The familiar usually brings a promise of comfort. Like a pair of faded blue jeans, the things in life we’re used to tend to feel the best and silently assure us that everything’s okay in the world…at least for a little while. Slipping out of work clothes at the end of a tough day, the soft familiar of a well-washed flannel shirt and undemanding jeans for a brief time offers a relaxation unmatched by most artificial methods, and is fortunately calorie free as well. While some people head to bars to unwind after a tough day, you’ll usually find me heading towards my closet for textile relief before finding a long-ignored magazine and settling into the promised comfort of my well-worn reading chair. And if lucky, the nap fairy will ignore me long enough to get in some quiet, quality reading. Nap or not, the world’s chaos melts away in a very short time nestled with such familiar and comfortable companions.
Listening to a recollection CD of Van Morrison while I write this has me thinking how we define comfort in our lives. The soulful wailings of this Irish singer were often a mellowing influence back in college days, and on occasion I’ll listen and fade back to those times I perceive were more comfortable (whether they were or weren’t isn’t the point, only that the trigger works to invoke memories of comfort). While frequently defined by touch or absence of physical irritation, comfort also exists when there’s no emotional resistance. We look for friends and mates whom we can be ourselves with, where we can be comfortable expressing our ideas, or just hang out with. When we choose clothing and furniture, their comfort level is high on our list when making a final decision. And when we struggle with life’s little detours we seek the comfort of those close to us that can offer refuge from these sudden, temporary emotional storms that are often easier to weather than to fight.
What makes each person comfortable varies, of course. We could all list what we consider comforting and I’m sure these lists would reflect a wide variety of tastes. The important thing is not what’s on our lists but that we are conscious of a list and rely on it often. The demands of a driven life frequently don’t allow much attention to comfort in ways that could help de-stress us. Take five, take a breath, take a hike — all these can provide some comfort if we just stop and think often enough to allow them into our lives.
I’ve reached another traumatic level in my weight loss that requires me to let go of some comfortable friends. My favorite blue jeans have become too loose to wear. Unless I intend to let Gypsies camp in these pants while I’m wearing them, it’s time to move them on. The thought of breaking in new jeans is too much right now (or really ever), but fortunately there are resale shops where I can adopt some new-to-me jeans with some of that familiar comfort already built in. Part of the reassurance from faded blue jeans are the quick-flash memories of the years spent breaking them in. While that can’t be replaced by adopting abandoned jeans, I’ll have to be content with their velvet touch to carry me forward until a time when I can begin the familiar process of breaking in new jeans and once again start measuring the cycles of life by the fade of my jeans.