The phrase “a new normal” is overused—if entirely appropriate—these days. While some folks might yearn for the so-called Good Ol’ Days, I can’t hear that cliché without remembering the wisdom of the great bard Billy Joel: “The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”
I hope Billy is right about tomorrow; I’m keeping my fingers crossed. But, one way or another, I for one am all in favor of a new normal. I love tradition, and I crave stability, but maintaining the status quo for its own sake (or because it pays off for me and what do I care about anybody else) is not a good reason. My real hope and prayer is that in the new normal we learn to care a lot more about everybody else and a little less about our own comfort and convenience. That’s a tough lesson, but a necessary one. And it’s embarrassing that we haven’t learned it by now.
(Here endeth the sermon.)
For me personally, a new normal happens every three years or so whenever we move. So even as I hope and pray for our nation and our society as we move into a new version of life-as-we-know-it, my job is to work on my own new routines, new habits, new life.
A new way of reading scripture.
As a postulant of Martha’s House part of my commitment is to regular reading of the scriptures, and especially to the practice of lectio divina using the weeks’ Gospel text from the Revised Common Lectionary.
Lectio is “holy reading,” not academic study of the scripture but prayerful engagement with it. The traditional practice is to read aloud, or hear the text read, three or four times through, slowly. With each reading, the pray-er listens to the word that God is speaking through that text on that day.
Last week I wrote the weekly blog post for Martha’s Table, based on the Gospel text Matthew 15:21-28. After it was done I realized that without meaning to, I’d been doing lectio divina… in writing. I used to write like this a lot: a prayer/poem imagining into the stories and the characters of the Bible. The Canaanite woman’s prayer (it was prayer, I think: she was talking to Jesus!) became my prayer. And I realized this way of practicing lectio can (and perhaps should) become my new normal.
A new way to set goals.
I am terrible at goals.
I’m great at making them, I should say; I could come up with a list of goals a mile long. I’m just terrible at meeting them. Or even trying very hard. It’s challenging, and can be an exercise in futility, when goals are tied into the practical structures of life, and those structures are regularly upending.
But I was thinking (actually daydreaming) about the coming fall, when the work of moving is done and we’re settled again. I didn’t mean to be writing goals, but I had a mental list of projects: finish my middle-grade novel draft in September before a childrens’ writing conference I plan to attend, and write Advent devotions for the next AltarBox. In October, take a picture-book writing class, and in November do NaNoWriMo (finally!) for MG novel #2. There are non-writing things on the list too: join the None to Run challenge and this time complete the 12 weeks (without the summer swelter!).
As I was running through this list and matching it to calendar months I realized I was actually setting goals! But goals with a twist. They’re not big long-term things, not “Publish a novel” or “Run a marathon.” Instead they’re more like mile markers along the way. I can’t always plan the destination (I mean, who really can?). I need to shift my gaze to the short-term and trust that meaningful action now will lead me where I need to go. Wherever that is.
A new way to take care.
This one is a long, slow, difficult process. It’s been a couple years now since I started learning about Intuitive Eating. Turns out it’s one of those things that you don’t achieve by studying… you have to do it. Practice. Practice more. Fail. And practice some more.
Maybe someday I’ll write a proper post (or series) about this but for now I’ll just say: this has been a major mind-bender for me. At 45+ years old, it is hard (maybe nearly impossible) to turn off the tapes in my head that insist “healthy”=”thin” and telling me I’m a failure for not being able to get “healthy” and stay “healthy.” Feel free to imagine the air-quotes in the last sentence.
Though I started studying IE years ago, just in the past six months or so I finally feel like I’ve detached from the fantasy of weight loss and thinness. In my head, I now believe in exercise (better known as joyful movement!) and food as acts of self-care rather than self-control. But my practice is severely lacking. In the new normal, I need to become a practitioner.
While I still might like to be thinner, what actually matters to me now is feeling like myself—feeling good, and feeling well. As I edge toward age 50, it makes me sick to think of the years (decades!) I’ve wasted worrying about getting thin instead of practicing joy and care. I could have been having a lot more fun. I could have enjoyed myself, and being myself, so much more.
A new purpose.
These personal “new normals” are small potatoes compared to the big changes we need to see in the world around us. As I read back through this post so far, these things seem petty in the face of… life these days.
What I hope is that these small private actions can help me to be better equipped to serve in the world that is ahead of us—whatever it brings. I want to tune into God’s calling, to hone my skills, and to be as truly heath-full as I can be, so that ultimately I can be braver, better, and a wellness bearer.