Repetition: Can You Spot The Differences?
“Sometimes I feel that what we do and what we say is just a repetition, that’s it’s all happened before,’ I said.
‘Déjà vu,’ he said, his voice flat.
‘No, not that, not identical – vaguely the same, like we’re trapped in a pattern or an idea that we can’t give up, that leads us by the nose…”
― Siri Hustvedt, The Blindfold
I am noticing there’s quite some repetition in my life at the moment.
Patterns I thought I had escaped from, have returned as if they’d been lurking around the corner all along. People who had left my life, or the area where I live, have returned without warning. Even the tourists are coming back in waves that I recognize from last year.
Me, I have taken a seat in the midst of all this, and am still wondering how I should take it.
Whether it’s from experience or because society/people say so, repetition feels like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, if we repeat something often – as a practice – we will get better at it. That’s why (one of the reasons) I meditate every morning. It’s why I run the same track, several times a week, and make it a longer run when I feel I’ve practiced the distance enough. This is where repetition induces progress. On the other hand, repetition can feel like nothing has changed at all. When we’re trying to break a habit, succeed for a while only to fall back into it, it feels as if we’re back to square one. This is where repetition adds to frustration.
Well, I don’t know. Repetition doesn’t guarantee a predictable future – never mind how much it makes us feel stuck at times.
What I’ve decided to do, though – thanks to the practice of writing down this experience – is to look for the differences. To recognize the patterns, the repetitions, and to regard them as versions of “Can you spot the [add number] differences in this picture?”.
No matter how similar the situation seems to me, I am not the same person as I used to be. On a physical level, my cells have renewed themselves; on a mental level my thoughts have changed. As a result, my perception of a repetition will be different. Which is where it becomes most interesting for me, personally: where do I act/react differently; where do I behave the same? How do I look at this person/situation now – with the knowledge and life lessons I’ve learned since the last time we met/this occurred?
Repetition isn’t about stuckness, it’s about practice. What I didn’t get right last time, I can do better this time. And if I don’t manage this time, there’s probably going to be a next time…