Family and familiar come from the same root word. We typically use the word familiar to mean a casual knowing, but when turned into a verb, familiarize, it becomes the act of getting to know someone, especially through repeated interaction over time. This means that you learn the good and the bad in a person and expose the same in yourself.
The phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” expresses the common pattern for people to see faults and flaws in things and people over time. This is the downside of familiarizing yourself with others. It is one reason why we hide ourselves and feel shy when others “see” us . In our modern PC world, being “judgmental” is itself judged as a flaw and this leads many of us to claim we are “non-judgmental,” which is a profound act of self-denial and an attempt to surgical remove one of the most powerful human faculties.
One of the greatest gifts of familiarizing ourselves is this act of precious vulnerability, of “being oneself” in the presence of another. I remember a time with my ex-wife when I got lost in my thought and I actually forgot she was sitting next to me. I caught myself and felt guilty about it at first. Then, I realized that I had become so comfortable with her that I could totally be myself. This was rapidly followed by a clear decision not to tell her that I had forgotten she was there!
The word “noble” comes from the Latin root word meaning “well known.” To familiarize ourselves with another to the point where we see their faults and flaws and still hold them in high esteem, is one of the most beautiful expressions of love. It is an act of grace because it grants them nobility.
Let me familiarize myself with you. I’m not just talking about assorted facts anyone can get to compose an obituary. I want you to know the history of my heart, the tiny tragedies and comical acts of my everyday life. The little intimacies: how the cup of light roast green mountain coffee with cream and sugar sitting on the tile coaster engraved with a hummingbird about to dip into a red flower cluster waits on the left side of my desk while I write love poems to life every morning; how I curse technology for its inability to read my mind and then heap guilt over myself for my pettiness. I want you to know the favored shirt I rarely put on because it is too worn out for public wear and too dear to throw out; to know how I shutter at the walking dead: those troubling tasks I rollover day after day that rise up to suck my energy. I want you to laugh with me at cat antics chasing a string of dental floss and walk with me on a foggy morning when everything is mystery blessed and ripe with possibilities.
I want you to know how poetry has taken me like a wild lover and won’t let me go, how it dares to go into darkened basements and dusty attics and love the unlovable, even while my star-crossed mind says “damn;” or how this muse sneaks into secret gardens and steals beauty while I pride myself for my stealth. I want you to know my own particular style of hunkering down when my eyes are dark and the world has lost its promise to me; to know the bounty of joy I feel in a world turned upside down on the tiny reflected surface of a raindrop on the window.
I want you to know my escape routes from life, those guilty pleasures like binge-watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Netflix while eating a second bag of popcorn knowing I will regret it later. And to know my quirky mannerisms: the sound of my footsteps on a wood floor that tells you it is me long before I appear, or the way my fingers curl at my side when walking, or the place my eyes look when I am touched by life, barely able to fight back the tears. I want you to know all the things unworthy of an obituary, the living facts of my life to become so familiar to you that you know the way into the secret garden of my noble heart.
And now, it is your turn. I want to know what brings you home to yourself and what secret wish awakens with you in the morning. I want to witness the quirks it has taken you a lifetime to perfect without any conscious effort. I want to find a little corner coffee shop and meet you there to share familiar moments and daily acts that make up our lives.
Please share you thoughts and comments below.