I was watching the news when there was a shot of a man in a hospital bed. I don’t recall what had happened to him—Had he broken bones, lost a leg, or been badly burnt in a fire?—but his words were instantly etched in my mind, “I’m going to get used to a new normal.” I’d heard the phrase before (it’s around for a long time), but this time it hit me how we all need to do that because there’s really no other way to live well.
I specifically think of this man’s determination when I sit with clients who fight change. They’re in there mad as hell and come out swinging with both arms, as if by struggling hard enough against change, they can stop it from happening. Well, good luck with that. Heaven knows, we’ve all put up this fight at one point or another. I certainly have.
Think of how you’ve battled change—divorce, rent hikes, job loss, medical condition, friend moving away, or death of a loved one. Wrinkles, love handles, slowing down, forgetfulness, losing our hair, needing reading glasses, giving up skiing, children on drugs, financial calamities, and other unwelcome surprises. It makes sense that our instinct is to fight these changes, but it makes no sense to keep fighting them when we know we’re only making things worse and that battling change is wasted energy.
And that’s where the concept of new normal is so darned useful. It’s a more constructive perspective, a successful adaptation, a way of putting a new frame on an old picture. It means that life may have changed for the worse but that soon it will simply be life as is. Consider the comfort that this attitude can bring you. Acceptance, recognition that you’re going to be okay no matter what, that you bounced back, that you will not only survive but thrive. The concept of a new normal has resilience written all over it.
There are new normals beckoning us right and left. For overeaters it means eating smaller portions and for people with anorexia, eating larger ones. Walking for exercise when we can no longer run. Spending more time taking better care of ourselves because of life-threatening illness. Listening to our bodies rather than looking at scales. After a while, a new normal becomes just fine. It becomes the routine we follow without looking back, the path we take because it’s now familiar. Limits force us to look at things in a new way and force us to learn how to fit our new selves into an old world.
Please stop fighting change and, instead, as the man in the hospital newscast did, declare that you’re ready to face and open your arms to a new normal. Know that it may take a while, but be persistent. Decide to adjust to it and you will. And, you’ll be so glad you did.