Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Elusive State of Normal

Normal isn’t typically hard to find. It’s just how things are. The way they have been for the largest periods of life. Yes there are the peaks and valleys where normal flits away on an unexpected gust of life. When the gust subsides, normal creeps back in like a puddle in the low spot of a parking lot. It’s never quite the same but it becomes the new normal.

Normal includes the redefinition of Normal spinning from where it came to where it now is. But it’s still Normal. Accepting the new Normal sometimes takes time. Perhaps it requires an acceptance, even grieving for what’s been lost, what’s being replaced. It’s true that some states of Normal are more difficult to accept than others. Sometimes it’s difficult to detect when the new Normal has finally settled in and the transition is complete.

For me, reconstructing Normal has been a long and varied effort. I’ve known folks who declare how their lives will go, perhaps “I’m going to be a Doctor” and then one day they are. It still takes time but their path is pretty straight between that day in third grade when they declared their intent and their current Normal. I’m not one of those and can’t pretend I am. Don’t want to either which is not to cast any shadows on their path but it just hasn’t been that way for me.

I started this post a few months back when the house was torn apart for our remodeling project. Being unemployed through it all, I was here living every dusty, noisy moment. Sometimes leaving for interview calls since I didn’t want it to sound like I was calling from a park bench in downtown. Sometimes I would head out just to head out and that was fine and all but Normal demands a home into which you can retreat.

Normal has the comforts we surround ourselves with. It’s soft where we need it to be. Quiet for our thoughts and rich with the dreams of a future yet to be realized. It also has its hard spots from which we can push off into the world we are constructing. We plan, or at least understand that at times we incur disruption and lack of connection to these things just as a broad jump athlete lifts off from the toe board in the quest to soar over the distance.

At that point they are helpless, suspended in air, hurtling towards all that for which their training has prepared them. Even though they are no longer physically connected to the earth, this is Normal and they know they will land according to the trajectory their training, in the long term, and their leap at the instant they took flight, has set for them. But they always land somewhere.

I have carefully crafted the arc of my career, set the trajectory on which I have flown for many years. And, as Normal would have it, I always landed. But what happens when the very laws of physics change between the time your foot launches your flight and the predicted landing? I started this run as a broad jumper and now find myself in the dark, a freefalling parachutist, wondering how to open my chute.

Actually, I’m wondering if I have a chute since I didn’t pack one. If I do have one, I’ll have to figure out how to open it on my way down and assuming I can figure that out, knowing when to pull the chord is likely to be important. Too late and I’ll end up a stain on the tarmac but too early and I’ll suffer the relentless cross winds and miss the target completely.

I don’t know if it’s a good thing but I’m not alone in this free fall. Somewhere along the line our society lost the concept that adding value was the foundation of Normal and that bedrock was replaced by a Normal where adding wealth was all that mattered. Never mind that it was all based on IOU’s written on tissue paper now being used by the Bear to clean up after a grizzly dump.

So now that our game of Financial Let’s Pretend is ending, will we return to a Normal based on actual value or will we just generate so much paper that it looks like a foundation on which our future can be constructed? Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion but while we wait you might want to pick up a few extra rolls, you know just to get in on the ground floor of the next Normal.

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