Sunday, December 11, 2005


Well, that was kind of scary, Ayekah reminding me in her comments to my last post of the need to move toward the new normal in the aftermath of the hurricane and other storms, in light of the fact that I had a draft written that was not quite where I wanted it to be and so I had not posted it...

All I wanted the boy to do was learn to write his name. He was at the age where he was supposed to be interested in that kind of stuff and we played around at writing his name here and there, but he never really gave much indication that he was ready to write his name. And then one day, I came to dust my expensive drop leaf desk and discovered the childish scrawl of letters carved into the wood with a pencil. "New normal" -- a carved up desk.

Like living in the aftermath of a hurricane, living with (and loving) someone who has problems with substance abuse forces one to find a way to craft a "new normal". WalMart closing at eight o'clock during the busiest time of the year, blue tarps on housetops, sunshine where there used to be shade, Burger King closing at five o'clock, these things all equal "new normal" after a storm. And there are bigger losses. But my point is, when we have not experienced the storm ourselves, we are often blissfully unaware of the things that remain lost long after the storm has passed. And we forget that anyone who suffers through a storm has to deal with and grieve these losses as part of their stumbling procession towards "new normal". That is, if they want to progress.

Many times, good things will come from the experience and we find we are grateful for the new normal, for the changes in our lives that were precipitated by the storm and we would never want to return to the way things were, or might have been. I really do believe that the sooner we can arrive to a place of gratitude (maybe not necessarily gratitude for the "storm" but gratitude for provision and progress through the storm), the better off we will be. I have believed this for years, and probably "preached" it to others-- preached it from a place of calm in my life, before the storm, with no clue as to how difficult it actually is to practice what I preach. It takes time and deliberate effort to move towards gratitude when things just aren't going your way.

I have been working for several years on a new normal and I am nowhere near finished (nor will I ever be, I suppose, that is life, isn't it?). Frankly, I am a little weary of the struggle because I thought surely, by now, I would have something really bright and shiny to show for my efforts. True gratitude requires letting go of expectations. It's been difficult lately for me to arrive at true gratitude because of my misguided expectations. As a result, I have been dealing with the problem of bitterness. I do not want to be bitter. Although it may be a natural part of the progression, it is not a place I want to be intimately acquainted with. It's tough work, moving through a storm, moving from bitterness (and grief over what might have been) toward gratitude to embrace the new normal. Who among us really likes to have our little worlds shook up?

I can write about hurricanes and wayward sons, but we all have our storms. I have watched people after this storm and I have watched teens and their parents weather the storm of substance abuse. There are those who work themselves to death trying to get things back to the way it was as quickly as possible. They want to get everything fixed and forget anything ever happened. There are those who are numbed and not sure what to do, so they do nothing. They want to sit and grieve that something has happened (at least, until "the fit hits the shan", and they are forced to do something, unless they like sitting around in the muck and mire). Then there are those who know things will never be the same and they adjust and move on to their new normal.

The simple fact is, no matter what we do, or how we react, there are some things that will never be the same. There are trees that will not grow back, not in my lifetime. The landscape has been forever altered. And our brightest hope is to accept that and move on to the new normal.

"Look not mournfully into the past.

It comes not back again.

Wisely improve the present.

It is thine.

Go forth to meet the shadowy future,without fear."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily tasks, go to sleep in peace. God is awake" Victor Hugo


  1. I didn't mean to upset you, I truly didn't. I do understand having to go through all those adjustments, both internal and external, disasters, both natural and personal. It wasn't my intention to minimize your struggles and I am sorry if I made you feel that way. I guess I should shut up now.

  2. I don't just like your writing, ma'am; I like your heart! My family has been fortunate to have not experienced such degree of devastation. The youngest daughter and her husband (3 young kids) went through nearly a year of no job and no income. Family got them through it; but, as you say, you don't just pick up where you left off. I have seen first hand some of Pensacola and a bit of what it means to "recover" from havoc. My pastor there has told me somewhat of trying to put the pieces back together. Peace, my friend......

  3. Hey Ayekah, you did not upset me, nor have you minimized my struggles!

    The freaky thing was I had already written most of this about moving to a new normal BEFORE you made that comment in my last post. It was like you were in my computer had seen my blogger draft!

    What you said made excellent sense and it is something all of us who have gone through these storms need to be aware of, as well as others around who might care for us...that getting through the aftermath to the new normal takes time and requires a great deal of patience.

    We're okay Ayekah, and I guess now I should shut up! BTW, if you ever want to email me, my addy is in my profile info.

  4. Oh Jim, thanks. I like your heart too! Your blog posts always make me think. I admire your work with the kids at the detention center. I hope that one day, with a little distance from my son's troubles (and a little more healing of my own heart), I can come to the place where I can help out in some way around our detention program.

    And that is the thing I am slowly beginning to see, that we ALL have our troubles. I certainly don't have a patent on living with storms.

  5. Whew!!! Glad we are square....and yes, I would e mail you.......:) I laughed so hard about the computer draft thing.....I can barely get the comments to work proper.....must be our ESP is just in sync or something.......I've lost so many would be posts.....I hate gadgets. (they were good posts too, and I always take it as a sign that maybe whatever I was going to say shouldn't be printed), because I was probably being mean and cranky.....:0 in other words, just being myself! Catch you on the high side.....

  6. Annie- I know all about not feeling normal... I mean, we have gone through so many hurricanes down here that our heads are still swirling. And we don't feel normal still, and when that will come round again I don't know... we have to stick together, that's all I know...

  7. Annie, when you decide to really write, you REALLY write! This is a thought provoking piece, written from the heart, and is a joy to read.

  8. Byootiful Post, I can relate from past "storms" in my own life. There definitely is a new normal... things don't ever go back to the way they were - and maybe that's a good thing.
    thanks for writing this.

  9. Although I have no idea what it's like to go through a true storm, I think you hit the nail on the head about letting go of expectations to feel true gratitude...very insightful. Thanks for your post on my blog, and I'll probably be checking in from time to time. Cheers.

  10. I really love this post. Especially the quotes at the end.

  11. Now we see through a glass darkly.

    Love these images and your mind. Pictures, perceptions, perspective.

    New normal.

    I've seen growth this year...and what a YEAR!! You aren't a whiner, that is for sure. And New Life is surely Rising.

    A Christmas of significant meaning, I would think this year.
    Bless you.


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