Ritual Pearls

“The itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the waterspout. Down came the rain and washed the spider out. Out came the sun and dried up all the rain and the itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the spout AGAIN.”

How many times do spiders have to begin over (and over AGAIN) when some trespasser or storm disrupts their carefully constructed home? We have this in common with spiders – transitioning!

Transitions are everywhere these days: from job changes to retirement, from belated weddings post-pandemic to divorces, from bodily repairs to death of loved ones. The pandemic stopped many in their web-building. It may be time to address some transition in your life. The pandemic is a transitioning coach.

Instead of focusing on isolation, some individuals savor working from home. Extra time and expense saved from a non-commute worklife seem too good to be true. Zoom created job flexibility. Many retirees learned how to zoom and find much to like about safe possibilities. Zoom weddings and divorces are not so desirable, while zooming doctor appointments and memorial services have both pluses and minuses.

Author and host of two prime-time series on PBS, Bruce Feiler has a new book: Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age. Feilercollected 225 life stories from people of all ages and backgrounds from all 50 states. He copied Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in engaging strangers in what the loner philosopher once referred to as “people baths.” Here are a few tidbits Feiler discovered in his 3-year-long “people bathing:”

  • We go through transitions more frequently today.
  • Today we face an epidemic of disruptions or lifequakes.
  • Our ability to handle lifequakes has not increased to keep up with so many changes.
  • 87% of lifequakes were personal; 13% were collective.
  • 43% of people’s transitions were voluntary (originated by the individuals), while 57% were involuntary (as in being fired at work or divorced).
  • 75% admitted that their biggest lifequake necessitated a re-write of their life story.
  • People enter a transition before their mind even realizes it.
  • Even if you do not mark a transition in some way, your body may remember.
  • Rituals or ceremonies can add meaning in transitions as they restore belonging and purpose.

Although we seldom think about it this way, minister Robert Fulghum points out that our lives are “endless ritual” (From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives). While graduations, weddings, and memorial services are common rituals, commemoration rituals are incredibly diverse. They may be public or private, spontaneous or arranged.

Are you re-writing your life story after any lifequake you may have in your life? People have a need to name their many transitions and find rituals to commemorate them.

Are there spider considerations of where to recreate the next web? Is it time to downsize? Does the spider take time for any ritual before beginning the new web?

 Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

103. What transitions have you experienced in pandemic times?

104. How might you create unique rituals for your transitions?  

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


  1. I am glad to have new learning happen in these blog posts. I may have gone “overboard” with the spider reference. Most people do not want to have something in common with any spiders! How far does the interdependent web of ALL existence extend, anyway?


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