Noah and I went on a Daddy date to the big sandbox playground and Lowe’s this week, and I noticed I knew where I was going without the GPS.
Reminded me of touring days when I’d be a week and a half into a new city, and the (paper!) map from the rental car company’d start to seep into memory.
I’m a map nerd.
When I lived in London, I studied the A to Zed before bed to plan the next day’s bike route.
It was one part deep curiosity (the same fascination that had me reading Webster’s before bedtime as a kid) and one part abject dread of being clueless.
I wasn’t the same after that brush with physical demise, but my cross-traffic right turns were on point and double checked thereafter.
I had huge fears around being ignorant.
So much so that during the fall when I studied in London, I never even hopped on a plane to nearby countries where the first language wasn’t English.
While my open-container-carrying schoolmates were EasyJetting off to Amsterdam for a peak at the Anne Frank annex and ready access to cannabis, I stayed in Foggy London Town.
I told myself there was more in the UK to discover than someone could learn in five lifetimes. While I was right about that, I was also terrified of being outside the knowledge club.
I also harbored a vow not to be like my fellow countrymen swaggering into pubs expecting table service and hog-calling place names ending in “ham” like all geographic locations were situated in central Alabama.
🚗🛻🚛 But yeah, the two-lane highways in our corner of the Boston burbs are becoming familiar, and I still encounter taut anxiety when I roll up on a new sitch.
I power-walked past an acre and a half of empty parking spaces at the commuter rail station last week because I errrked our lil green Scion into the first parking spot I saw after navigating my way through Framingham’s Byzantine one-ways. (You do say Framing-HAM here, to be fair.)
Then there was track work. 🛤
(I’d learned the hard way after being on the wrong right platform to stand on the pedestrian overpass to peep which side the train’s actually arriving on.)
All this new everything reminded me of something I tell you all the time—learning to sing is about making the unfamiliar familiar.
And the unfamiliar makes my body seize up like a possum staring into high beams on a country curve at midnight.
It’s why I get to be a teacher. I get to teach you what I need to learn.
Your brain always wants to fill in a story.
I’m told by science-y folk that this is because our ancient neural structures know that accurate prediction of future events equals staying alive.
😯A twig snaps in the woods behind you? Watch your six.
😯Sudden movement in your peripheral vision? Check your three.
😠That doodoo butt Freddy from the front desk looks at you a lil bit sideways?—Freddy, observe your twelve.
We’re always filling in stories.
Just ask my wifey.
I’ll do the half-hour-later-in-the-car, “Um, so when you said ‘Can you put the milk in the fridge?’ earlier, was that just about the milk, or was that about leaving my T-shirts inside-out in the dirty clothes again?”
Brené Brown teaches a great tool that she and her husband use. They say, “The story that I just made up about…”
About what you said,
About the eyebrow raise,
About the way your voice went up in pitch at the end of that phrase.
I’m the king of story. 👑
When Melissa and I engage in our more passionate discussion moments, she can say something about my behavior that’s frustrating her, and I can bust a hard Louie to, “Oh, so I guess that makes me a….”
Fill in the mad lib with your own shame noun.
My brain can tell an entire Aristotelian three-act about what a sheet-head my wife must think I am based on hearing that she wants me to listen to and empathize with her.
My brain’s tryina find the familiar
️🧠: “THAT’s what THIS means. It’s like that previous experience. And THAT one. You already know what THIS is about.”
This script is the end to all curiosity, new intel, growth, and trust.
It dismisses anything new with the astygmatized lens of the past that thinks it knows.
It skips over what’s really there in order to see what it made up.
This is familiarity. And it’s imaginary.
When I panic-parked 278 empty spaces away from the train platform, my brain said, “Just take this spot. You won’t get another CHAAANCE!”
When I didn’t get an £87 plane ticket to Charles DeGaulle in college, my brain said, “You’ll get lost, and you’ll look STUPID.” (Because French strangers care. 🥖🇫🇷)
When I decide Melissa is calling me a turd when she’s trying to tell me how she feels, my brain says, “Conflict means an attack on your identity—DEFEND!”
And you see, my brain’s being real helpful. I mean that. He’s tryina try.
He’s like Gollum telling Sméagol HE’s the one who helped them survive.
But meanwhile you’re obsessed with the One Ring, and you’re pounding fish on rocks for afternoon snack, and you’re alone with an ever-increasing life expectancy. Oof.
Your brain may do similar things when you
💡learn a new way to make a sound,
📖 discover a new way to find your way into a story,
🎭 play with a new way to pretend you’re somebody else so that you can sing a tale that could change someone else’s life.
When I’m on the balance train, I say to myself, “This is my chance to make the unfamiliar familiar.”
I hug my beautifully ignorant beginner brain, and I put one unsure foot in front of the other. (This’ll be my entire first semester at the BoCo, I’m sure.)
It feels wobbly and risky, and it is.
And it’s a terrific way to cultivate awkward openness that creates the opportunities for joy and connection that only awkward openness can.
I hope this week we’ll be tuned into the tales our sweet brains weave, and I hope you’ll remember most of all that
There’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.
ps Speaking of Brits shouting “Wankaaaaah!”, are you on the Ted Lasso train yet?
Melissa and I jumped on this week, and we love.
His character may be my spirit animal—if I were a Midwestern American football coach who took a job managing a Premier League football club in greater London. I recommend.
🍁Have you noticed the stores got their autumn out already? And I’m like, y’all, it’s AUGUST.
But I sure did get an iced coffee with a punkin swirl from Dunkies yesterday.
One sip, I was ready to don the orange cardie, light the cinnamon candle, and get out my official basic beech scarf menagerie 🧣.
I love me some fall, and I’m gonna dive into the New England magic like a leaf pile sprinkled with toasted marshmallows. 🍂