Here, I continue the analogy of comparing cities in which I have lived to lovers.
Austin and I were first introduced about 12 years ago while I was still involved with San Diego. Austin in May is hot in a literal way, but I was easily charmed by our first date to see Willie Nelson play at Stubbs. By the winter solstice that same year we became a couple, a hot-and-cold dynamic for the next year and a half. Eventually, we drifted apart, as I moved on to uncharted waters.
Now, returning to Austin feels like any reunion with an ex-[insert appropriate title here], many years after a tumultuous break-up and some rekindling attempts over the intervening decade. I feel both excitement and caution.
Recognizing that anyone with a few relationships under the belt will reflexively enter the trap of comparison with past experiences, I also acknowledge this habit serves as a sword and shield, depending on the characteristic being referenced. Certainly, this applies to any new relationship, not just one entering a sequel phase. By comparing, one may be trying to avoid any semblance of a past unpleasant experience; or, a current lover's habits may raise warning flags for a behavior trip from which a few souvenirs have already been acquired, and you are trying to protect yourself this time around.
In the spirit of fun comparisons, Austin and NYC share some similarities. For instance,
NYC is known as Gotham, which plays an important role in Batman movies; Austin is known as Bat City because of the millions of Mexican free-tail bats residing under its bridges. Both cities have at least one river as a point of reference and recreation: NYC has the East River and the Hudson; Austin has Town Lake, a dammed up part of a river. Also, both cities are incredibly crowded with horrible traffic, and both cities attract musical talent, hipsters, tourists, and food trucks. One major difference, though, is that Austin's main businesses are high tech, the University, and politics. Another difference is the appearance that tattoo parlors outnumber Starbucks in Austin, whereas nail salons outnumber Starbucks in Manhattan.
Compared to a a budding romance where everything feels new, exciting, and over-the-moon, going back to a former lover carries a bittersweet revelation: on one hand familiarity sits like a comfortable pair of jeans, while on the other hand the familiarity lacks the intoxicating novelty of discovering something new. Such a situation asks more of both parties because novelty has been supplanted with memories unearthed from a mental archaeological dig. Often, these excavation images of then-and-now comparisons will overtake a relationship before it can be viewed as it exists now. Then, the relationship begins with expectations of what should have stayed the same, and trepidation as to what may not have changed. Under the burden of such expectations, how does one ever invite surprise?
“If you want to recreate the world, look at it with fresh eyes.”
--Quote from the Vedic tradition.
The challenge of viewing a person, a place, or experience without the filter of memoriescan be tempered by looking first at ourselves, with fresh eyes. If we do do not want our relationships to be "the same dances in the same old shoes" where we "keep on singing for the sake of the song" [Reciting from The Eagles, After the Thrill Is Gone], then an adventurous spirit and attitude may assist. Coming back to a known point of reference can show just how much we have grown, and just how compassionately we can accept the parts that haven't, without judgment as to how we think it should be. Certainly go to old haunts with a thrill of seeing how it has changed, but observe with what the Buddhists call a beginner's mind. Then, everything will be as unique as every sunrise and every sunset.