The planes don’t bother me anymore. When I first started traveling to Raleigh, NC, the roar of the jets landing and taking off was disturbing. The first few nights, sleeping was impossible, rendered fretful by the random rumblings and vibrations. The deepest slumber couldn’t prevent their intrusions into my mind. Sporadically they bludgeoned me awake, torturing me in tension between denied sleep and imposed consciousness. Tonight I barely notice them, a transient drift of sound, a passing song. The planes don’t bother me anymore.


When does something bothersome get absorbed into our awareness and become normal? What shifts in our perceptions and understandings might allow us to accommodate such a change? Is it a slowly growing numbness like getting accustomed to cold ocean waters on a March morning? Does it happen more suddenly as if the nerves that carried crisp messages of pain suddenly misfired and went silent? Is it a choice? Do we choose to adapt one day and casually flip off the switch of caring? When does the new become old?

 What is that old saying? “The devil we know is better than the devil we fear?” No, that isn’t it, but I know there is one – something about new things becoming old things. “Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.” Yes. It is like getting married, in a way, when the new becomes familiar.


Getting married used to be, or at least we pretend it used to be, a rite of passage when many things formally taboo suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the moment of a kiss and the placement of a ring, are turned to sacred and expected to become normal. Permission from some higher authority gives us consent and instantly we change. Yet, it doesn’t happen so quickly. It takes time for us to travel from the something new to the something old, the familiar something.


We travel, though, finding ways to understand, cope, and even accept things that once surprised us. The towel left on the floor every morning, tucked away in the corner between the tub and the wall annoys us. At first we discuss and argue over the silliness of it.


“Why don’t you just hang it up?”

“I don’t know. I’ll pick it up next time.”


The next time it does get hung neatly on the rack, but soon the ‘next time’ gets lost and there’s the tossed towel, again; a damp, lifeless testimony to some inability to change. Then there comes a moment when we realize that this is a small thing, after all, and there are so many, must be so many, bigger than damp towel things. So we adjust. The cap gets left off the toothpaste and we manage to stop seeing it. The crumbs settle into the sheets and we grow accustomed to the little nuisances, simply brushing them aside to scatter somewhere else.

It isn’t a problem, really, accommodating the nuances of another, is it? Most would say, “No.” But, we have seen it matter. Sometimes it costs us too much.


Who knows when it happened to Sally? Somewhere between the something new and the something old she lost herself. Somewhere beyond the damp towel and a routine of rage she found herself staring at the barrel of a gun pointed at her like an accusing finger, like his finger. She trembled with fear. She stood there with a docile acceptance that kept her stationary when running should have been an option. It was her passive, undaunted acceptance that did her in. The bullet launched from the barrel and punctuated its own message through her skull and brain and into the plaster. She had accommodated too much. Some higher authority had been heard by her alone and commissioned her journey from startling to familiar, too far.


It is a precarious route we maneuver when we make those things new into things old, when we cease to be surprised and alarmed by the unkempt towels, loud noises in the dark and the violations of our peace. Sometimes we travel too far. Tonight I find myself wondering what else has found its passage to benign acceptance in my world along with the planes that don’t bother me anymore.