The New Normal

This morning I asked the girls … “Hey girls, what do you think I should write about today?”

Elinor turned to me and said, “Write about normalcy. I keep thinking that when I go back to New York, life will not be the way it was before I left. I used to walk to work every morning and I’d see familiar faces, the same young people walking to work too. Some of us will not have jobs by the time we get back and how is that going to play out? And, what about some of my favorite places? Will they survive? How is the new normal going to be? I have no idea.”

I have to admit, although this idea of life not returning to what it used to be has been on my mind too, hearing my daughter say it out loud, made me pause.

The girls are at the very beginning of their adult life, a life that will be defined by this pandemic.

The decisions that people my age have made and continue to make are defining the future for these kids in ways that make me worry. Between the environmental issues and a misguided, misplaced, and failing economy, it’s going to take a lot of soul-searching and some pretty creative problem solving to get out of this muck.

Having been through the life changes that I’ve been through, I’ve come to expect the next shoe to drop. That’s not the case for the younger generation. They’re in the process of learning this now.

I’m too old to believe in normal. What is normal anyway? What one person deems to be normal appears totally crazy to another. Normal is made of routines we construct to make us feel safe in our individual worlds. Normal is a myth and our attachment to it is being tested.

Let’s face it. It doesn’t take much for our bubble to burst. Deep down we all know that, yet, it doesn’t stop us from fiercely investing time and energy to maintain our sense of normalcy and routine. Then, something like this happens. Something so big and out of our control, that it blows our sense of normalcy out of the water in a New York minute.

When I think about the ways our reality is changing, even as I’m writing this, my mind begins to spin in every which way. There will be adjustments. Profound change is the name of the game.

Many of you may know about the stages of change and loss. The representation below is one I deeply resonate with. Can you recognize the stage you’re in?

No doubt we’re all feeling it. No doubt we’ll all go through these stages at various times and at our own pace.

These days, people’s reactions and stances vary. There’s denial, anger, and blame. There’s fear and anxiety. There’s uncertainty and overload. No matter where we stand on this issue, it won’t change a thing. We’re in it together and together we’ll figure it out.

There will be relapse. There will also be healing.

Right now, we’re see-sawing between shock and disbelief. This is our new normal. Accepting and taking a collective deep breath as we contemplate this, is a good place to start. No amount of denial will turn the clock anyway.

These days, normal is waking up in the morning and putting one foot in front of the other. Normal is taking care of the family and the four-leggeds and myself as best as I can. I reach out to friends. I meditate. I read. I’m writing again. The garden needs my attention. Soon I’ll be fighting with the Queen Anne’s Lace.

Our family of four hasn’t been under the same roof, for this long, since the girls were in high school. We have long, intimate dinners together. The photo albums come out and we talk about all sorts of things. It’s not always comfortable but it’s real and it’s precious because who knows when we’ll be together again?

I have my moments. Some nights I wake up in the middle of the night and I worry. I’m well aware that I live in a bubble. Sometimes I feel helpless and ineffective. What is my contribution? What is asked of me? What can I do? Eventually, I fall back to sleep and when I wake up, it’s a new day and all is possible and hopeful again.

I look around and see that Spring is marching on, preparing for her grand entrance, pandemic be damned. It’s been raining heavily today. It reminds me how much I love thunderstorms and the sound of rain. Life moves on, almost unaware of our dramas.

Maybe this is one of the lessons we’re learning through this misadventure. We’re not as big and mighty as we think. We don’t have as much control as we think or would like to have. Maybe learning that can make us more humble and willing to work together and take care of one another.

This very moment, all we can do is what’s in front of us, so let’s do that.

As a life coach and retreat leader, Yota works with women seeking clarity, inspiration, and purpose in the midst of life changes. Her approach is intuitive and deeply influenced by her cultural roots, work and life experience, and her long-term practice of mindfulness meditation.

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