“Normal”

My park district pool

I can’t count the number of times I hear the word “normalin a day. But it’s lots of times. I hear it in conversation with my friends. I hear it on news shows, both on television and the radio. I hear it in my head when I’m evaluating an activity in which I may or may not participate. For example, the normal opening day for the outdoor pool in my community is on Memorial Day weekend. Of course last year, that wasn’t true because of Covid. The outdoor pool never opened at all. The indoor pool eventually re-opened but I was one of the last regular lap swimmers to return because I was uncertain about the safety of being in an indoor facility. I waited until I was fully vaccinated and deep into the time when I was relatively certain that my immune system was ramped up enough to contend with the virus. That was my normal. Careful and cautious with an eye toward the risk/reward ratio about my health. My normal was different regarding the return to the outdoor pool. Despite the chilly weather I was there the first day it opened. Fresh air, few people and my happy place? I had no hesitation whatsoever.

Roger Federer

Right now Roger Federer is playing in the French Open. So is Serena Williams. I watch Federer and Williams play whenever I have the opportunity because I know that at almost forty, their careers will eventually be winding down.

The tournament is being played in a Covid-bubble modified environment for the safety of everyone involved. The total number of fans allowed to attend the matches is a scant five thousand. So this is not normal. But watching the way Federer played after two surgeries and a long layoff due to his injuries and the pandemic, the whole situation felt perfectly normal. I know he won’t be around for perhaps even one more year. And Serena is playing like a powerhouse. But in this moment, I’m engaged in my normal Federer/Williams obsession which will mutate into some kind of fondness for them after life changes and they move on. After all, isn’t that normal? Before Federer and Williams showed up twenty years ago, my tennis normal was liking Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf. Depending on how long I live and how long some of the twenty-somethings keep playing, it will be normal for the younger generation to become my favorites. Time goes forward. Things change. That’s normal.

Maggie Haberman: Trump Telling People He Expects To Be ‘Reinstated’ As President By August

For me, the headline above is not normal. That announcement by Maggie Haberman, a reporter for the New York Times, was validated today by sources close to Trump. Nothing in the history of his presidency and post-presidency resembles any political experience in my lifetime, except perhaps the Nixon years. Even those seem tame compared to the snake oil salesman atmosphere surrounding the loony years of the 45th presidency. Out there in the world, though, are other people longing to return to living under the aegis of what to me was an aberrant reality. So who’s normal? Me or them? I guess in this case, normal is a matter of personal beliefs and perceptions.

When I was a young person, I was a great sleeper. My parents told me that as a baby I just went to bed and slept for twelve hours. I shared a room with my sister for our whole lives before adulthood. She told me I would drive her crazy because as we settled in at the end of our days, I would say good night and immediately begin the breathing associated with deep sleep, while she tossed and turned. I remember the pleasure of turning over to sleep on my stomach, never waking until morning when I literally bounded out of bed, ready for anything. So normal. Then I had kids. A lot more disruption in the night became customary. As I got older, I’d be wakened by some random pain. Sleeping on my stomach after two caesareans became uncomfortable. I miss turning my back on the world and sinking into oblivion. When Michael got sick, I felt aware of his every move even when I thought I was unconscious. Suddenly I’d be awake, sleeping fitfully at best. During the last months of his life, when his circadian rhythms disappeared, he was waking every hour and a half. I woke with him. Now, four years after his death, I sleep in short spurts. I’ve tried all kinds of recommended aids to get back into what’s recommended and normal for my age. So far, I’ve failed at all of them. My normal is nothing I thought would be my life, staying up until 4 in the morning and sleeping late. Just like I never thought my normal would be me surviving Michael by years. My plan didn’t look that way, ever. Now it just is no plan at all because life tossed me the unexpected. So here I am, trying to get “normal.” Although I’m relatively certain no one I know would ever refer to me in that way.

I remember when my friend Meii offered to make some masks for me and my family in March 2020, when wearing them was recommended. I brought her a bunch of bandannas that Michael used to wear when he ran or rode his bike. I kept one for myself but used all the others so everyone could feel him close to us during a time like no other. Since that time, I’ve developed quite a stockpile of masks. I have one with octopus tentacles, one with monarch butterflies, one with Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I have plain cloth ones and KN95’s and the triple layer paper ones. Where I live, for the most part, wearing them isn’t an issue. Around here, they’re normal. Although I hate how sweaty I get when I’m active and inside, I never take mine off until I’m out again. I can’t imagine thinking that having the CDC recommend mask-wearing is interfering with my personal freedom and is too much government intervention. Public health isn’t an abnormal consideration in any society. Like public education and public safety are normal governmental concerns. Initially, wearing a mask felt abnormal to me. But as with other unasked for changes in my life, I’ve responded by adapting to the demands of circumstances. Now in fact, I’ve realized how glad I am that I haven’t even had a sniffle since wearing a mask, nor has anyone in my family. Even my grandkids stayed totally healthy during all this time. I’ve thought about continuing to wear them indoors indefinitely, as a precautionary measure in the future, whether they’re mandated or not. I think I’d feel normal and more confident that I could stay healthy, cutting down the opportunism of infectious diseases. But I’d bet a lot of cash that plenty of people would think I was nuts.

