new normal

Robert Smithson's drawings for his "Spiral Jetty."
Robert Smithson’s drawings for his “Spiral Jetty.”

A friend wrote yesterday of her daughter who is in college and already worrying about what she’ll do for work when she’s done. I remember that feeling – fear mixed with aniticipation. It didn’t start for me until I had left a graduate school program, not fitting into the PhD mold but also not finding an alternative. Floating between temp jobs and a restaurant, then a teaching certificate program and Microsoft – always thinking I should be moving up, up, up. Seeing life as a hierarchy, a ladder to greater and greater stability.

Slowly, it started dawning on me that life is a spiral, not a ladder at all. You return and return to the same lessons, each time with a little more knowledge under your belt. I first expressed this during a therapy session in my late 20s, voicing it as though it was the newest, freshest idea the world had ever heard. I had no clue that I’d simply stumbled on what for many spiritual paths is a given. Rebirth, renewal, falling, beginning again.

What continues to be challenging for me now, even firmly in this spiral of life, is the new normal. When has something shifted and we are best served by accepting the new now. When is it a problem that needs to be addressed? I think here of my back. Last year at this time I was in considerable pain – literally crawling upstairs some nights. Working in the garden this weekend has reminded me of how just a year ago I couldn’t do these simple tasks – bending over, tilling, planting,  moving the hose around the yard. And part of me – as well as many other people I trust – was counseling acceptance. This was the new normal. But another part of me wouldn’t accept it, and that’s how I discovered the cyst – which led to healing.

When do we fight the power? And when do take a deep breath and bring that Mona Lisa smile to our lips and think, ‘Yes. This too.’ Neither is an easy path. Something came up with my daughter and school recently – a class she isn’t being allowed to take because of standardized test scores, despite swimmingly stupendous grades. I fought it a bit – and I got pushed back. So I started to accept. And then in sharing it with a firey friend, I heard, “Push back!” And so I may just try that again. Which serves her best? I’m not entirely sure.

It’s a dance, dodging this way, sitting down that way. Sprinting and then swaying slowly. Open the soft naked parts of yourself to the elements, and then hug in tight under the warmest of blankets. Twisting and turning, swimming hard and then floating around the spiral.

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One thought on “new normal

  1. I work every day with students like your friend’s daughter every day. Maybe I will print out your post and keep several copies of it on my desk, to offer them along with all the guidance around resumes and cover letters and networking and job searches. Such important knowing. Thank you.

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