Reflections on the concept of a “New Normal” is almost daily for me. Thanks to Covid’s evil twin Delta, masking indoors in California is back. The earworm in my newsfeed: “Is this [masking] the new normal?” Of course: we need to follow protocols keeping us all safe. But doesn’t calling something “the new normal” make it a part of my life from now on? What if that really doesn’t work for me? These and similar thoughts are creeping into my sense of well-being. Who greenlit all the New Normals I’m now facing? More important than that question, Do I still have choices and options?
I just thought of a parallel, with a movie from way-back, “Neighbors”. A crazy-funny story (classic John Belushi/Dan Ackroyd) about a couple trying to cope with some very unusual people who just moved in next door. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUO1OugYbRk Remembering that film, I feel like the New Normals — all the things I’m being asked to accept or at least tolerate – are my new neighbors. I have no choice about what they get up to. Or do I?
I actually met up with a new-normal long before Covid. I had a health concern: my body felt “off”. After the usual pokes and prods from my doctor, he just shrugged. My symptoms were “very normal” at my “stage of life”. Nevermind that I didn’t like feeling the way I did. His message was, “Just accept your new normal.” Not helpful. But I wanted to believe, to accept and to be able to just relax. Like when we say, “It’s all good!” but it really isn’t. Allowing ‘Worry’ To Be What It Really Is
I feel soothed when I hear, “That’s perfectly normal!” Especially if the person speaking has some authority; legit or not. During my first trip traveling abroad, I experienced the sense of authority that the French have. Their standard response for anything a foreigner might question, or find offensive about French culture is, “C’est Normale.”
That’s just the way things are. If you don’t like it (for example, the tiny caterpillar doing leg-lifts in my salade verte), it’s really your problem. After that initial trip to France, I stopped questioning the confidence and general superiority that the French project. [But that’s another Post entirely.]
Out of pretty much the same degree of unconditional regard, I don’t question the authority of doctors and scientists when they make claims about my health; or about things like climate change. What I’m really thinking about, when I’m told what “Normal” is, is the pure power of that word. The very real power to change how I think, and how I live my life.
What happens if I start thinking of the uptick in gunfire in my neighborhood as ‘normal’? What happens if I just side-eye the ‘normal’ addict and his gear blocking the doorway I want to enter? There’s a major difference between what’s ‘normal’, versus what I’m being expected, even conditioned, to get used to.
I think a lot about the courage and bravery required to push-back against others’ expectations. Against what I know in my heart is just not right and should not be considered ‘normal’. But the thinking, and the actual effort of questioning (let alone challenging) what I’m being told is exhausting and sometimes jarring. The Daring Life: challenging what we’re told
As I left France (that same trip), I was confronted by the gate agent at Charles De Gaulle airport for being late. The agent was intensely irate: eyes bulging, yelling. He threatened to not let me board the plane at all. When I spoke up (pushed back), telling the man that the train bringing me from Paris to De Gaulle had had mechanical issues (the truth), he barked, “C’est Normale!”. In other words, I should have factored those train issues into my personal timetable. The agent’s authority and demeanor totally canceled any power as a passenger I thought I had. For days I questioned my own process.
And sometimes, when I refuse to accept something as ‘normal’ when it so clearly isn’t, there are those kinds of consequences. Absorbing other cultures, in particular, takes time, patience and commitment. But just blindly accepting what’s designated as a New Normal in our world is also a slippery slope. I can easily find myself getting into a habit, a pattern of acceptance of whatever I’m told — out of total fatigue. I just can’t be the constant skeptic, can I? I have to be able to trust, without constantly fact-checking everything, right?
On the other hand…
Maybe that’s actually an authentic and true “New Normal” — one that I need to add to my Living Bravely Toolkit.