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No New Normal

An invitation to be true to our deepest values.

Jody Slade with permission
Source: Jody Slade with permission

While most of us keep hunting for that “new normal” that is right around some corner, let’s consider, instead, staying with the “not knowing” that is, in fact, always the bottom line.

Between the pandemic, social unrest, violence, the burgeoning awareness of injustices perpetrated throughout the history of this country, other countries, groups, individuals, and even within our own psyches, we are all looking for a resting place. That makes sense and is valid, but it is risky, too. Often the easiest place to rest is within a limited worldview, an illusory certainty, an unexamined belief, a survival strategy, or a well-groomed persona.

And of course, we are looking for this new normal in the face of all the unsettling images thrown at us, the talking points hammering away on every side of every issue, the blast of right vs. wrong in 100 flavors. Truly it is easier to live in “simple certainties," whether they are actually true or not. If we can find a right vs wrong to live in, we can rest a bit. The "us" vs. "them" gives us a home… with “us” of course! Yay!

Or not “yay” at all. That’s just a comfortable stopping place on the way to every war.

What if we need to welcome the not-knowing and take its invitation to look more deeply into the world, the situation (whatever it is), our very own selves? What if the new normal is a more thoughtful, compassionate, wise, and uncertain way of being in the world?

Now’s our chance, because nothing is easy now. Breathe into that; don’t run from it. Every guideline about the pandemic comes with various opposing views. No Clear Answers. Breathe into that. We can see clearly that there is terrible racial injustice, and that’s just the beginning of the list of injustices. But there is no “one size fits all” path to change. Breathe.

Holding all of this — everything from what is safe to do in a pandemic world to how we are called to make this world a better place — leaves us with few certainties. Is a barbecue okay with social distancing? Can I hug my grandchild? Is it safe to eat at a restaurant?

You’ll have to decide, but if you decide with the blinders on of certainty, you will be surprised by what may knock you down around the corner. If you decide based on best reasoning, clearest need, and open inquiry, you will make a choice knowing that there are no guarantees. And there never have been.

And this same strategy calls us into our social/political landscape. Do I choose this action or that? Give money? Demonstrate? Seek deep inner change in myself? Do I close my eyes and hold my breath, waiting for everything to find its balance again? You decide. You are already deciding every day. But let the decisions you make be based on your best knowing, deepest intuition, the qualities of caring that you always carry. Don’t slip into right and wrong, bad and good, us and them.

Now is a great time to challenge those polarizing forces. I’m wearing a mask because to the best of my ability to understand, it is the safest thing to do. I am signing this petition because I feel strongly that this will help make a better world. I am taking a nap because I am likely to be able to face the day better with a little more sleep. I’m doing my best, with openness, with acceptance of uncertainty. On an easy day, I do my best with grace. On a hard day, I give it my best anyway.

A new normal could be acceptance of what is, resting in not knowing, a deep calling on values, rather than certainties, on qualities of being like love, compassion, creativity, curiosity, and so many more. Those are ways of being that can’t be threatened by circumstances and don’t need to be defended or proven. This is the resting place that we may need. It is home. It is our Self.

More from Dorothy Firman Ed.D. LMHC, BCC
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