“You don’t have to fill ice cube trays to the top!” On traditions and habits…and how they might do with a revisit.

“You don’t have to fill ice cube trays to the top!” exclaimed a dear friend in a phone call to me a few years ago.

The excited revelation came after we had both been married and out of home for several years. “Kirsten, you don’t have to fill ice cubes to the top. You can leave a gap!”

“Oh my GOODNESS!” I replied. “YOU DON’T HAVE TO FILL ICE CUBE TRAYS TO THE TOP!”

I can appreciate the lame incredible revelation that this information would give you dear reader. Did you know this?!

I’m not being sarcastic. This was amazing news to me. Like me, my friend had grown up in a house in which you just filled the trays to the brim. If you do this, of course the water overflows. Of course it is harder to ‘crack’ the tray to release the ice. Of course the trays stick together. But it’s what you did in the house – so it’s what you did in the house. So when I got my own home, I filled up my trays like a good girl, to the brim.

But I didn’t have to.

So I don’t anymore.

And it’s glorious.

Why do we do the things we do?

So much of the different habits, from big to small, are inherited through tradition and repeated exposure in our lives. Whether it is the tradition of the family, religion, workplace, or even our own selves, the cultures of these different contexts give us guidance and templates for how to act in similar situations. And for so much of our lives, this is incredibly helpful. Traditions allow us to borrow wisdom from those who have gone before us; we benefit from the often hard-won advances in knowledge, and can shortcut processes that otherwise would have to come from our own learning.

Yet.

it may be helpful – and freeing – every once a while, to ask ourselves the following question:

What are you doing that no longer needs doing?

This is not a question to ‘stop and smell the roses’. There may be many things in your diary and calendar that need to be prioritised or deferred in lieu of rest and restoration. Nope. This is a question of ‘is this helpful?’

Traditions in our families, and in our faiths, and in our homes, and in our own selves, are simply rituals that point TO something. Traditions speak of our people’s stories and our values; they simultaneously help us internalise and operationalise what we hold dear.

But. They are not sacred in and of themselves.

Traditions are valuable, when they actually help us remember our values

Inherited habits are worthy, are worth our time, when they provide solution to the question they are answering.

If they don’t, then maybe we need to revisit them.

Please hear me. This is not about change for change’s sake. This post is not about forgetting traditions.

but it IS about the consideration of them

What are you doing that no longer needs to be done?

I’ll give you another example. My husband and I have forcibly become very familiar with the cartoon My Little Pony over the past couple of years. There is an episode where the pony Applejack, an apple farmer, has a day off, leaving an extensive and elaborate list of tasks for her friends to complete in her absence. The thing was, the intricate steps detailed to complete the chores were often unnecessary: previously timid pets no longer needed to be coaxed inside to be fed, and jobs with machinery no longer needed to be completed by hand. With a few adjustments to the process, her friends completed the list in record time. When she arrived home, Applejack had a hard time understanding how effective her friends were; it took perspective to understand that processes that were once central and necessary were perhaps no longer needed.

Growth required an adjustment of process.

Tradition needed a reconsideration.

SO I ask you again; What are you doing that no longer needs to be done?

If we have traditions, processes, habits in our family, workplace, community, and they still ‘do the job’ –

that is – remind us of the value that we hold dear

solve the problem that exists

then GREAT. We can continue in the same practice. That’s excellent. We are given a renewed sense of purpose and security in ourselves.

But if they don’t,

if they are precarious, taxing, hurtful or limiting,

what can we do about it?

We can be grateful for the practices, processes and traditions that brought us to where we are. But we don’t have to continue to be a slave to the tradition in order for its legacy to be held in tact. Acknowledgement doesn’t necessarily require perpetual continuation.

it might be a freeing thing to cease an activity that is no longer helpful – or even is now painful

if might be a game changer to simply adjust or modify the practice – like leaving a gap on the ice cube tray.

What are you doing that no longer needs doing?

You don’t have to fill up the ice cubes to the top.

x

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