Last week I shared a list of the things that are saving my life right now, deep in this winter season.
It was only a partial list, but I was still dismayed to realize a full week after the post published that I’d left off one of the most important things. Even worse: I forgot this same thing last year, too.
Maybe that’s just as well, because this list entry requires some explanation.
For the past few years, my family has attended an Episcopal church. Every Sunday morning, my family of six slips into a pew near the back, usually a few minutes after the service has actually started.
In the Episcopal church the able-bodied of the congregation approach the rail for communion. Every week we walk forward and kneel and hold out our hands for the priest to give each of us a skinny little wafer—the bread. And then a fellow member of the congregation approaches, holding out a big silver cup of wine.
There are a couple of choices here. You can eat the bread and drink from the cup, or—if you don’t want to drink from the communal cup—you can dip your little wafer into the wine and eat that.
My kids hate the taste of the communion wine, and they are always exceedingly careful to dip the wafer into the cup the absolute minimum amount, barely grazing the surface of the wine.
I am a germophobe. The idea of drinking from a communal cup grosses me out. I get unhealthily anxious about these kinds of things, especially in February. Every year I battle creeping paranoia about flu season.
And yet every week, I drink from the cup. Even though it’s February, even though we sit in the back and are among the last to come forward. Even when the teens fill in for the regular chalice bearers and are obviously forgetting to wipe down the rim between sips. (Shudder.)
In the church, communion is heavy with symbolism: bread and wine, body and blood, approaching the table, together.
But for me, there’s an extra layer of meaning in putting my actual lips on that actual cup, and it has everything to do with battling back my burgeoning anxiety. Every week I’m reminding myself, once again, to not be afraid. To not hide (literally or metaphorically), even though it’s February, even though it’s flu season.
It’s just a sip of wine, but it’s my small way of being brave, of showing up, of kicking my winter anxiety out of the driver’s seat, again.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
For many, it’s a time of giving things up. But for me, today, I’m thinking about the things that shouldn’t be taken away: the rituals I rely on—and rightfully so—that keep me sane, in this season and after.
If you’re comfortable sharing something you rely on—big OR small—please tell us in comments.