The power of the Familiar

It is odd this. That the more something becomes familiar, the more its power increases. The more we take it for granted, the more its familiarity increases … and thus goes the cycle of the Familiar.

The Familiar feels so Good. That old bedsheet without which I cannot sleep. That old dress which I am not willing to throw away. That chair (!)- I get so angry when someone else sits on it. My room with its view, the sounds. The people, their idiosyncracies which I hate on one hand and yet will not like it to change. The television series, the old film which I have seen 7 times. The taste of choco-bar, which I have loved for over so many years…. the list is endless.

But these are the small, petty, day-to-day things. There are bigger, more difficult things.

The familiarity of the smell of cigarette-smoke. The sarcastic comment from a family member and/ or my sarcastic comment to them. The same family stories being repeated again and again for what feels like centuries. The gossip of the neighbour maligning the guy on the top floor … the list is endless.

But these are the mediocre things, that still are day-to-day things. There are bigger things.

The familiarity of a difficulty in a difficult relationship. The toxicity of the words or feelings. The familiarity and comfort of adhering to Convention and falling in line to Social Rules. The familiarity of doing what ‘everyone else does’ (so it has to be the best), the sense of fitting in. The familiarity of hanging on to things and not giving them away for free, but willing to do so if it is part of ‘daan-dharma’. My anger, griping. Your anger and griping. The list is endless.

What I find is my life is driven by the Familiar. The more familiar it is, the more pleasure I take in it. I know what to expect. I know the pay-offs and the pleasures. I know the payments and punishments. I love the Familiar. It gives me a sense of immense comfort. It gives me a sense of substance, a sense of form. It makes me Me. It makes me ‘become’. It makes me feel my existence.

Take away the familiar and I feel greatly unsettled.

A smile from the old grouch next door! What do I do, now? Should I smile back? What about my feelings? What am I expected to feel now??

A pat on the back for a job well done. Oh my gosh ! Is the appreciation real? Is it really meant? Is there a sinister reason behind it? Will the backlash come soon?

An approving hug from Mom. What should I do now? Should I hug her back? Should I feel pleased? Is this for real?

But these are everyday small things. There are bigger things.

My response to my dog’s enthusiastic love. I feel like showing love equally uninhibitedly! Will it be safe? Can I really show I care?

I can go in the dark in Timbaktu. Where is that old, familiar clutch of fear? Fear of ghosts, paranormal and all things unknown.

But these are mediocre things. There are bigger things.

I want to give up my anger towards life. Shit! what will I do with that empty hole it will leave? What will I hold dear if I give up that old familiar feeling of Anger?

I want to stop obsessing about things, about people. Oh gosh ! How will I keep myself occupied? My mind will go haywire.

With the Unknown, I disintegrate. All that defines me starts melting away. I begin to cease to exist. My supports that keep me up crack up. I am left hanging half-way. I feel weak, vulnerable. I do sometimes feel a tremendous sense of Wonder and Awe and the immensity of the Unknown. But it makes me feel insignificant, powerless. I feel swallowed whole.

I struggle back to grasp at the Familiar, just as much as the Unknown pulls me towards it.

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