When the Strange Becomes Familiar

For those of us whom like things familiar, who like things that are the same, drastic change can be disruptive emotionally. It’s similar to when a relative dies and after a year the image of them in your mind begins to fade just a little, like the sun at the end of a winter day. And that can be scary; it can be emotionally difficult to swallow. I think that’s why we value pictures so much in our society.

For those of us who’ve gone through a divorce after 20 years of being married, whether or not it’s amicable, 20 years of familiarity is disturbed, things change fast and the environment you operate in afterwards is completely different. When you wake up in the morning you look through a different mirror, you sleep in a different bed, and you eat at a different table than you did before. You may not even fully recognize the person staring back at you in the mirror. Your world has changed and will never be the same, and regardless your psyche has a difficult time accepting that. There may be days when you drive home and realize it’s no longer your home and you must re-route, when the season changes and you realize you won’t be raking the yard or pruning the gardens or tuning up the snow blower anymore.

All of this is strange and new, but after a year, all the strangeness becomes familiar and the familiar begins to fade just a little. Going home to your apartment, eating at a different table and sleeping in a different bed with a strange light peering through the curtains starts to become the new familiar. When that happens, after so many years of the same, you begin to mourn the past. You become sad when you think of that spot in the den you have been meaning to repair, or you look around your apartment and miss the molding you worked so hard on cutting and mounting. You no longer get to sit out on that patio, close your eyes, feel the fall breeze caress your face and listen to the birds perched far above you in the old Maple tree on Sunday mornings, because it’s no longer your space.

Your new space becomes familiar and safe, and it’s yours and it’s different and it might even be exciting, but you still miss some of the old, and mourn it. So one day on your way home from work, you know no one’s at the old house, so you drive by for old time’s sake, you pause and look at the yard, the gardens you worked so hard to construct, the flowers and the plants you loved and cared for are slowly dying and getting choked out by weeds and becoming overgrown and it makes you sad, and you weep. You know you must let it go, it’s no longer yours, it belongs to someone else, they are not your shoes sitting on the patio any longer and even the rake leaning against the side of the garage is new and unfamiliar.

20 years is a long time to watch fade away into the distance, to let drift away with the rain water rolling over the curb out front, past the un-kept, overgrown garden on the boulevard. Your heart aches, your stomach becomes upset and your vision grows blurry…must be the rain. And yet, when the clouds separate, and the sun pours over you, you realize the world is bigger than that one space, you know now that it is possible to move on and to grow and evolve and find happiness in the strange and familiar.


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