01 November 2010

take comfort

It's the first of the month, and I can't help but think of my friend Lauren, who is, most likely, sitting in a cafe at this very moment reading the newest issue of Real Simple.

I know this because that's her tradition. She subscribes to Real Simple and so she gets the next month's issue two weeks or so in advance. And then she saves it until the calendar page flips.

I've never discussed this particular part of the tradition with her, but in my head, when she pulls that magazine out of the mailbox, days and days before she will actually read it, she doesn't even deign it with a glance. She averts her eyes, shoves the magazine to the bottom of the mail pile and becomes quite taken with everything else that came that day: bills, flyers, the passing paper of daily life.

I see Lauren wanting to crack open the magazine, just take the littlest peek. Especially at this time of the year—when November's issue arrived in mid-October, who wouldn't be giddy to think ahead to that very autumnal feast of Thanksgiving, followed quickly by ornaments and wrapping paper and gift lists you should get started on in, say, mid-October?

But she doesn't.

She gives herself a treat every month, right there at the beginning of the month. She schedules a bit of break in her busy life, and from the outside, it's just this small thing.

It's a magazine.

It's a Starbucks in suburbia.

It's learning new uses for old things and plotting easy weeknight meals.

It's just a cup of coffee, surrounded by other people who are busy, too.

Oh, but it's more than that, and Lauren, more than anyone else, has taught me joy of everyday ritual. She's a mentor of mine in that way, although I'm sure, as she's reading this, she's laughing out loud, a practically-shouted "HA!" She thinks she doesn't have anything to teach me, but we all have something to learn from the people who criss-cross our lives and criss-cross our hearts.

Lauren is the kind of person who, when I told her that the flowers on my balcony weren't doing so well this year, said, "Oh, K!" That's what she calls me, an abbreviation usually preceded by that OH, which makes it feel like she's constantly reassuring me. I like that.

"Oh, K!" she said. "Maybe this is just your year for mums. Maybe your garden will be best in the fall."

And just like that, I laughed. I felt better about my flowers, and I started to anticipate {more than I normally do} fall. Maybe it would be my year for mums. Such a thing to look forward to!

Lauren has mastered this, this looking forward to what other people may classify as mundane. And that means that her life is filled not with the mundane {although inevitably, there are slices of it here and there} but with small flashes of anticipation. It's all in how you see what's coming your way.

She gets excited by Mondays because they mean a new week is beginning and you never know what may happen in a week.

Her favorite holiday is New Year's, not because of the crazy party, but because it's all about looking ahead and dreaming about what the year could bring.

When she comes to visit me, she doesn't need to be taken into the city, out to a swanky bar, charmed by the theater. What she wants is to see what my daily life is like here in this niche I've carved out for myself. She wants to meet my friends and hang out at my favorite cafe and go grocery shopping.

{This makes planning for her visits very simple.}

There's that Starbucks ad campaign going right now: Take comfort in rituals. For a country looking for familiarity and connection and reassurance {my positive spin on the current election season, which will, thankfully, be over tomorrow}, that slogan pulls.

It reminds us of the big rituals, our cycles of routine: of children trick-or-treating dressed as fairy princesses and Luke Skywalker and of Thanksgiving turkeys and of mistletoe.

And those do bring comfort.

But it's the little rituals that get us through another Monday, another month, another challenge.

It's stopping for your morning coffee, wherever that may be. It's meeting a friend for a quick workday lunch at a sandwich shop halfway between your offices. It's having a favorite TV show. It's the smell of just-dried sheets and the sound of your furnace kicking on.

It's Real Simple at a cafe on the first of the month.

I just saw that Lauren called while I was writing this; in her message, she said, "It's November 1st, and I bet you know where I am!"

I do. I sure do.

And now I'm thinking: What are small traditions I could create out of the everyday? What are small traditions you could create?


  1. What a great idea! I usually sit with my coffee and watch Oprah every morning (while Colin plays with his cars and trucks). Then, we get on with our day. It is a sad, sad day in my house when it is not a "good" Oprah episode - because I don't have an excuse to sit nursing my coffee for an hour. :)

  2. Val, I like your everyday ritual! And I heard that Oprah reunited the cast of The Sound of Music recently; I would call that an AMAZING Oprah episode :)

  3. I love this post and I LOVE Lauren!!!



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