I have a ritual on Tuesday nights. Calling it a “ritual” sounds much better and more professional than describing it as a “bad habit.” Pro athletes have rituals for God’s sake. When I used to play a lot of competitive tennis, my coaches encouraged rituals. Bouncing the ball a certain number of times before you serve or spinning your racquet with a specific frequency before bracing to return triggers your focus and allows you to operate like a machine. I never had a killer serve or a power forehand. My net game was alright and my slice was just pretty good. I would win because I never gave up. I could stay out on those hot South Carolina courts for hours on end. I was a champion at the mental game, and I was also a really nice player. I killed you with both consistency and kindness. You know people hate that, right?
For almost a month now, each week, on this day of the week, after I hustle all day on various projects, eat and exercise, I take a very-late-afternoon nap. I’m talking fully-under-the-covers with no clothes on at 5:00 or 5:30 pm. I’ll wake around 7:00 pm. Sometimes I’ll allow myself to linger in the bed with the cats for one episode of Forensic Files. Then I’ll get out of bed, put on some sweats and a t-shirt, drive 200 yards to Starbucks, pay $2.44 for a small black coffee and then come home to settle down in front of my laptop. I turn on the music, close out all windows on my browser, put my phone in another room to charge and then work on a blog. After I wrap the blog, I take a shower and film the next episode of Thirst Trap 101. Sometimes I’ll finish as late as 1:30 a.m. Then I’ll cook dinner (remember this is a “ritual” and not a bad habit…) and eat in bed while watching some program about trying to get away with murder.
My Tuesday night agenda gives me some anxiety beforehand. It’s like when I used to practice law and had an upcoming contested hearing down at the Family Law Center. Even though I was always over-prepared, I still I got nervous. There were always a lot of eyes on me. And, even if it was over a minor discovery issue, I don’t like to lose. Afterwards, actually win or lose, I always felt so good. It could be 10:30 am and I would have that wonderfully exhausted feeling that you only get when you’ve worked hard and done your best. I now get that same feeling on Tuesday nights, or, rather, during the very earliest hours of Wednesday mornings.
Rituals have helped me cope during the pandemic. In the height of the lockdown, I still went on my daily powerwalk. In the evenings, I took a drive for about forty-five minutes before coming home to take a bath, cook dinner and then watch some tv in bed before going to sleep. The habitual behavior comforted me during all of the stress and fear that was showering over all of us.
I also started a daily routine of making sure that the kitchen was meticulously clean before heading up to bed. I started this practice without thinking and got such strange satisfaction during and after its execution. It was only after some time that I realized I was mimicking the behavior of my late father. It’s very hard for me to write those words, “late father.” It doesn’t make sense to me because while performing this kitchen ritual, I started to feel like he was in the room. I do not mean in a ghostly way. I just mean that the memories of him were so thick in my mind it’s as though he never died. I exacerbated my emotions by blasting XM’s 70’s on 7. I listened to James Taylor and the Bee Gees because all of their songs reminded me of him. My dad really loved the Bee Gees. I don’t even know if anyone knows that he did. I know though. He said it one time when we were driving to a tournament in his white Blazer before he turned up one of their songs on the radio. I have no idea where we were going, how old I was or why I even remember this. I’m just sure glad that I do – because now I really love the Bee Gees too.
My blog isn’t a self-help or how-to-guide on anything. But I would now like to give some brief, unsolicited advice. When it feels like the world is crashing all around you and you have no control over anything, remember that you do have control. You have 100% control over yourself and your actions. If you set a routine and stick to your agenda, it makes you feel safe and like there actually is a structure around you that prevents that crash from falling on you. I’ve never actually made the connection and realized the almost perfect dual meaning of the word “structure” until just now. 1. People crave structure. 2. You live in a structure. Both keep you protected from the outside elements. I love that. I love words. And, I bet you can now see why I love Tuesday nights.