“A New Normal”: At Once Scary and Comforting

In the midst of a painful transition, an overwhelming change, or a period of limbo – all situations where what has been “normal” either has suddenly vanished or seems to be slipping from our grasp – loved ones will often try to ease the difficulty by telling us we’ll find a “new normal.”

I’ve heard this more than once in the past few weeks, as I confided to close friends, family, and finally, the general populace of the internet through this blog, that I’ve been going through an overwhelming transition of my own. So I’ve been thinking about this idea of a “new normal” a lot lately. Sometimes the notion is a comforting one: eventually I won’t feel like this anymore, and things will be familiar again. At other times, though, this same thought can be terrifying: this painful period IS the new normal, and eventually I’ll just become resigned to this discomfort/sorrow/stress/fatigue/insert-your-own-unpleasantness-here.

My sister recently told me about a friend of hers, who was going through a particularly agonizing professional schedule and complete absence of “work-life balance.” What helped was someone gently suggesting that perhaps this person had forgotten that this period of heightened stress wasn’t, in fact, “her normal,” reassuring her that it was simply temporary.

This simple wisdom brings to mind one of my favourite thoughts from Jeanette Winterson (and as I’ve loved several of her novels, this is saying something):

JW Quote better

It’s easy to forget, especially when we’re in the depths of our uncertainty, anxiety, or just complete weariness, that “this too shall pass,” that the difficult moment itself isn’t the new normal that we’ll find. Time, and life, march on, and if we can see our discomfort for what it is – a natural symptom of change – then maybe it doesn’t have to be quite so scary.

Now, parenthood may not be precisely like some other common hurdles, in that it appears (at least in my limited experience so far) to stretch out as a never-ending parade of transitions. Once we wrap our heads around toddler-tantrums, it’ll be time for starting school. The awkward transition of pre-adolescence will be closely followed by the quest for independence.

In this way it’s more on the scary side: how will I ever find that new normal if the parenting game just changes all the time? But I still have hope, too, hope that with each transition, I’ll become better at this process of change: my perspective to see it for what it is will quicken, my resilience to laugh through it will strengthen, and my ability to be kind to myself as I face it will grow.

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3 Comments

  1. Marcy says:

    Hey!
    I have to say that it’s strange to read your post on the topic of change today of all days. I actually wrote my daughter, Olive, an email (it’s an account we made for her for her to access when she is older to read messages from friends and family) about that very topic and how she has helped me embrace change as opposed to fear it. I use the example of her gloriously, delicious gummy smile from days past and how I was sad when she started getting teeth because that meant that her gummy smile was gone forever. But little did I know that I would fall even more in love with her adorable 6 little toothed smile! Helped me realize that though change means the end of one thing, it doesn’t mean the next thing around the corner won’t be equally as good or better. And you’ll never know until you are brave enough to round the corner.

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  2. Marcy says:

    One further note to my previous post – I guess children force us to deal with change before we are ready and that’s what makes it so tough. I think it’s just a matter of getting used to the rapid changes and trying to embrace them as they come.

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  3. Lindsay@RaiseAMother says:

    Marcy, that’s a perfect example of how it’s not always the change coming that we feel negatively about, but the thought of changing away from something that we really love. I remember thinking the same thing about Arlo’s first teeth, and now I can’t imagine not loving his little smile full of them! You’re so right that the toughest thing about motherhood and change is that we’re forced to deal with changes before we are ready. I’ve always thought that’s what’s so much more ‘serious’ about getting pregnant for women than for dads-to-be: once you find out you’re pregnant, the dad then has several months to ‘get ready’ for change, but as a mama, you’ve already hit the ground running!
    What a great idea of the email for Olive, too – I love it! ❤

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