I am admittedly a privileged old dude with little financial worries so forgive me if this blog sounds tone deaf to those of you who may be struggling day to day to make ends meet. Perhaps there is less in my philosophical outlook for you than there is for many of my contemporaries. The younger you are, the less there is in this for you although you might get some hints for how to look to the future.
I am not a person to look back very often. Maybe it is because I am not very good at remembering the past. Our mind tends to pick and choose what it likes and does not like about the past. Memories are often compartmentalized to protect us from depression and even romanticized to gloss over bad situations. Who would ever think that walking 3 miles each way to school in the dead of winter would be thought of as a good thing?
When I do look back it is mostly to remember the positive stuff. So, when I hear about people wanting to get back to normal, I am not quite sure what that would mean to me. How far back is “normal”?
I know I do not want to go back to bringing up kids. Quite frankly I wasn’t very good at that.
I know I do not want to go back to “working”. While I was pretty good at that, I feel I have done my time and perhaps I am getting close to my “best before date”.
So how far back do I go if I do want to get back to normal? 6 months, 6 years or in my case even over 60 years? (I did enjoy my summer days playing softball on the diamond in East Saint John when I was 13)!
For some, normal is simply that time around the start of the pandemic 6-7 months ago.
For me, normal is approximately 2 ½ years ago before I lost my wife to Cancer. Since that day, my new normal has been a crazy ride. It’s as if after that day, I stepped into the pages of a new novel. I am still not sure if it is a romance or thriller story. I am not sure if the ending will be happy or sad. It certainly seems exciting, at least to me. Days are different, situations are different. I have travelled to over 15 new countries, met a new partner, moved into 2 new homes in two countries, met a new community of people. Each day brings to my senses things that I have never felt before and with that, the challenges. I have absorbed so much that is new, that I am losing all sense of what is, or was “normal”.
What I have learned is that as much as you might want them to be, things cannot be undone. Life cannot and will not stop in order to accommodate my sense of being a bit out of control. There is no pause button on life. If I were to go back, I would have to accept everything. I could not undo the pain of those who got sick and those who died.
As tempting as it is to look back, I think I prefer to move forward. I choose to work at shaping and accepting a new “Normal”. While I cannot predict what will happen, I am strong enough to choose to decide what my new normal is all about. It will certainly not be less stress unless I choose it to be. It will certainly not be less uncertainty unless I accept that change is inevitable.
My father often said, what many others who have lived a good life have said, and that is that life is divided into what we want and what we need. My new normal will prioritize my desire to accommodate my needs and limit my wants. My new normal will be perspectives on what matter like health and family and community and spirituality. My new normal will work on what I need to be a good person to my family, my community and my partner. I will look after my needs and be aware of not “wanting” too much. My new normal will not dwell on things I cannot control like when a vaccine might make it safer for me to travel. Travel is a want not a need.
And so, as I write this on a cold damp fall morning, I leave you with my not so profound message:
The past may have been great – but it cannot be brought back.
The future may be great – and people who look to the future seem to live longer.
Be that as it may… Hang both your fond memories, your regrets and your “wants” on the closet door of life..
Try making today your new normal. Focus on today! Take care of today’s needs and make this day the best day you can.
For at least a few more months, this is “normal”!