Clinging to the Familiar

And now I understand something so frightening and wonderful-
how the mind clings to the road it knows,
rushing through crossroads, sticking
like lint to the familiar.  – Mary Oliver

IMG_2037I found a new to me Oliver quote here . The first time I read the quote I thought she was admonishing the reader for clinging to the known and avoiding the unknown. But on a second reading, I realized she was giving the familiar a loving nod. Are you really stuck in place when you cling to the known path and resist temptation to make an unplanned turn? Is it terrible if your mind resembles lint, that sticky unwanted detritus of other things? Is there anything wrong with this if you’re happy and not secretly longing for something else? Is that secret longing artifact of insecurity or mistrust with allowing yourself to be happy in just the very spot you are?

And what’s wrong with being happy where you are? What’s wrong with being happy in your comfort zone?


As long as your zone isn’t a repository for excuses masking life long messages of scarcity thinking or a place of fear, self-loathing, and distrust. Then it’s the trap of living half a life.

For the first time in a long time, the lint of the familiar engulfs me. I’ve purposefully knit a sweater out of this lint and wrapped around my shoulders. It’s cozy and warm. This familiar is enough. For the first time in decades I don’t feel I’m failing at life or some higher calling. I’m not failing my life because I’m not actively writing those books my imagination is percolating. I don’t feel like writing those books this spring. I want to be outside or reading when I’m not working. I’m writing daily but I’m not writing towards that goal. Yet.

I’m not stuck because I’m stubbornly hanging on to my job despite my continued ire with the organization and the matrices they use to judge if I’ve met their expectations. Just the other day I was told I have not met those expectations. Funny, my patients think I’m more than meeting their expectations of an insurance company’s nurse. This past week, I had three people—voices thick with tears—tell me how meaningful our calls were: “I had no idea these calls would help me. . .Thank you. . .I’m so glad you kept calling me.” I’m not relating this to stroke my ego but to affirm I’m “stuck” where I should be. I’ve never felt so confident I am exactly where I should be. I’ve never felt so confident if I am fired for not meeting an organization’s algorithmic expectations; it’s not because I’m a terrible nurse nor is it because the Universe is putting into place a plan featuring me a homeless, unemployed beggar and my son unable to complete his education.

In some ways “rushing through the crossroads, sticking like lint to the familiar” is completely foreign to me and out of my usual comfort zone of the mutable life I thought I would be leading. It’s feels more uncomfortable and fearless to allow myself a glut of contentment and the indulgence of a complaisance life. I think I never allowed myself the luxury of being still because I was afraid opportunities would be missed and never return. I’ve no doubt the Universe will tell me when it’s time to shed this sweater and don another familiar. Until then, this sweater fits nicely and is keeping me more than comfortable.

About Laura

When my nest emptied I moved from the big city to a little big town to tend to a ramshackle yellow house on the edge of town. These are my Yellow House Days.
This entry was posted in Just me, spring. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Clinging to the Familiar

  1. Ah! Love how you have a completely different take on the quote, Laura. Your post reminds me of something I had as my FB profile picture – from BoneSighArts : More than ever I want to trust a journey that I don’t understand. 🙂
    Thanks for the link back. So glad we connected.


  2. I like how you upended conventional thinking in this post. As long as the familiar isn’t comfortable in its discomfort, ain’t nothin’ wrong with clinging, not in my view!


    • Laura says:

      I was worried my “comfort” was inertia but after meditation on just this I realized it’s simply comfortable without a hint of subtext.


  3. Hi Laura! I love your perspective on this because it reminds me that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being happy right where you are! I think most of us are so conditioned to believe that we have to do things, be things, have things all the time that we never give ourselves permission just to breathe. And I don’t think that we have to be unhappy to evolve either. When we are listening to our guidance, and accepting ourselves as we are, how can our future be anything than exactly right for us. Thank you for reminding me of these truths. ~Kathy


    • Laura says:

      You are more than welcome and glad I pay forward a reminder after all I’ve learned from your journey. This is the first time in my life growth has come from happiness rather than desperation or disaster. It’s a nice change. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s