"We need to find our new normal"
I heard this phrase a lot when we were just a few months into the pandemic. People were struggling to adjust to all of the changes and to find how this "new normal" would look as schools and businesses went online while masks and hand sanitizer became as commonly used as shoes and socks. The gatherings stopped, the hugs stopped, the restaurants closed and so many more changes and loss rolled in like a sudden summer storm. Some of us longed for things to return to normal while others were trying to adjust to a “new normal”.
For me, normal never came, not even a new normal. I lived in a strange limbo with friends who were kind enough to take me in after I lost my studio, and then my home, during the ever extending lockdown. The months went by, and while I was surrounded by love and care there, I was also longing to be reunited with the love of my life in India. Separated by half a world, with all of our plans on hold, the future was frightfully unknown.
As you already know, I did get to India. I have been here in India almost 2 months now. The first week was spent searching for a nice apartment. If we could just find a nice place, and get moved in, then I could find my new normal. We found a place. We moved in. We had no furniture or appliances when we moved in but only our suitcases, a new mattress on the floor and a water purifier on the wall. Well this isn't normal either... but it will feel normal when we get our refrigerator and our sofa, and our bedroom furniture. But then a second wave of the pandemic swept over India like a tsunami, washing away any attempts to build normalcy. A lockdown was enforced, only essentials are being delivered, and the news is grim, dreadfully grim. Hospitals are short on beds and running out of oxygen while healthcare workers are strained beyond their physical and mental limits. As the tendrils of this global virus tighten its grip around the city, I could easily choke to death on the heavy cloud of fear that has covered India if I let my mind wander into the minefields of “what if”.
Today the sky was a spectacular display of huge brilliant white fluffy clouds on a background of the purest blue sky you have ever seen. We ate our breakfast of poha (flattened rice) and marveled at the beauty of the sky and delighted in the company of each other. It feels jarring, doesn't it? To suddenly describe the beauty of the sky with no segue from the horror of the raging pandemic here. But this is my reality. The truth is that things are really scary here, and also really wonderful. Fear, pain, beauty and joy are always growing side by side in the wilderness of our daily existence. In our search for “normal” I think we are really looking for the comfort that we associate with our common routine. We are hoping to settle into some place where things are familiar and comfortable. And while, at first, that seems like a reasonable enough goal, the uncertainty of this ever changing world makes striving towards “normal” a fairly fruitless undertaking.
A dragonfly flew into my yoga room and hovered around, here and there, for a few moments before darting back out of the open window. How unusual, I thought, to not only have a dragonfly indoors, but in a third floor apartment in a crowded city. Rainbows shimmer on the walls from the crystals and prisms I have placed strategically around our home. Sunshine is found in abundance here. Our days are filled with music since both my husband and I play guitar and sing. A few days ago we awoke to the lovely, and unusually loud, chirping of a bird that we discovered was actually in our living-room. It was a splendid way to greet the new day, and the little bird soon flew back out of the kitchen window. Yesterday we enjoyed eating the most splendidly ripe watermelon. I am amazed that such a beautiful and delicious thing is found in nature - the luscious red fruit dotted with black seeds encased in an emerald green shell. Every evening the sunset can be seen through the sliding glass doors of our bedroom balcony. Last night the crescent moon hung above the horizon, a slice of orange against the black sky.
All of this beauty and all of this uncertainty made me realize that I have been wasting my energy striving towards my “new normal”. Normal is not only an illusion, but a trap of complacency that blinds me to the truth of impermanence contained within every moment. When we can see deeply how life is ever changing, in big and small ways, moment by moment, then we can see clearly the beauty that is right before us in this fleeting moment. A synonym for the word normal is the word, common. In a search to find normal we risk overlooking the uncommon beauty and mystery of daily life.
In closing I will tell you that we still don’t have our bedroom furniture. We have a mattress on the floor and our clothes in suitcases as we wait for the long expected bed and wardrobes. Is this “normal” or a “new normal”? Who cares?! It’s my life, and it’s beautiful.