Repeat/Encore/Again


I am starting to wonder why we get so concerned when a person of a certain age starts repeating themselves.  When an elderly relative starts telling us the same joke they've told us the last five times we have visited,  we quietly roll our eyes but we accept it as  more or less a natural part of ageing.  I had gotten quite used to hearing "backpack" (aka Dora) and "doggie" over and over when my kids were really little, but it seems that 7 year olds repeat themselves quite a lot too.  And families repeat stories over and over telling each other about that hot July day 37 years ago and the origin of that scar under your chin. 

At first, I thought it was a mix up and that was the reason my daughter forgot that she'd already told me about her classmate bonking her head on her birthday.  But no, it seems like that story and many others like it need to be re-told (over and over)---as does, reciting lines from movies my kids watch.  

I'm sure the same goes for other later stages too.  However, at some point between my late teens and my early twenties, I started prefacing almost every story with, "stop me if I've told you this before".  Suddenly, it really mattered that I not repeat myself.  Suddenly there were restrictions on how many times a story could be told. With some friends, I won't intervene because I know where they are going with it and I like the comfort of hearing it again. It is part of how I first got to know them and why I like to be with them. For others, who I know less well, when I hear a story be re-told one too many times, I can feel myself mentally ticking a box beside them stating, oh one of those.

My husband always says that he knows I'm stressed when he catches me reading one of my favourite childhood books, Busybody Nora or Ramona.  I seek solace in the repetitive narrative that I know all too well without reading it but get some sense of renewal from the act of reading itself.  When my daughter was younger, we read something that said kids actually get more out of movies when they see it many times.  They can't take it all in at once and so now its not a big deal to me that they have watched Mathilda 25 times.

Repeating is something we do to seek connection and meaning.  Maybe we should ease up on ourselves and not be so stringent about coming up with new material.

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