It’s hearing that song play through headphones. There is something familiar about, and so it makes you feel real. There’s comfort in the known, even the sour and sickly feelings of anxiety or the heavy footed pounding of depression. We are adaptable humans, to the point where our resilience, our motivation to survive, will turn any practiced state into something we can use - namely a false sense of security.
It’s an old friend that you should have broken up with years ago. There’s no enhancement happening by the two of you feeding the connection. And yet, you know her habits and thus their is something warming in the predictability. She’ll always choose the precisely wrong words at the right time to make part of you ache. She’ll forget to call on your birthday, you’ll disagree on most principles of your lives, she’ll disrespect your desire to travel, there will be an unnameable rivalry between the two of you, and she’ll never fully respect or accept any of your lovers. There is always something too big about your plans, too small about the event of the day. A quiver of sarcasm in almost every response.
It’s the habit you watch yourself performing as if you had removed left your body. Left the flawed physical container that does the same thing (or says the same thing or, thinks the same thing, or responds in the same way etc) as you watch from above. A movie that inevitably plays out in the same way every time. All you can do it watch and try to notice evidence of a root sticking out. Try to see, from your vantage point, if a tip of the root is exposed, poking through the surface, hoping to make itself seen so that is can be finally understood. Visibility is what we wall want, even our layered habits. If it’s there, you can trace it from the tip, from the seen bit, deeper back into the unseen, into what lurks beneath that causes the familiar, safe pattern to play out each time. It’s insane, and somehow, on some level, there is a surge of connection, a warmth of familiarity that flushes though you each time the pattern is performed.
With each day, new stimuli, and unpredictable happenstance, we search for ways to assert control. For some of us, it means living in way that is not serving us simply because it is familiar. It means choosing certainty over unknown because of its accessibility. Our intellect can play with pieces that it can understand. Math equations can be much more comforting than a blank, boundary-less page.
I speak from the frustration of familiar feelings rising up. I try to trade the disappointment of feeling, again, for curiosity as to what I still need to learn. For me, the feeling of inadequacy, of uncertainty to whether I have “what it takes” or “enough to offer” or if I “fit the part” is a tired run-around in my mind. However it has become a familiar part of my life. Daresay a friend.
Like being too old to ride the merry-go-round and having exciting plans to step outside of the amusement park entirely, and yet there is the big plastic horse with the red saddle and painted rose in its mane. There you are, just one more time, climbing on board, the familiar feeling not causing any surge of joy or childlike wonder, simply prompting, with slight shame you’re aware, an illusion of control of certainty. Here, you know what will happen. Round and round you go.
Perhaps the practice becomes full surrender. Not only to the truth of the greater unknown, but also a giving over of the need to know when and how the music will stop playing, the friend will stop calling, and the ride will be over. Maybe it is the moment we trace the root as far as we can and then choose to fully accept what we find and what remains hidden. Acceptance, full and whole, without judgement or need to be any different, might be a supportive kind of comfort. One that stands in for familiarity. Acceptance is the pair of shoes that makes you realize just how worn out your others were; how much pain they caused you.
I’m considering the possibility that radical acceptance is the kindest gift I can offer myself. Accepting of: the choices I’ve made, not knowing what is going to happen, the feelings that rise and fall and seek to drown out any other awareness, the people who will or will not be there, those who will or will not say the things I want to hear, knowing how this great amusement park will stay in business, the inspiration that will flow forth and that which will halt just shy of my doorstep, my heart and all of its tragic and valiant attempts to navigate this experience as Erin.
Whole acceptance. It’s a deep breath. It’s an elongated exhale. It’s my own arms wrapped around my body. It’s unfaltering self-care. I trust that at some grand point, it becomes more comfortable, more familiar than the detail that I worked each day, with tenderness, to accept.