In Defense of Comfort Food, Binge Watching and Other Guilty Pleasures _ marycarver.com

My DVR is 38 percent full, waiting for me to catch up on my favorite shows (the ones I neglected to watch dozens of holiday TV movies). And earlier this week I shared with you the new shows I’m excited to watch (or try out), which means I’ll have even more shows recorded. Recorded and judging me silently when I scroll through my options and end up watching Friends reruns or the beginning of Veronica Mars’ second season again.

I got an email this morning about another book that I reserved at my local library. It’s ready for me to pick up, along with three others I requested last week. With all the “best of” lists floating around, my to-read list has grown — a lot. Of course, it’s a digital list, so with one click I can ignore it, but it’s not so easy to avoid the stare of the tower of books sitting next to my chair in my living room. More than 10 books are vying for the position of my next read, but even though I picked out all those books and really do want to read them, I still reach for a YA romance THAT I’VE ALREADY READ when I collapse into bed at night and need a chapter or two before my brain is ready for sleep.

Do I really think my DVR is judging me and my TBR pile is giving me the evil eye? No. Not really. But I do feel a tiny bit guilty when I fall back on old favorites in the face of so many new, sure-to-be-amazing options.

Not too guilty, though.

Even though I love this world of endless options for entertainment and information, and I’m sincerely excited to read and watch all of the new things on my lists, sometimes I just need the comfort of the familiar. The cold, dark days of winter (whether the literal season or a metaphorical one) beg for the warmth of characters I already know and love, lines I can recite in my sleep, and plots that are as worn and comfy as my favorite slippers. Unexpected and unique are fun and good and even necessary, I think — but so are beloved favorites.

When the weather outside is frightful, I don’t want to try a new recipe. I want my tried and true chili, with more cheese on top than is necessary.

When staff changes and new projects make work uncertain, I reach for a straightforward, cozy mystery I know will be solved in a couple hundred pages.

When relationships and ministry and deadlines and the world in general are confusing or challenging or just crazy-making in any way, forgetting my troubles with an episode of Happy Endings or watching Veronica Mars take down another bad guy makes me feel like all is right in the world, at least for a few minutes.

There’s a time for new shows and new books and new recipes and habits and goals and workouts. For you, that might be January. But if it’s not? If this is a season when you need the familiar, the simple, the warm and cozy? That’s okay. Your time for new might come when the trees begin to blossom and the world begins to come alive. Or it might be later in the year, as the fun and free days of summer come to a close and we recalibrate for a new school year or season.

Or, maybe your time for new is months or years away, when the campaign or project is finished or the kids go to school or you are reassigned or transferred or retired. That’s okay, too.

It’s okay if you aren’t caught up on the latest show.
Or if you don’t read the book before the movie comes out.
You’re not behind if you haven’t seen the big blockbuster.
And you’re not boring if you use the same routine or recipes or playlist as last year.

Sometimes we just need the comfort of the familiar. Sometimes we need a big bowl of mom’s beef stew or a day to binge on Golden Girls or Full House. Sometimes we want to watch the latest reboot or sequel even though it might be totally cheesy. (Sometimes we need all the cheesy things!) Sometimes the thrilling thriller is too much, and we need a fluffy romance instead. Sometimes the life-changing, heart-moving book club selection is too hard to handle, and we need to hide in the world of Harry Potter for a while instead.

If you’re in a season of cold or chaos, crazy or confusing, it’s okay to take a break from all the New! and Upcoming! and Don’t Miss These! It’s okay to fall back on the familiar, to take comfort in the known, to rest in the not-so-guilty-after-all pleasures you know will bring some warmth to your heart and a smile to your face.

I’m still working on my list of books to read in 2018 — and I’ve got my DVR set for a few new shows. But this weekend? I’m making my husband a cake from an old family recipe instead of trying one of the dozens of cake recipes I’ve saved in Pinterest, tuning into the 90s radio station instead of listening to the newest episode of my favorite podcasts, and rewatching a cheesy sitcom instead of checking off anything on my Netflix queue.

And that’s okay. There’s a time for new — but it doesn’t have to be today.

What’s something familiar that helps you face cold seasons?

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