Today I still don’t.
Recently my best friend from college got the fantastic news that her husband, after his second battle with Lymphoma was cancer free. I sent her an email welcoming her to “the new normal” where life is that much sweeter because we had to fight so hard to get here. We had earned this “thankful for every breath” new paradise. It was ours.
But the truth is the “new normal” is still hard.
Days are no longer run on adrenaline and the choices that were once so easy because they boiled down to fight or quit now become more complex. The longer your life is “normal” the more time you have to rebuild that which was broken. Suddenly a bump in the road becomes a much bigger deal because now you have something to lose. You financially rebuild, you emotionally rebuild, and slowly your life starts to look more and more like what life was like “before.”
The problem with this is that now you live your life like grandmother’s china. Staying locked safely inside the hutch until a really special occasion because you don’t want to risk cracks or heaven forbid actually dropping one of those dainty Wedgewood teacups on the floor and shattering it. And when a special occasion does force you to pull the gravy boat from its secure location on top of the luncheon plates (which you can hardly distinguish from the salad plates or the dessert plates) you handle it with baited breath until it is delicately hand washed and placed back in the safety of the hutch.
That’s the hard part about the “new normal.” You’ve survived the earthquake. The doors to the hutch were thrown off their hinges and maybe a few things broke, but you still have enough dishes to eat off Grandma’s china every night for the rest of your life.
And at first you do.
You pull out the crystal, use the fancy napkins, and drink the wine you were saving for a special occasion.
Because you’re alive.
That special occasion is now.
And during the day you sweep up the broken pieces, put the doors back on their hinges, replace the shelves and the glass, and then, maybe without even noticing it, you start putting the china back on the shelf.
And you begin to realize that three years ago during the earthquake, little things like a stress fracture refusing to heal, or the fact that you cannot go anywhere without five prescription bottles in your purse, would not have mattered. But now that life’s been pulled back together, they do.
Like chips in a teacup.
The thing about “new normal” is that you are still thankful for every day. The memory of struggle does not fade. You know how truly lucky you are. But it is for that reason that you don’t want to lose any more than you have already lost. It’s the reason you begin to gently place those dishes back on the shelf.
But the more times that you neatly stack those exquisite gold chargers behind those glass doors and marvel at the beauty trapped within, the harder it becomes to swing those doors open again to let that beauty out.
So it’s fine to clean up after the crisis. You have to if you want to move on with your life.
But don’t forget who you were when life called on you to be brave.
The earthquake may have broken much of who you were then, but when the dust settled you were still standing. Those Wedgewood teacups are delicate and fragile but you are made of stronger stuff.
Do not be afraid to open the door.
And hey, remember, if you drop one of those teacups there are 11 more in the hutch. When was the last time you had 12 people ask you for tea? When was the last time you entertained 12 people?
And if the gravy boat breaks? Put it in one of those other odd shaped bowls that you have no idea what they are for and call it a day.
Gravy is delicious, no one cares if you sail it across the table in a boat or if it shows up in a life raft.