WTF IS THE NEW NORMAL?
We think of the word “normal” as conforming to a standard or pattern. Normal is what is expected; SOP (standard operating procedure). “The New Normal” is defined as “a previously unfamiliar or atypical situation that has become standard, usual, or expected.” Once you have experienced the profound loss of a loved one, you are forever changed. Peter’s sudden and unexpected death shredded my heart, and I knew that my life would never be the same. What was once “normal” in my day-to-day existence, now seemed totally unfathomable. I wanted desperately to press the reset button and find something that at least circled the neighborhood of the word acceptable! Normal forever died with Peter.
The only normal I could muster up was abnormal, which totally made me laugh, thinking of the funny scene in Young Frankenstein with Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman. After dropping a “genius” brain jar for Frederick Frankenstein to implant in his creature, Igor, (pronounced eye-gore), picks up an “abnormal” brain. The monster awakes and nearly kills Frankenstein. When questioned, Igor confesses he’d dropped the first brain and picked up someone else’s, “Abby…someone. Abby Normal.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yH97lImrr0Q
We are often so intently busy doing our life chores, that we don’t take the time to look at the bigger picture. When faced with a catastrophic or traumatic event such as a death, or a messy divorce, it is almost too late to regroup. The world keeps spinning round and round at a fever pitch, and we don’t have time to take the necessary emotional and cerebral deep breaths to get us through the grieving process. We want to press the pause button STAT, in order to stop the world spinning long enough to relocate our lost equilibrium. Our Western society doesn’t allow us to take the time to work through immense loss and come out the other side. Women, particularly, are hard-wired to be damage-control experts, especially capable of helping others, not necessarily ourselves. But when traumas like the death of a spouse occur, we crumble (to quote Mel Brooks yet again) “like a bunch of broccoli.” Women are the movers and shakers and now as widows, we have been broken to the core.
This is when finding a “new normal” is a full-on positive choice. This is when we choose to call in the cavalry of friends, and family, and counselors, and vats of chocolate ice cream, as tools to get us through our broken phase, and heal the parts of us enough, so that we can learn to walk again in what will be a new form of normalcy. We are eternally changed and forever broken. Loss takes away the validation of our identity. Trauma and pain bring grief which allows us to shift and passage forward through time, transforming us through this never-ending love story, allowing us to see fresh perspectives of a newly formed temporal existence.
Normalcy, even a new kind of normalcy, does not gibe well in my reckoning with grief. A new chapter is a possibility but then I have to invest in the thought of a chapter being part of a book and that is too daunting. I might be able to identify my life as “different.” “Acceptably different” seems a whole lot better than finding a new normal. With different, I am more fluid and flexible to choose my own dictates and principles. I could even quantify my different with “suitably,” “tolerably,” “passably,” or “reasonably.” In order to find my new “different,” I have to unearth fresh habits and routines to lay down the foundation for a new incarnation of myself. I have to be free to accept change and use it to move forward, pro-actively, to discover a unique world that is balanced, stable, secure, and compassionate.