A phrase that has been haunting me lately has been “the new normal.” It’s an attempt to turn a threatening direction into something reassuring. Our upside down, crazy (more so than usual) world seems permanently cracked, with insanity leaking out of every fissure.
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What the Old Normal Looked Like
The old normal was a predictable ritual that we were taught to fit into since we were pulled out of our mother’s body and slapped under the bright lights of an operating room. It was a given – we were taught to fit into the ongoing life rather than rearrange the life to fit us.
The old normal was filled with experts who seemed to know what they were talking about, seemed to have at least common sense, if not wisdom, and seemed to have the greater good in their heart and their strategies. Good triumphed over evil, everything worked out for the best, and happiness was the norm. The old normal didn’t have cancer, drive-by shootings, high school kids killing for small slights, terrorists killing women and children, and everything running out or breaking.
Most people weren’t in love with how they made their money, but everyone had a job that paid halfway decent wages.
How Things Have Changed
Nowadays, we’re not too far off from living off the roots and the berries in our backyards. The rape of our beautiful planet continues unabated by the bullies in charge. It’s everyone for themselves. It’s hard to find a person who’s safe or comfortable or isn’t one of the walking wounded trying to find a way out of the madness.
It’s downright frightening to be an adult. We all want to take care of our families and pay our fair share, but our ability to do so has shriveled down to a minimum. The death of my wife drove me to plummet my own depths to find the peace and strength that I thought the outside world was going to provide. We’re all taught how to accumulate stuff and people, but we were never taught how to lose.
None of the many different books I had read, nor hours of chanting and meditation, or my own hodgepodge system of ideas, were keeping me from killing myself out of grief. It wasn’t just my wife that had died, it was also the life that we had been building together for twenty-four years. A tumor that I never saw took away everything that was precious to me as well as any hope to build another life.
How to Deal With the New Normal
I woke up one night after a week of working on my fears with my AA patron. I had no idea where or who I was. I had no past, no present, no fantasies, no sex, no personality, and no age. I didn’t even know whether I was asleep or awake. I had descended into the deepest part of my soul where I was a pure spirit. The Peter that I had been all my life had ceased to exist.
I expected to break out into a panic attack at any moment since there were no guideposts or landmarks to define anything. It’s our definitions that keep our sanity and our world together – right? Instead, I felt a deep strength and peace. All my life, no matter what love or respect or strength I managed to accumulate, in my heart of hearts, at my core, no matter what anybody else thought or believed, I felt I was still a weakling and an impostor. After all this time, I was still a thin suburban Jewish awkward geek stick figure.
I was wrong. My survival instincts had pushed me through the worst caverns of my being, the dankest, darkest territories that no sane person would explore, past the scariest dragons at the deeper gates, into the core of my being. And it was more beautiful and powerful than I ever imagined.
After drifting in this sea of love, I played with scaring myself, seeing if I could destroy this feeling. I couldn’t do it.
After a few hours, I slowly returned to myself and the world, but I returned with a gift. Whenever I lose faith or feel distanced from that strength and love, I know I only have to dig past the static and distractions of the world and my mind and burrow down into that place where I can’t be touched by the maya around us.