The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.John Kabat-Zinn
Habits. Rituals. Traditions. They shape our lives and form our identity- and vice versa, according to habits expert (who knew there was such a thing!) James Clear in his fantastic read “Atomic Habits”. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Do your future self a favour and check it out.
In the interests of a healthier, happier lifestyle and a healthier, happier body, I’ve been adopting new habits recently and weeding out some old ones. One of my recently acquired habits has been to follow time restricted eating (TRE), where I no longer consume calories after 8pm, and start again no earlier than 8am. This gives my body a chance to burn fat and trigger autophagy, the process by which the body clears out old, damaged cells and makes way for newer, healthier ones. Check out Dr Michael Mosley’s Fast 800 book or website for more info on the science!
I jumped on this and have found it to be extremely positive. Ironically, in imposing this limitation I have liberated myself from the drama of what, how and when to feed myself after this time- a time when I don’t actually need more calories, especially if I’ve been mindful and eaten appropriately beforehand. It’s been surprising in this way. It has also completely eliminated any late night snacking, which was particularly problematic after a late shift.I hesitated to make this change, however, for two main reasons, both relating to my marriage.
Chab and I have a few little rituals that we have enjoyed for years now. One of these has been to share a pre-bed few squares of dark chocolate (it’s healthy, surely, all those antioxidants…!) or, if we’re feeling particularly indulgent, a bowl of ice cream. I loved that we did that, ostensibly turning our slightly smug noses up at ‘dieters’, bathing in the glow of denial- denial that we could enjoy such treats consequence free (it’s caught up with my ageing metabolism now!) and wordlessly express our acceptance of each other as we are. When I dug deeper into my desire to hang onto this I realised of course it was not the food itself but rather the act of coming together and sharing something, at a time when the kids were (finally!) asleep with all the positive associations that come with this achievement, that really appealed. Also, I loved that he never body or food shamed me, as I know some partners do.
Now, we have tea, or nothing, as we’ve dropped the habit quite naturally, although occasionally he’ll have some ice cream (maybe just once since I started the TRE). I don’t mind at all, I want him to eat whatever he wants. We still have the closeness, and we still share the moment, we still hold hands on the couch.
The other reason is The Morning Coffee. Both being shift workers, we often feel like ships passing in the night. We developed a ritual that whoever left the house first would make 2 coffees, one to go and the other in the special cup pertaining to our spouse (see photo). Often the partner left behind would have to nuke it for a minute to make it drinkable again but it didn’t matter. It was a small but powerful act of love, showing consideration and respect for the other. It said, ‘you didn’t see me leave, but I thought of you’. It was one small thing we could do to help the other who was left at home to prepare the kids for school, or face the Saturday or Sunday with the little ones alone, while the other went to work.
I thought I’d miss that terribly, but I don’t. Chab no longer makes himself coffee in the morning, but sometimes brews a tea to take on the drive so his head doesn’t explode from caffeine withdrawal. I didn’t ask him to do this. He just adapted his habits to reflect my changing needs and priorities, wordlessly, without fanfare, without any desire or need for recognition or thanks. He just does it, and it feels incredibly loving. We still love getting out our cheesy matching mugs on the sleep in days, but when I get up now there is no “Hello Mrs Beautiful” coffee waiting for me. The coffee machine is untouched. And I am reminded once again of his consideration and respect for me, and I smile. It really is the little things that demonstrate our love for each other, much more so, I believe than the grand gestures.
Wishing you lots of little displays of big love, today and every day.