Rituals cause us to pause and consider life for a bit, as punctuation at the end of the sentence causes us to take a brief pause. The rituals may be simple pauses, like a period at the end of a sentence, or they may be questions, “why is this happening?” Those pauses usually come with a more somber ritual, acknowledging a passing, or a life transition, such as the loss of a relationship or the change of a job. The pause of excitement, exclamation, can be found during a pleasurable ritual, a wedding, the birth of a child, an anniversary, the phone call informing you that you have been hired, or your bid for the house was accepted. Rituals can also be helpful to establish habits, as I am discovering as I develop a few habits I have determined to be for my betterment.
Yoga has saved me. That is not a dramatic statement; it really has changed my life. I have learned, through yoga, to calm down, to find a space that is comfortable and breathe. It reminds me that the current “crisis” might just not be so important or cause for hysterics and when I relax in restorative yoga, I have 90 minutes to myself to breathe. The ritual of yoga is one that has allowed me to stretch, to relax and to focus on breathing instead of the many other things I have to do. During yoga class there have been times, many this past year, when tears have streamed down my face during shavasana and the relief was almost too much to bear.
The ritual of cardio exercise is an existing desire but slowing becoming a ritual. Getting out or to the gym, beginning slowly but working up to that heavenly sweat and the pumping of my own heart, feels at once challenging and effortless. When I first tried the elliptical exercise I could barely continue for 12 minutes, now after the requisite 30 minutes I could easily continue for another 30 and just put myself in the zone of exercise, dripping with contentment.
The ritual of reading in place of watching television is a happy ritual that I once possessed and am now enticing back into my life. I have created a cozy little reading corner with a comfy chair, an ottoman, a corner table and a reading light, where I can gaze out the window, pondering my book or put up my feet and even doze contentedly between chapters. I have another stack of books by my bedside and have now established the ritual of reading a chapter before bed, relinquishing the white noise of late night television.
The ritual of writing, of course the grandest ritual of all my newly established habits sits atop my collection of newfound favorites. Writing, the instruments: paper, pens, computer, the memorabilia I gaze at while writing, the photos of my mom and dad with me when I moved to college, my lovely Dalmatian and cute Sonny the mutt, my family complete with mom and dad at Nicole’s culmination from 5th grade a month before my dad passed, and my endless notes scribbled with ideas. Ideas that now seem to come from nowhere, and everywhere and must be quickly written before they fly away and I lose them forever. I can corral the ideas and make them conform to my page, encasing them in a tidy package that can be opened by my readers. My readers!
It might be due to my obsession with cakes lately; decorating cakes, studying cakes, mixing cakes from scratch, perusing the baking isle at Ralph’s for new and interesting cake mixes, but it suddenly occurred to me that cake is really symbolic of life. First of all, there are all of the ingredients. The quality of the ingredients influences the quality of the cake so it is important to look for that special vanilla (especially if you are making a white cake and then you must use clear vanilla in order to maintain the integrity of the cake’s color). The flour should be unbleached because why not get as much nutrition out of the flower as possible and the sugar, finely sifted so the batter will not be clumpy and the eggs fresh, very fresh. The proper ingredients are the bases for the cake, but the blending of ingredients and the order in which they are blended is equally important.
Blending cannot be done too quickly or at a speed too high. The ingredients must fold together properly with the wet ingredients being blended first. There is chemistry involved and it always surprises me when science sneaks into my life because I never really studied science per say, yet it just keeps popping up in unexpected places.
At last, ta-da, the frosting, ahhh the fluffy, fluffy frosting, the sweetness, the topping that something extra that makes the cake cry out “Eat me!” Life should be sweet, and colorful and expressive and frosting is also useful for filling in the cracks of life. Relationships that expire, jobs that don’t pan out, and people suddenly absent from your life, frosting helps to fill in those gaps, those little cracks where the cake dips, having stuck a little bit to the pan and with a little frosting, they will never know that there are crevices underneath the surface. Presentation is everything, I like to say, and it does help with cakes as with other objects of life such as houses, and people. A well-presented cake, complete with flowers, decorative icing and a pleasing design, can be the “ahhh” factor needed for that satisfied smile to appear.
Life is full of lessons and cake decorating is too. There are little tricks one learns along the way, that make it a bit easier, such as freezing the cake for a bit before putting the final frosting on top of the crumb coat in order to provide a more workable surface, or putting the flowers in the freezer so they can “set.” There are the boarders, “shells” or “stars” that finish of the edge of the cake and connect it beautifully to its base and of course the fate accompli is the edible glitter, which does nothing but add beauty.
My life is like a cake, complete with trial and error, frosting-filled gaps and goodness inside and though it isn’t always picture-perfect, in its own way, it always tastes the way it is supposed to, and there is always plenty for everyone who wants to bring a plate, a fork and cut off a slice.
A beautiful cake and a beautiful life.