Embracing the Familiar

Comparison far too frequently steals our joy. It’s difficult to avoid, as we compare in all areas of life: with our careers, our belongings, our opportunities (or lack thereof), perhaps even our relationships.

Even just one of these areas, or another, can be a bear to reckon with on a daily basis. And when we spend too much time wallowing in them, they can leave us feeling depleted and defeated. Sapped. Depressed. Frustrated. Angry.

Yet, there is so much goodness in our lives we fail to see. So much blessedness longing to be recognized with joy and gratitude. Will we choose to see it for what it is?

What we need is a tactic to fend off comparison, or at least to muffle its conniving Siren song. I suggest focusing on gratitude, fostering contentment, and taking joy in the little things. Rather than looking around outside of your immediate context to see what others have or are doing, focus instead on the gifted reality surrounding you. Take a look with fresh eyes. Consider how much you have to be grateful for. Remind yourself how much you really do enjoy what you’ve been given.

When it comes specifically to the physical items that you own, this tactic may be summed up in a phrase: choose to like what you have.

This may sound kind of silly, but I think it is a powerful mindset we can foster. Too often, we become accustomed to our belongings in a way that causes them to feel “old” or “shabby” even if they are somewhat new and in good condition. We need to be wary of the appeal that novelty can have and recognize that such allure is just a ploy. All novelty fades. If that’s what we value, we’ll never be satisfied.

When such feelings arise, if we can recognize that the sense of appeal those novel things have is not a lasting value (and would soon fade if we actually acquired that thing), we can more easily combat the pull toward discontentment with our own belongings.

We need to recognize, too, that what appears new and shiny to us is perhaps familiar and well-beloved by others. This signals a reality we tend to get backward. For whatever complex combination of reasons, we tend to value the novel over the familiar. It’s strange. I don’t know how much to blame our “throwaway” society, but we seem to have lost a love for the familiar.

But the familiar is the known. The familiar is that with which we share a history, beloved memories to cherish and recall. Why do we fail to notice and give heart space to the little things that play significant, even if quotidian, roles in our everyday, ordinary lives?

A mug that fits just right into the palm of your hand. Shoes that have carried you across paths old and new. A bag that has contained the essentials—and delightful non-essentials—for numerous adventures, past and future. A blanket that has nestled you close, keeping you cozy through autumn and winter chills. Wooden spoons that have mixed everything from oatmeal to Thai curries.

The novel is indeed alluring; there is no denying it. But when we allow it to take our eyes—and our hearts—away from the beloved familiar, we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of. My it be so no longer. Let us choose to see, to value, and to like what we have, where we are, and whom we are with.

What “familiar” can you embrace anew?

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