relating considering the absence of a regular work schedule.
A shining example: I have a very keen romanticism about Christmas that every year has me liturgically emoting about Christmas trees, family, and a traditional meals. Every year I have many excuses for why those things don’t happen. When I looked closely at the holidays this last year, with no plans to visit family and no job, I realized how anxious the expectation of that time of year makes me – the shopping, the dinners, the “you will have fun and you will like it!” mood, and the recognition and subsequent ignoring of one’s physical and financial limits. When you find yourself literally making a list that looks like a gift-recipient lottery for those who will get presents and those who may only receive cards (the inner vs. outer social circles), you are officially a victim of holiday anxiety. And, strangest of all, no one was putting that pressure on me but me.
I possess a deep sadness for the death and irreverence of folklore and the connection to the passing of the seasons, though I can’t recall living in a time when kin and convention ever characterized my daily existence. So how I am able to recognize their absence is utterly beyond me. Most modern substitutions for tradition, especially during the holidays, involve cheap imported goods, sensual bombardment and overstimulating demands on the limits of one’s “joy”. I mean, who *really* wants to travel on or anywhere near Christmas? But we do it (and we pay for it) because there is no better, socially acceptable time of year to participate in religious observance and family tradition than between Thanksgiving and Christmas – no matter how you are feeling. Is this cynical? Maybe, but it is not driven by a disbelief in people’s genuine desire to be home, sharing with their families. It stems from an incredulity that it MUST always be this time of year, it MUST cost this much and MUST be done in this way. This is where the notions of modern ritual and tradition lose me. It is the inhuman expectation of the limits of physical, emotional and spiritual beings, caught up in an ecosystem of weird constructs and rules for the ways and times we are supposed to relate to each other.
My attempts at any actualization of ritual any time of year are more often spurred on by a desire to prove self-discipline and an active, forced observance of the passage of time. It is hardly ever about the joy of grounded engagement in a regular activity with people I care about or even alone. As soon as I decide to regulate the activities I enjoy, they begin to feel like a chore. In fact, I have made my schedule so irregular that doing something the same time each week is nearly impossible and I find a certain amount of satisfaction (maybe even novelty?) in that. When I do have a regular schedule, I feel deflated and can’t muster up the energy to do anything I know is 1) good for me and 2) fun. So what is my Sunday ritual? Well, let me ask you this: what day is it again and do I have to?
This book gave a quick jab to my ingrained perspective and had me reformulating my definition of tradition. Though the focus was on a particular day of the week – one I see come and go with only the casual observance that the mail hasn’t come and a lack of an impending sense of the Mondays – the big idea had more to do with the allotment of time one gives oneself to float, act unregimented, and enjoy simple pleasures without the beckoning of everything out there. It is the recognition of a regular need to ground and balance oneself by removing a watch and turning off the phone. It is a quest to elongate time by forgetting time.
Today is a happy coincidence. I spent the last two weeks touring and the last two weekends engaged in odd jobs and obligations. Today I have the apartment to myself, an unpacked suitcase, and a hot summer day outside. After weeks of mentally-exhausting work, I am delving into some physical labor (housecleaning), after an impromptu breakfast date with two fantastic girlfriends. I am choosing to use this time to write a blurb on my dusty little blog. I am deciding this Sunday to lay in the tub, take care of myself and turn off my brain. I’m also going to knit and start a new book. Not because I planned it and not because I don’t need to. And certainly not because this time next week I will make myself do the same thing. It is because there lies a fundamental peace in waking up and meeting the day, week, or month with whatever it has in store for you, relinquishing the control we errantly think we possess over ourselves and our time. So, if I had to define it, my Sunday rituals happen on any day and will likely include a few of my favorite things: playing records, cleaning the house, drinking rosé on my porch, and unplanned dates with my friends. The next Sundays could hold something completely different, but will always be welcomed with the same lack of expectation.
So, if Sundays really are for lovers, what do you love and how are you going to enjoy it today and any day this week?