Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Is it Time for a "New Normal"?

I grew up in a small city on a main street, which made the sounds of cars, trucks, passersby talking and--as "urban decay" threatened to creep in--the occasional sounds of gunshots "normal" to me. In fact, the familiar sounds became like a "distorted lullaby" as I laid my head to rest each night. I also attended college in a major city where those same sounds kept steady rhythm with the pulse of daily life. Seeking a change of pace as I got older and could direct my own path, I moved to the suburbs--25 miles away from that metropolis to a smaller city some folks described back then as "west bumf*ck." In other words, "no man's land." I didn't care. I was ready for a fresh start. But my fresh start brought a strange reality on my first night in my new home when I crawled into bed: it was too damn quiet for me to get to sleep. How do you like that? As much as I knew surrounding oneself in constant noise can be taxing to the mind, soul, and ultimately, body, I needed it to be comfortable. It was my "normal." But I was also wise enough to know it was not normal. That got me to thinking about other ways in which we cling to our "normals" even though we know they're far from being so.

It's amazing how often this word is an appendage to the end of many common statements: "We fight all the time, but that's normal...I'm always late, but that's normal...I'm always frustrated about something, but that's normal." Newsflash: It's NOT normal. In talking to a friend once, they were able to admit that whenever things got too comfortable in their relationships, they would create "drama" because that's all they knew. They didn't want it, but they also didn't know how to do without it. The same can be said for many of us who continuously find ourselves gravitating towards drama of all kinds be it on the job, in relationships, in organizations, or, dare I say it, even in the church. We all know--or may even be--those people who seem to, as the old folks say, "always have something going on." And those people are never authentically happy because "goodness and mercy" simply can not dwell where this is constant "turmoil and confusion."  So, how do we combat this?

First, we have to get real about who the common denominator is in our situations. Here's a hint: you're reading this. Regardless of what is happening around us, we will always be the person that's present in every situation. If the players and scenes have changed, but the script is still the same, it's time for some serious self-examination. Every friend is not out to use you; every guy or girl is not out to hurt you; every co-worker is not stabbing you in the back. Give "everybody" a rest and focus on the one person you can change: yourself.

Second, we have to want a new "script," and that comes with pushing past the discomfort of acting and reacting outside of your box, no matter how foreign that may feel initially. If you're the "I curse people out!" kind, try on the act of silence for a change. If you're the "I'm all about revenge" kind, try on the gift of forgiveness and integrity. As is said, doing what you've always done and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. 

Lastly, get yourself an accountability partner. That is, someone who you trust enough, be it a best friend, family member, or life coach, to speak truth to you and ask them about the "un healthy patterns" they see in your life, then begin doing the things (reading, taking workshops, meditating, etc.) you need to do to begin breaking those "familiar strongholds." Again, asking is key. Just because folks aren't bringing the patterns they've noticed directly to you, doesn't mean you don't have them. Ask lovingly and receive their feedback openly.

Let's stop settling for ordinary and work to become extraordinary in every area of our lives. As actress Jodie Foster said best, "Normal is not something to aspire to; it's something to get away from," especially when that normal is "noisy." As for me, I fought through the sound of quiet, the subtle chirping of crickets, the random house creeks that would have never been heard in the cacophonies of city life, until I found peace and comfort in my "new normal." That also resulted in me seeking peace and comfort in other areas of my life as well, which probably would have gone untended to if I had settled to be distracted by the "noise" instead.