On the surface, when I think about the concept of rituals, the first thing that jumps to mind is my morning ritual, then to how I mark important events, like Weddings, Birthdays, Christmas and Halloween (I love Halloween). But until now I have not given rituals a lot of thought, but as I dig a little deeper I can see my personal rituals can strongly influence and even define my behaviors, beliefs and attitudes, feelings of success and failure in many important areas of my life.
“Rituals are comforting; rituals combat loneliness.” – John Irving
To take a deep dive at just how ingrained a ritual can become and then discover how it was informed and locked in. I want to unpack one of my very favourite things to do …going to the movies! (I know it sounds strange, but please stay with me).
I absolutely love love love going to see movies. When big new movies come out, I will often plan ahead so I can view them on the opening weekend. To do so I will buy tickets as soon as they are available, sometimes months in advance. I will often invite friends to join me and my wife (she also loves movies). If friends do come we will often make a social event around the movie, going so far as having themed movie nights. (James Bond Martini night was a hit! Shaken is better than stirred in case you were wondering). Just saying, movies are a big deal around our household.
Whether a big movie night or small, I always have to get to the movie early. Between 15-20 minutes before the movie is my timing sweet spot. This gives me time to get my snacks and relax into my seats. I also absolutely love seeing all the trailers for the upcoming movies, and feel I have not had the full movie experience if I miss them, even if I have seen them many times before.
I love movie snacks (who doesn’t) and a movie is simply not the same without them. In my case the snacks are always the same. Popcorn (of course), a drink and always always always M&M, with a huge preference for peanut butter M&M’s. But beyond the right snacks, there is also a right time to eat them. Popcorn is ok to start eating right away, but the M&M’s seem to go fast once opened, so they do not get opened until the movie starts (approx. 15 minutes in). I want to coordinate the enjoyment of the rare treat of the M&M’s with the opening 60 minutes of the movie, not waste this sweet treat on trailers.
Rarely tolerating interruptions to my movie experience, kicking my chair, surfing on your phone, talking over the movie will likely get a reaction from me. I will feel frustrated and will often speak up. I am embarrassed to say that on more than one occasion I have almost come to blows with other patrons that have messed with my movie experience. I even got mad at a kid for being a kid at a kids movie. It’s pretty bad! (For the record, I did not almost come to blows with the child)
So I have to ask myself, when did going to the movies get so complicated for me and where did I lock in these rituals on the right and wrong ways on how to go see a movie. Why to this day am I so darn protective of my movie ritual, even in my 50’s?
“Rituals are like habits on steroids” – Dave Fyfe
My belief is that many of our rituals are formed during our childhoods, by observing our parents, teachers and other important influencers. We are shown the combination factors that must happen to have a successful event or experience. For example a birthday may need an elaborate cake, many balloons, lots of guests and many presents before it can be considered a success. A dinner party may require a spotless house, amazing /unique food, great manners and fine china. Many and often complex variables must come together successfully before and even is deemed an achievement.
We can in reality have a great event (like a great party), but if one element of the ingrained ritual is off, it can severely discount the entire experience. A fork is dirty, a broken plate, a tired whiny kid could take the party off the rails for the person with a very defined ritual around what a good party should look like. Or in my case, they sold out of peanut butter M&M’s (this is BS), why bother seeing the movie, might as well head home.
“There is a comfort in rituals, and rituals provide a framework for stability when you are trying to find answers.” – Deborah Norville
So what’s the deal with my rituals around the movies? When I think back to the first times I saw movies, I can remember the pure escapism I received when in a movie. My childhood was challenging (as many are) but in a movie I was transported to another place where I could leave my troubles at the door. I loved movies so much that once I started getting a small allowance I would immediately run to the movie theatre. It did not matter what was playing, I just loved the freedom and the escape the movie provided. I also remember clearly that my allowance exactly paid for a movie ticket and one chocolate bar and I absolutely savored both, and I was one happy kid for those two hours.
Thus my movie ritual was born. For me it seems it’s not just a movie. It is an experience that provides escape, comfort, power to choose, fun and freedom all rolled into one package. This movie ritual for me goes back to some of my earliest childhood memories. On top of that, I have continued the ritual with my own daughters, wanting to pass on and share my love of movies with them. So often when we get together (especially my oldest daughter) we still do it by sharing a movie experience.
As an adult, I have also had some very challenging times and the movies have always been there for me. Offering a laugh when I needed one, a temporary escape to help clear my head and even a grounded feeling when the world feels out of control. Movies, popcorn, drinks, M&M’s…everything will be ok.
I laugh at myself as I reveal this movie ritual I have ingrained into my being. But I am sure as you are reading this you can see yourself and some of the rituals in your own life that may have some strange rules of success and pitfalls of failure. (I hope I am not alone) I know for me I have been very protective of my movie ritual, to the occasional determent of the enjoyment of the experience. But as I think about this, I have stayed curious about what other areas of my life that are informed by my engrained rituals, a right way and a wrong way to do something.
On a side note the new James Bond movie is coming soon…anyone up for a movie night?