I have a favorite pair of shoes tucked away in my closet, my go to shoes when comfort is the main motivation. They are not much to look at, definitely nothing remotely trendy, but I have had them for many years and no other pair fits me more perfectly. It has been suggested more than once I might want to replace them with something a bit newer, perhaps a bit nicer. No way. I plan to hang on to those old loafers. They will always have a place in my closet and my heart.
Familiar things bring a sense of security. There is a certain comfort knowing you don’t have to learn something new. It is reassuring realizing what worked in the past will keep on working now. Whether an old pair of shoes or a comfortable chair, a tried and true walking path or a coffee mug that is just the right size and fit for our hand, our favorite things are favorite because we know them well and they work for us.
As we get older, familiarity can become even more significant. My wife sometimes suggests I might want to get out there to meet new people, make new friends. Adding to my social circle is a good idea. Why not seek out like minded folks who share similar interests and passions? I get it. That said I am happy with the handful of friends I consider close. We have known each other for years. We have a history together with shared memories good and bad. If we do not connect for a year, when we finally do we pick up right where we left off. Conversations do not have to be long and involved – we get to the point quickly and can enjoy a shared silence as much as discussion. We are comfortable with each other. How likely is it I will find any additions to this short but sweet list?
Most of us have a favorite author or two, writers whose story telling magic embraces us and whose future publications routinely make it onto our Christmas and birthday wish list. I have read Stephen King since I was in high school and his newest novel – whatever it is – is on my list to Santa. The way he paints a picture effortlessly draws me into the book. I call his works my “bike books” since I regularly read them while on the stationary bike. As soon as I begin reading I am hooked and before I know it my 30 minute workout is done. My wife and kids and parents all have a handful of authors they are loyal to. Each tells a story in a way that appeals to their individual tastes. Each is like a familiar breath of fresh air. You know you are hooked when you deliberately limit your reading time because you don’t want the story to end. You know it will be a good book because of who wrote it.
The generation before us is just as entrenched in familiar things. My parents are each 83 living in the same house they have since I was seven. Over the years they have made various improvements on the structure, adding a few rooms, redoing the kitchen, the usual things. But they are still in the same neighborhood with many of the same people who have been there for decades. Within a block radius they know who lives at each house along with their individual story. They love the fact they can go away and ask any of a number of neighbors to take care of their mail and plants. The folks have a few favorite restaurants in the immediate vicinity and within each of those establishments they enjoy favorite dishes – often. Certain routines have become ingrained including 9:00 mass on Sunday followed up by a trip to the farmers market and then Trader Joes. Mom plays bridge on Monday and Thursday with the same group of women she has for decades. Having a regular predictable schedule keeps you moving forward providing a reason to get out of bed each day.
Familiar things are just comfortable. You don’t have to navigate confusing instructions that inevitably frustrate new users. There are no unexpected surprises unless a new chef is in the kitchen or the local neighborhood store closes. You can count on what has been to remain constant. It feels safe.
It looks like it is time for another cup of coffee brewed just the way I like it as I look out on that familiar view across the canyon. Then perhaps a walk downtown for one of those awesome burritos at Kathy’s Kitchen. I just might mix it up a bit this afternoon with a little gardening first and my work out after. Whatever the case it sure feels good doing what I like where I like it for as long as I like.