How Can This Be Our New Normal?

I'll be honest. My tendency is to avoid the morning and evening news. Because, well, the news is 99% terrifying and I am 200% devastated by what I see there... the senseless violence, the endless injustices of the marginalized, the hatred and ignorance and arrogance. I hardly know where to begin. And then we live through the the past two weeks, the shootings, the racism, it feels inescapable.

I've found myself in several conversations with friends this past week, sitting in their backyards, blowing out birthday candles, or making dinner together, and suddenly it's "did you hear about what happened in Dallas? Or Michigan? Or..."

And the question that escapes me is this: How is this our new normal? 

I know I've asked myself this question before. Who hasn't?

I remember vividly, about 6 months after my accident when I was still unable to sleep through the night and reeling from a pain I never asked for and didn't see coming, I made an appointment with a counselor. When he asked me why I came, I gave him a long and overly detailed list of all the doctors, lawyers, workers compensation paperwork, insurance adjusters, physical therapy appointments. This part took a while and I referred to hand written notes because my memory could not be trusted to hold so much. Finally, I took a breath and blurted out the real reason I made the appointment. "I just want to get back to normal, but I can't remember what that was like! How do I get back to normal?"

I remember watching him shrug his shoulders after I said it. Then, he said something that either makes me roll my eyes or break down crying depending on what sort of day I'm having... 

"What's done is done. But, this is your new normal. Welcome to your new normal." He said with a satisfied smile.

I left his office determined to never let my current reality become "normal." I also did not return to his office.

A few words on the word normal:

I've never liked the word normal. I've been called a lot of names in my life, artsy and smart, and crazy and a few others that are not so nice which do not bear repeating. Normal has never made the list. Not even once. I've always equated normal with ordinary, and who wants that?

But, my accident changed everything. After my accident, every expert was quick to respond with a sympathetic head tilt and the exact same statement:

"I just want to reassure you that what you are experiencing is totally normal, for someone who has very recently been hit by an automobile while walking across a street."

Granted, maybe this is the "normal" response given to those who are experiencing the normal side effects of a life altering accident that did not kill me but should have.

Maybe this is normal. But, it certainly wasn't helpful.

No one bothered to mention that being hit by a car while walking is NOT normal at all. Being shot at during a routine traffic stop is not normal either.

Back to the events of the past week or so:

And this week, as reports of a shooting, and then another, and then another, ate up all the space on on the world's collective newsfeed, that ugly word, "normal" surfaced once again. And all the normal responses followed suit. Outbursts of outrage and indignation, tears of frustration, and sorrow... "Oh those poor parents, children, families..." the barrage of hashtags and viral public service announcements. We demand action. We demand justice. We demand change. 

And some of us demand to get back to normal... but we can't. We can't go back. We must move forward. Forward is our only option.

Fine. All right. Maybe this is what that ridiculous counselor meant with his shoulder shrug. I can't shrug my shoulders at the recent news headlines and walk away. But, I can start asking different questions.


Yesterday afternoon, I needed a break, a few moments of quiet, a change of scenery. So, I drove up to the top of Bogus Basin. It was only 68 degrees up there. Almost 20 degrees cooler than it had been in Boise. I took a few deep breaths. The air was crisp and smelled of evergreen trees. I looked out over the city and waited for my heart and mind to quiet down. I found myself praying for my neighbors, my city, my family, my nation and new questions surfaced inside me.

  1. How do I respond in love?
  2. How do I face whatever the days ahead bring with hope and peace, faith and love when there is violence and pain hunting all of us down, breaking down our doors?
  3. How do I (we humans) navigate this new territory when the harshest news seems to be pressing into every moment of our lives?
  4. How do we stand up under the weight of gross injustice without losing sight of the beauty and resilience of our humanity?

You see, from the top of that mountain, the small city of Boise looks pretty insignificant. And for some of us, our lives feel even smaller than that most of the time. This is a paralyzing thought. But, if this week has taught us anything, it's this: We've seen the harm, havoc, and sorrow one person can cause - enough to make a nation, or the whole world, stop and sigh and shake our heads in disbelief. 

But, if one person has the power to cause that much chaos, each of us also possess the power to cause that much beauty and goodness in the world. 

So, how do I begin to answer these new questions? How do I start dealing with a world that is constantly changing but never normal?

Maybe I need to stop assuming I understand people and really start listening to the stories their lives are telling. Maybe I need to call out the love and beauty and courage of those around me instead of waiting for more bad news. Maybe I need to pray more often. Maybe I need to stop wishing things would go back to normal... because that never works.

And then, I ran across this video (on Facebook of course)... watch what happens when 1,500 people lend their voices to something beautiful... when 1,500 people direct their breath toward unity...

This is Not the End,