As tribal, habit-forming people, we all have rituals–simple, repeatable actions which almost take on a ceremonial vibe in their ties to meaning and memory. In my house, one of the rituals we perform is reading a book aloud before bed. We are currently reading The Trail, by Meika Hashimoto. The Trail is a story about a 12-year-old boy hiking the Appalachian Trail alone (thank goodness its fiction) and it opens with the mantra he is using to survive alone on the trail.

When my kids were tiny humans and lost their minds over the most miniscule hangnail (I’m sure they’re normal!), we used to repeat to them over and over and over and over again, “Big deal or little deal?” Maybe the loss of mind subsided, maybe it didn’t. But the phrase was repeated enough that eventually they learned there are things worth getting really upset about and you’ll be comforted and cared for, and then there’s things that if you want to continue carrying on about you can do it alone in your room where only you can hear you because you need an ounce of perspective to know the world doesNOTinfactrevolvearoundYOU.

Anyways, Toby, our hiker, he has a mantra on the trail that keeps the little deals from becoming the big deals.

“Keep warm.

Keep hydrated.

Keep eating.

Keep an eye on the sun.”

Repeating the phrases enough times that these little-deals-preventing-big-deals remained at the forefront of his awareness. He then attached rituals to each. Slug back water *before* the sensations of thirst. Make camp before dark. Eat a snickers anytime the belly rumbles. Have a jacket ready to slip on and off as the temperature changes.

While we aren’t hiking the Appalachian trail, we are on an adventure which tests our will, spirit, strength and courage. Life. So quickly in life little deals can become big deals. The slippery slope of insecurity which becomes self-loathing. The chill of fear which leads to paralysis. Or maybe just the little rumbling in our bellies for connection which leads down a path that offers substitutes and leaves us more lonely, starving for love.

To keep little deals from becoming big deals, I’ve come up with my own “Keeps.” The checkpoints that are followed by ritual and sets me back on track. (Usually. Not always. But I’m trying!)

Keep breathing.

Keep it simple.

Keep centered in your sacred identity.

Keep grounded in something larger than yourself.

And if you don’t even know how or what that even looks like, ask questions. Start seeking. Lean in and listen. There is too much guidance and grace to run around screaming about a hangnail. And an ounce of perspective that the world doesNOTinfactrevolvearoundME allows space for compassion. And anytime the heart rumbles for real connection, try a simple hug or a smile at another human. It will work miracles to remind you that you’re not in this alone, you are enough, and we’ve got this thing called Life and whatever it throws our way.

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