Every morning, I make my bed. For the past four years, I’ve slept on a queen-sized mattress on the floor, so my bed-making consists not of tucked sheets or fluffed pillows, but one simple maneuver: the spreading out of my duvet, which is often twisted and crumpled and bunched in a heap when I wake up. Sometimes I’ll fan out my duvet several times, until it sufficiently covers the expanse of my mattress and has as few wrinkles as possible. The rest of my room can be in absolute shambles, but my bed—which is often where I write and work, and has been a place of refuge for me since childhood—must be inviting for when I next need it. Even if all else fails, at least I know I can come home to something that appears orderly and pleasant. At least there is the reminder that I began my day with the best of intentions.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about ritual. I’ve been making my bed every morning for the past fifteen years, mostly because it was recommended as a meditative and metaphorical solution to the idea of daily renewal. Silly and cliché as it may sound, it works for me and my mindset, in the same way rising with the sun and going for a jog works for others. Other rituals I’ve adopted: getting a cup of coffee before work; doing a crossword before bed; brewing a mug of tea before sitting down to write; typesetting my writing to 11-point Minion Pro, single-spaced, and ridding the draft of headers and footers, all before I even begin. These are just a handful of the markers of my life, unexceptional and minute to everyone else, but meaningful to me. I subsist on these minor details. Whether or not it’s true, I’ve come to believe they steady me. I return to these small practices because they permit me a certain kind of solace. In the same way making my bed helps temper any anxiety I feel facing a new day, these rituals keep me pushing forward: Now I can work. Now I can sleep. Now I can write.
One of the things I love most about Midnight Breakfast is how frequently we publish stories of surprise. As a reader, you’ll be humming along, and then—bam—the narrative will do a one-eighty, flinging you in a completely different direction. It’s always a good fling, though, a welcome catapult, and in Issue Nine, there is much trajectory to be had. Here, characters real and imagined perform their own rituals, returning to the details that matter most to them. But unlike my own relationship with ritual—and perhaps yours—the outcomes of these ceremonies are not always predictable. Even when we revisit the things we think we know best, the things that provide comfort and ease and help propel us onward, there’s always the possibility that the unexpected will take place. There’s always the possibility that chaos will tiptoe back in.
Issue Nine is as much about routine and habit and the steps we take to tether ourselves to the world, as it is about the many ways that tether can wear thin and send us spinning in new directions. I hope you enjoy it.