I’m hearing this expression over and over and over again. It has a certain feeling about it. It’s as if whatever we are going to be experiencing in the near and medium-near future, will not be what we are experiencing now. And to add to its already loaded meaning, it sure doesn’t sound like it’s something we should be looking forward to.
I’m not quite sure why, so I’ve spent some of my ‘walking time’ this week pondering exactly what it might mean to be headed toward a new normal.
My first thought is if we are going to have a new normal, then we must have an old normal, and perhaps we are living in a current normal. The problem is, there has never really been a time in history, either in the history of the world, or in any of our personal life history, when we could definitively say, ‘This is the time of normal.’ This is the point in time when everything is going exactly to plan. Everything is stable; so stable so as to define it as normal. If there has been such a time, I missed it.
I too, am concerned about how we are going to transition into our next phase of the Covid 19 pandemic. I’m not sure how it will look as small and large businesses begin to re-open, as we are loosed from the social restrictions we now face, as we begin to re-gather in groups both large and small, as we learn to hear a cough without feeling a sense of panic, as we pass people on walks or in the aisles of grocery stores without either yielding a wide berth or making a judgement on their lack of doing so.
I’m not sure exactly which day I will feel perfectly confident that we can get together with our children and with little Benjamin, without any of us going home fearing we may have inadvertently infected each other. When Greg and Cara moved to Calgary last Fall, Jim and I were so excited that after nine years of Greg living in another city, and four more before that stretch, we would now be able to spend special family times with them. So far, Jim’s birthday has come and gone, as has Easter, our anniversary, and Kaitlyn and Matt’s birthdays. This weekends Mother’s Day isn’t likely to boast a crowded dining room table either. I guess this is our current normal. Because this same situation is playing out in every family across the country, we are all likely wondering this: If this is our current normal (and it’s not that nice), how bad will the impending new normal be?!
With Mother’s Day weekend approaching, I pondered this idea of new normal and I’ve had some clarity. When we were expecting our first baby, Kaitlyn, we had absolutely no idea what was ahead of us. Of course, we read what experts were saying on the matter. We tried to envision what our home and my work life might be like. I thought I understood what my relationship with Jim would be like, and what my friendships would be like. I suppose we were imagining we were going to lose our normal life and we were trying to conjure up our new normal.
Interestingly, other women who were having babies at or around the same time were also having similar thoughts. They could no more imagine their futures, than could I. Each of us was given a different baby. Some were great sleepers, some wouldn’t nurse, some were colicky, some smiled early and often, some made strange, some walked early, some we thought might never walk. Each of us lived a ‘new normal’. None of us questioned it. None of us expected the others to have an experience exactly like ours. We all simply assumed that our lives would change, and we would adapt to manage it. And we did.
When we were expecting Greg, we went through the same thing. I even recall crying, wondering if it was fair to bring a baby into the world who I incorrectly imagined I could never possibly love as much as I loved our firstborn. I was terrified of what our new normal might be. Luckily, within seconds of meeting Gregory, our new normal was better than we ever could have dreamed.
If we flash forward about 18 – 20 years, it would be safe to say we not only adapted, we may have overachieved. I haven’t met many parents who found the transition of their children growing up and moving out and on to be an easy one. Yet if our pre-children life was our ‘normal’ one, one would think it would be the easiest transition in the world to go back to living life as we did pre-kids. If someone gave me the chance to go back to my ‘normal’ life, my pre-children life, I would never even consider it. The gifts I received in my ‘new normal’ far exceeded any ‘normal’ life I had once loved.
I suspect our ‘new normal’ with this pandemic will bring us similar unexpected, unplanned, unforeseen, un-read-about, unpredicted blessings. While I fully understand that those families who have lost a loved one during the pandemic will never find a new normal to replace the life lost, I’m hopeful that for the rest of us, our new normal will be so incredible we will never wish to go back to ‘normal’. I already see signs of this. People have slowed down and genuinely want to have little conversations with each other. People have begun to open up with their feelings, instead of hiding behind the endless busyness of our ‘normal’ lives. We are doing some deep thinking about what is important to us, and about how we want to spend our precious time. We are reconnecting with old passions and hobbies. We are noticing nature. We see and hear more beautiful musical and artistic creations. We are discovering we are more alike than different.
I would like nothing more than to be able to gather my family around me, to be able to book a flight to a dream destination, to dance with my dancing sisters, or to stop in at a store for just one single item. But I will wait. I will be happy to wait if it means that the new normal I’ll find when the waiting is over is half as wonderful as the new normal I found when my waiting to be a mother was realized. As I recall, that waiting seemed endless too.
This week, may you find peace in whatever new normal arrives in your life.
Happy Mother's Day.
My inquiry for you is, ‘What is normal?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to embrace your new normal.