Defining New Normal
Written 6 minutes ago
People often ask me if things ever go back to "normal." My answer is different every time because "new normal" is not only relative, it's evolving. I find that the more information I have about a topic, the better off I am as I experience it...knowing what to expect takes the fear out of the equation. This was especially helpful through treatment...knowing that I would lose my hair by the 2nd dose of chemo was helpful in my planning and preparation. Knowing that I needed to build my core strength prior to my mastectomy made it easier for me to heal because I couldn't sit up using my arms...I needed that core. Knowledge was power, and power was strength.
While researching new normal, I couldn't help but think, "If I know what that means, I will be okay." As it turns out, "new normal" is a difficult thing to define. It is different for everyone...spiritually, mentally, physically. Expectations change. Behaviors change. Boundaries change. This affects every aspect of your life, from work, to relationships with friends, spouses, children. It's just different.
I have found that I want to "make a difference." I want to give of myself so that I can somehow impact people in a positive light. I have found a way to do this through volunteerism. I serve the homeless once a month. I have found this to be a humbling and eye-opening experience that I hope to share with Logan and Parker some day.
I serve as a PinkPal to a not-for-profit organization that focuses on young women who are survivors or ask high risk for breast and/or ovarian cancer. The organization has matched me to 3 survivors with similar stories. We cover 4 corners of the States, and I will likely never meet them...but our stories have linked us for life, and I feel better for knowing them.
I serve on the Board of the Susan G. Komen Central Wisconsin Affiliate as the Educational Chair. This is a true passion of mine. I truly believe that Komen has been a pioneer of breast cancer awareness, and serves as one of the largest reasons that breast cancer treatments are as advanced as they are. And I am happy to be a part of that process.
New normal is also enlightening. I blogged a year ago today about a Don Draper quote from AMC's Mad Men: I've started over a million times, and trust me - this is the worst part. If only I had known how relevant that quote would be a year later. That quote was in part about ending a chapter of my life and entering into the darkness and uncertainty of "new normal." It was also in reference to moving. Nathan and I decided last year that traveling to opposite ends of the country to visit our families was more and more difficult, and that if we could be close to one of those families, we would only have to travel to visit one home. With Mama and Terry temporarily in Houston, it made sense for us to move to Wisconsin. So we set out on a 5 year plan to move back to Wisconsin. When the right jobs came along, our 5 year plan turned into a 5 month plan. We moved to Wausau (3 hours east of Minneapolis and 2 hours north of Madison) last June. And we have laughed over how this must have been the longest Winter on record (if was still snowing Mother's Day weekend).
New normal changes perception. What was once a happy place where we expanded our family and joined our friends at Derby is now an eerie reminder of how I came together as a Franken-Barbie. We stay with our friends Nick and Kerrie when we travel (it ends up being the perfect resting point in addition to spending time with them), and to say that I can't get out of there fast enough is an understatement...I would hang out with Kerrie, Nick and their kids for a lifetime, but I cannot get past cancer in Louisville...and it feels like a weakness, not a strength. Trust me, I know how strong I was during that fight...but I don't need to be reminded of it anymore than I am when I look in the mirror on a daily basis.
Every day I discover something else that is new normal. Every day I change. Cancer is a cluster of abnormal cells that divide, seemingly out of control. And that is new normal. It is good, it is bad, it is uncontrollable...and constantly changing. It is the birth of a new life and the death of an old one.
In February of last year, I lost Nannie, my father's mother. In April of this year, I lost Granny, Mama's Mama. I was fortunate to hold her hand before she passed...to pinch the loose skin of her elbows as I did in my childhood (which drove her crazy, but she let me do it anyway)...to sing to her and pray over her. Mama and Tina Wilson compared death to birth many times in that process. They said that it was as if Granny's body was mourning the soul as it left our space and entered into the next. I thought that was beautiful...and it felt honorable to be physically present with Granny in some of her last hours. She has left a lasting legacy in her stories, our memories, letters, and the love that she gave us.
My "bestie" Mere and I were discussing this process of death on the beach a couple of weeks after Granny passed, and she shared this with me. It was the first time I had seen it, although most people have probably seen it at one time or another on the internet:
The story is about twin babies who are having a philosophical discussion in the womb. Their dialog goes as follows:A: Do you believe in life after birth?
B: Of course. Everybody knows there is a life after birth. We’re here now because we have to grow and get ready for what’s to come.
A: That’s ridiculous! There’s no life after birth. What could such a life be like?
B: I don’t know exactly, but there must be more light than in here. Maybe we’ll walk on our legs and eat with our mouth.
A: Nonsense! It’s impossible for us to walk. And eating with our mouth? That’s crazy. We get our food through the umbilical cord. And obviously there can be no life after birth because the umbilical cord is too short.
B: Well, I think it’s possible. It’ll just be different from what we’re used to in here.
A: But nobody has ever come back after birth. Birth is the end of life. And frankly, life is just meaningless existence in the darkness. There’s no point to it, and we’re going nowhere.
B: No! I don’t know exactly what it will be like after birth, but I’m sure that we’ll see our Mother and she’ll take care of us.
A: Mother? You believe in Mother? And just where is she then?
B: Where? She’s all around us! And we’re inside her. We’re her children. In her we live and move and have our being. Without her we wouldn’t exist.
A: That’s absurd. I’ve never seen this "Mother," so there’s no such thing.
B: I don’t agree with you. In fact, sometimes when it’s quiet, you can hear her sing and feel her caress our world. You know, I believe that we’re here to prepare for the life to come, and our true life starts after birth.
And so it is with new normal...the end is just the beginning...through all of our self-doubt and fear and loathing, we are reborn...over and over again. And if we are lucky, we find unexpected treasure through this process that curbs the fear and loathing, and helps us find our light again.
I am a survivor...2 years young...today.