The husband loves watching TV. Every time I turn around he’s eight episodes deep into some new show that either he found himself or his friends suggested to him. He’ll try anything and if he loves it he’ll watch it right through to the end. He has his favorites for sure, but he has a thirst for the new. He is tireless in his efforts to include me in his enjoyment of a multitude of tv shows and movies. It is a chance for us to share an experience and talking about what we’re watching helps him feel like we are close, like we are together.

As the gift is offered, it is desired to be returned. Over the past week or so the husband has been asking me what I would like to watch. He wants me to suggest something new, something we can explore and discover together. I think he sees me absorbed in books, a pastime he does not particularly enjoy or share with me, and wants to have something in common. Given that I do enjoy movies and tv, it seems a reasonable place for him to start. And so I tried to think of something I wanted to watch.

The trouble I encountered was with the word new. I have a long list of things I would like to watch, but they are favorites, old friends watched over and over again, familiar to my eyes and ears. If you ask me what I want to watch, I’ll pull up The Office, Bob’s Burgers, or maybe something like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver or The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (I like my tough issues presented to me with comedy). My movies include Lord of the Rings and the unnecessarily stretched out Hobbit trilogy, Harry Potter, any Marvel movie (except Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: Civil War), and Pacific Rim if I can find it.

Any of these choices would be easy to pick and put on, but the husband wanted new. The fact that I didn’t want to watch anything he suggested, or that he had to watch certain things alone, had made him feel lonely and disconnected. He wanted me to participate. He wanted me to give him some indication of what I wanted to watch, since so many of his shows had been rejected, and in a way he himself had also been rejected. Psychologically me not wanting to watch his shows translated to me not wanting to be with him.

I heard him. Instead of digging in my heels I tried. I opened Netflix and clicked around, looking at the tv series and movies available there. It was like looking at a bunch of blank pages. They all looked the same to me. Nothing stood out. I clicked past Glow and Orange is the New Black and a dozen other famous Netflix series that are on all the “best of” lists. All these shows were like the opposite polarity of a magnet, close but still pushing my magnet away. We suffered through one episode of “Nailed It,” a show about people who are already not-so-good bakers trying to do a Pinterest copy of some professional bake to win $10,000, but that was the best I could do on my own.

So because I value communication and support in my relationships, I reflected on why this might be an impossible task for me in this moment. I have many shows that I know I like or liked in the past. Shows like Justified or the Sherlock Holmes BBC seasons were shows I ate up and started new. Why did none of these critically acclaimed shows draw me in?

In the past twelve months I lot has happened to me. The trauma and end to my job last June. The return to a job I am good at but is very stressful for me. I ended my relationship with my parents after surviving a hurricane while I was surviving the poverty brought on by the loss of the aforementioned job. My new job was full of people who liked nothing more than to make me feel like I wasn’t wanted, ignoring and isolating me with their behavior, all of that culminating in a schedule for the following year that would make my life even more stressful during the workday. I was able to get a new job, one that I am excited about, but it requires me to learn three new courses – their content and the pedagogy – that I have not taught before or learned for myself in a very long time. In addition to personal matters, the world is on fire and my efforts to stay informed and active only stress my mind with worries and anxieties about the future. If I truly assess the last year overall, psychologically it has not been a good time. I would go see my therapist but she isn’t part of the Florida Blue (BCBS) network anymore and way too expensive for me to afford on my own so I guess I have to find a new therapist too.

Watching The Office or Harry Potter over and over is like having a small stone in my pocket that I have worn smooth by rubbing it between my fingers. If I don’t have to look at the screen to know what is happening, if I can recite the words that Dwight says in an episode, or the usual good quotes from LOTR, even better. The flashy colors and battles of the Avengers calm me. They are all lucky pennies or soft rabbits’ feet. Talismen I can carry with me as comfort in…well…whatever times these are.

I may not have the capacity to welcome the new into my heart right now. I might not have the patience or the room for disappointment if something I pick turns out to be a dud. Perhaps I’m avoiding the possibility that a new show or movie might move my emotions too far and make them more difficult to manage. This all sounds a little over dramatic, but it also feels true.

We had already started the Amazon series Sneaky Pete, so we compromised and started the second season of this show that I was already familiar with. I didn’t even really want or care to do that, but now that we have started I am enjoying it. We talk about what happens and what we think will happen, and this pleases the husband. I hope he understands that more than the familiar may not be of much interest to me for a while, but I will let him know when I see something new I want to try. I hope I can find good ways to communicate this to him so that he can respect what I want while still feeling loved/cared for by and connected to me. That’s the goal.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to return my attention to The Fellowship of the Ring. Aragorn is being real angsty about his destiny and Bilbo is giving Sting to Frodo and making the angry face over the Ring. It was a stressful Sunday and I’m off to relax before the week ahead.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

One thought on “Familiarity

  1. Wow, Amanda, your marriage sounds like mine; my hubs doesn’t do much reading (says it always put him to sleep) & is always wanting me to watch cop shows–which I can’t stand–with him, sigh. He has been watching Westworld with me; and 1 show (miniseries unfortunately) I’ve been watching by myself is Dietland on the AMC channel. I also suggested the excellent book by Sarai Walker it’s based on to my face2face bkclub & they accepted it, yay!

    Also just watched an excellent STARZ documentary, The Rape of Recy Taylor; so good. (Angry-making–like Dietland–but so good.)

    So I am reading & definitely angry; and am working on being brave. You hang in there, gal. Hugs & peace.

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