It started years ago, when I was first learning how to be (stumbling painfully through the beginning stages of being) a restaurant manager. There were a lot of doubles in my life at that time. That’s where you work lunch and dinner. (Or breakfast and lunch. Or breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or you just never ever feel like you leave the restaurant). In my case it was office shifts during the day, followed by serving shifts in the evening. Fully self-imposed, I hadn’t yet figured out where my own boundaries should be, or how to identify holes in a schedule that were absolutely not my responsibility to physically work. Labour targets were a crippling worry that I vainly tried to stop by spreading my salaried self too thinly across everything. Like a tiny morsel of butter spread thriftily on a dry piece of bread there was no way I could work enough to make a difference. But I still thought that I could. And so I needed tools and rituals to help myself through each day.
Around 4:30 or 5:00pm I would open my desk drawer and pull out my choice of lipsticks. At the time they were mostly homemade, from that memorable kick when I ordered all of the obscure and arcane ingredients for making your own make up. And then I would pretend that I was just starting my day, just getting ready. I would often bring a change of shoes, sometimes a change of clothes. I would put my lipstick on and tell myself that it was just the start of the work day, that I hadn’t already been there for almost 8 hours. This ritual became my “Dinner Lipstick.”
I still use Dinner Lipstick in my life as a restaurant manager most nights. It’s shifted a lot over the years. It is still how I delineate the difference between moments in the day, but it has become much more of a tool to focus my attention. It is a way that I mentally prepare. Get my head in the game. Shift from being present with whatever it is that is going in my head or my heart, and settle into the space of being present with our guests, with our team. It boosts my adrenaline up that notch you need to deliver a beautiful service. It is rarely used to shore up my confidence after an already long office day heading into a long night of service – don’t get me wrong, when then does happen it is still my go to routine! It’s just that it is much more rare that my days follow that pattern.
But last night, as I put on my Dinner Lipstick (choosing the biggest boldest red in an attempt to create some kind of boundary from my wildly distracting day) it got me thinking about the power of ritual. The small things that we do for ourselves that make all of the difference. There is nothing in putting on lipstick that should allow me to move from being a fizzlestick of emotion to being able to competently and enjoyably do my job. But it still works. There are so many of these moments in our lives. The cup of coffee, the morning walk, kneading bread, tidying our living spaces. It seems to me in this moment, that each of us are these delicate webs of emotion and chaos, linked tentatively together by moments of ritual, familiarity, grounding. It is these tiny things that allow us to live our lives in the way that we choose to. Find those moments. Love them. Live them.