From 1971 through almost half of 2017, normal for me meant being in a relationship, and ultimately, a marriage. Cancer, the veritable poster child for abnormality, entered our lives in 2012. For five years, Michael and I straddled the conflicting worlds of being the selves we’d been for decades and the selves that were now forced to deal with the threatening, disruptive threat of impending doom. The definition of normalcy was muddied daily, depending on what was happening with treatments, how Michael was feeling, how our family was feeling and how I was feeling. We wrangled with these challenges and fluctuations until the day he died, May 28th, 2017. Then my normal became being a single person, a widow, a woman with a new title. A woman living in a country with a person who in my eyes, was an aberrant president, who daily demonstrated behavior which was antithetical to my idea of normal. I was busy trying to adapt myself to this unasked for, undreamed of reality. Pushing through each day, trying to find my spot in a dystopian and bizarre landscape, both externally and internally. I made some strides.

Then in 2020, along came the pandemic. The bits of my new normal skidded to a halt. I had a couple of advantages at this time. I was getting used to being alone and I was good at trying to keep contagion at bay. Partners of cancer patients have lots of practice at fending off the diseases which can be stopped at the front door. I have the economic good fortune of having Internet services, a computer and a smart phone. I’m glad it’s normal for me to recognize what luxuries they are in imposed isolation. Poor people might not have noticed the difference between pre-Covid and the new reality. Their struggles are so normal for them, that doing without the creature comforts that allowed wealthier folks to connect on Zoom or Facetime, don’t have relevance to their daily lives. The privilege of frustration isn’t normal for everyone. At least not the same types of frustration. The deep financial divides in my country make normal a completely relative term. Some people want to attend large events, maskless, hang out body to body in bars, take long trips with no restrictions on how they travel or what they do. Other people would just like to eat regularly instead of every few days, if at all.

Don’t misunderstand me. I was lucky enough to get a few tastes of part of the life I had before. I’m lucky because I have family who chose to stay near me. So we lived in our bubble and got away from home for a little time, while still living within the recommendations of the government. I’m grateful. I don’t know that what we did was getting back to normal but it was a welcome reprieve. Frankly, I’m not sure enough of the future to predict how life will be, even just a few months from now. I don’t believe anyone really knows what that looks like, any more than anyone having been prepared for the world to change as dramatically as it did in 2020. My approach is to live day by day, as much as possible. I’m willing to make a few appointments, for practical purposes, but I don’t get too far ahead of myself.

I think I have some inklings about what I hope will stop being considered normal. I’m done with mass shootings. I’m done with people who haven’t read the Constitution or The Bill of Rights bellowing meaningless catchphrases. I’m done with selfishness and no respect for the common good. How did those things get normal? I’m done with passengers fighting on airplanes and road rage. I’m tired of listening to jaded politicians, who are actually disenfranchising voters, pretending they’re for safe and fair elections. I’m tired of people thinking it’s normal to equate demonstrations about civil rights with an insurrection on the seat of our government.

June 1, 2021, 12:55 PM EDT By Steve Benen – MSNBC

It was unsettling to see former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn appear at a right-wing gathering over the weekend and endorse a military coup in the United States. Asked about Myanmar’s coup, the retired Army general specifically said, “I mean it, it should happen here.”

I’m tired of reading headlines like the one above which is heard by some of my fellow citizens and cheered as if military coups are a normal and desirable next step for this country. Can anyone define how this kind of incendiary language from a convicted felon, who was lucky enough to be pardoned, is considered normal by anyone?

Life changes, whether we like it or not. Normal is only normal within a certain context in a given time. Children have the privilege of having a frame of reference that’s pretty short. The fortunate children, that is. Not the ones separated from their parents at a country’s border. They grow up faster and learn that “normal,” is a variable term. Healthy adults figure that out. Overgrown children masquerading as grownups have tantrums, like kids who want all their toys back right now. No matter what. Am I missing something? I’m keeping my understanding of normal. I just wish I knew what to do about the other definitions floating around out there.

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