I walked today. When I finished patient care, I changed clothes, locked all my stuff in my car, put on my iPOD and walked. I listened to a podcast from NPR. NPR edits and packages their segments into categories. I regularly download the NPR books and NPR music podcasts. I listened to an interview with Anne Fadiman about the “familiar essay”. She has a book called At Large and At Small, essays about familiar things. She spoke about writing an essay on coffee. What a luxury, to delve deeply and intensely, albiet briefly, into a topic for a short essay. Drink coffee, read about coffee, make coffee. What a sensual thing.

So much of the sensual is lost to us. How can we feel anything when we are so isolated? When we cordone off ourselves. Our lives are a series of compartments. In the process of organizing and regulating we temper our senses. Touch is blunted. Sound is muted. Tastes are dulled. Vision is blurred. Part of it is numbness. Part of it is speed. But life all around us is sensual and potent. By being detached from it, we have lost all tolerance. We can’t handle the intensity of sensation that comfronts us, so we abstain from it.  

Children are still so pure and have the freedom to feel. They play in mud. They spin in circles until drunk with vertigo. They chew gum just to blow bubbles and make noise. They play in the sprinkler. They draw with markers and doodle. They let ice cream drip down their hands. They dilly dally and linger and dawdle. It is because what ever they are doing has captured their senses. And we fuss at them….hurry up, stop that, come on we are late! We are telling them repeatedly to stop. Stop listening. Stop looking. Stop touching. Stop feeling. Hurry and and be numb.

We miss our childhood because we long for the luxuriousness of sensuality. It is far more than sexuality. I think about diving into a quiet chlorinated pool. Jumping off the foot bridge and freefalling into the blue-green canal below. The swing at Girl Scout camp over Winding Creek. Eating cold Ring Dings. Dairy Queen dipped cones, sitting on the tailgate of the station wagon. Sitting in a innertude at the Creek at Memaw’s house in Mobile. My first time on Space Mountain. The Super Himalaya at the Youth Fair. Exhilarating and intense. Too many emotions and sensations to name or categorize.

Is this why in adulthood we take up extreme sports? Or take up motorcycle riding or kick boxing? Is it why we eat to being overweight? We are looking for an acceptable,”mature” form of play without appearing to be absurd or flat out crazy? I think tomorrow I will do something silly and ridiculous, if only privately. I will allow myself a simple pleasure. I will try to recall my own mother saying, “Lisa, will you hurry up!” And I will dawdle.

1 thought on “Familiar”

  1. Today I decided I wasn’t gonna try to rush through things, so I went for a walk in the woods. Now this area is part of a park, so it hasn’t changed much in 20 years since I was last there. It was bittersweet as I grew up, remembering my first crush, riding my bike everywhere, or just sitting on the hill where I dreamed of what my life would be. You know you have inspired me to take more time and enjoy things and teach my son to enjoy the simple things, like the outdoors. Thanks for the reminder life isn’t a race to the finish line.

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