Waiting On A New Normal: Navigating Your Mindset When You Feel In-Limbo.

Waiting On A New Normal: Navigating Your Mindset When You Feel In-Limbo.

Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration

(****really important note: this is not a post about waves or policies. this is about what you might be experiencing internally — a feeling stuckness or waiting, despite “logically knowing” you could be acting and feeling otherwise.)

 

 

 

Two years ago this week, I posted this:


A snippet from the caption:

“Today’s Micro Shift For A Mega Difference: Replace NEW NORMAL with FOR-NOW NORMAL.

NOW Normal isn’t the same as THEN Normal. And it’s definitely not the same as what Normal WILL BE months from now, when the dust settles, we emerge from our doors, and enter a post-pandemic society. And hug. It’ll be so, so wonderful to hug.

The words we choose to describe the time we’re in *matter.* Saying that this is our “New Normal” implies that the Now is the Forever…which it’s definitely not.”

Welp, it’s two years later. We have emerged from our doors. Hugs are a thing.

So why does it feel like we’re still waiting for something to happen?

 

PART 1: THE FORGETTING.

Okay, let me amend that: so why does it still feel like *a lot of us are* waiting for something to happen? I don’t want to assume what your life has been like, or is like, or how you’re feeling in this moment. But if the conversations I’ve been having and posts I’ve been seeing on social media are any indication of what’s going on beyond the walls of my own brain, then it’s pretty clear to me that a lot of us are still waiting for this New Normal people were talking about so often a few years back. Stuck in an interminable limbo.

Waiting.

Adjusting.

Planning, just enough.

Acting, just enough.

Waiting.

Waiting.

On a call with my therapist the other day, I admitted to her that I didn’t have vivid memories of the past year or so. This, I told her, was alarming to me. Because this, I told her, was something I’d experienced before. And as someone whose memory is usually crystal-clear (one friend likes to tell me that I remember her childhood better than she does. we met well into adulthood, I just know all her family’s stories and inside jokes), the fact that my memory presents itself as fuzzy and vague is, I told her, a big red flag that something is very off. The last time I experienced this on an intense level, after all, was in college — a time when my life felt so unlike my own that I ended up developing multiple eating and body-related disorders. And while I thankfully haven’t been even so much as flirting with any of those destructive avenues this time around, there’s one thing that I do realize I’ve been doing:

I’ve been shutting down and going through the motions.

 

Relationship therapists and mental health communities will often talk about “avoidant” attachment style, a pattern of behavior within relationships where the person disconnects from their own expression of needs and feelings and becomes overly independent. Others will talk about shutting down emotionally as a response to feeling overstimulated and not knowing how to handle it. I always like to get curious about relationship patterns and studies when I’m dealing with my own inner stuff — if the most important relationship you’ll ever have is the relationship you have with Your Self, wouldn’t it make sense that (at least some of) the same advice and findings might (at least some of the time) apply to that mega-important relationship, too?

You can logically know what you want to do, how you want to do it, every single step on the 200-step list to get you where you want to be. But logic won’t get you everywhere.

“It’s like I put up a physical wall,” I told my therapist, illustrating the wall in front of me with my hand gestures. “I don’t feel any which way about the wall — not angry, not sad. I logically know that I want to walk around the corner of the wall and keep moving forward; the corner’s right there. But it’s like there’s something inside of me that just won’t do it — that’s telling me it’s not the time yet.”

“It sounds to me,” she said gently after some thought, “like your strategy of shutting down and therefore not really remembering is a protective strategy. Is that maybe it? You’re doing your best to get yourself through tough times.”

As I think about this interminable in-limbo, this For-Now Normal I’m so eager to transition into a New one, I have to remind myself over and over again that this is the thing.

For all of us.

We are doing our best to get ourselves through tough times. And I think where we’ve been getting tripped up is thinking that this tough time isn’t supposed to be as tough as it is.

If we’re not in the Before anymore and we’re not in the After yet, we ask ourselves — then why does it feel like we’ve been wherever HERE is for so long?

“Maybe,” I mused to my therapist, a cartoon lightbulb popping over my head, “I’ve needed this moment of checking out a little to help me reset for whatever comes next.”

 

PART 2: THE MOTIONS

Here’s the thing. Transitions, are usually just as tough if not tougher than all the Befores and Afters. Even if we feel as if we’re on the precipice of the other side, that doesnt meant it’ll all the sudden be easy. And even if we’re in a transitional *moment,* that doesn’t mean that *moment* is a quick one.

My expectations formed in 2020 — of a smooth and quick transition from the Before to the After — did not match up with the reality of the During that’s been 2021/22, and that’s both my own doing AND not something to shame myself for. I’m pragmatically positive, looking at the truths in front of me and choosing to believe the ones that feel proactive, not reactive. This is what prevents me from going to those deeper and darker places when times get tough. I’m grateful that my pragmatically positive outlook has carried me through the last few years. And if that part of me needed a transitional moment of “going through the motions” of life in order to clear the slate for whatever’s next, I’m here for it.

That’s not to say if you get into a pattern of habitually checking out, tuning out, or going through the motions, it’s always okay or healthy. That’s why I brought it up to my therapist!

But if you’re someone who is used to always being ON, always having PLANS, always STRIVING REACHING SCHEMING with motivation and drive for days, and over the last couple years, has been HUSTLING SUPER HARD physically mentally and emotionally just to keep your mojo going…well, maybe this moment is a sign that your mojo just wants a nap.

Having high productivity, drive, and vision 24/7 isn’t just not-sustainable, it’s not how a full life works. Life is a mix of highs, lows, and everything in between. The thing that matters is that you focus on responding to and/or maximizing the moment you’re in instead of escaping it. It’s kind of like your classes in high school: maybe you lived for English class and poured your soul into every essay — but you still had to pass Chemistry, which you found boring and aggravating, to graduate.

It’s okay to love some times and go through the motions in others.

That doesn’t mean you’re failing.

It means you’re human.

 

PART 3: THE (FOR) NOW

I’ve started to believe even stronger in the concept of the For-Now Normal, and believe in it in a different way than before.

What if these past two years — and this past year, especially — has been a call-to-action for all of us to remember that every “Normal” has a “For Now” in front of it?

That things can be both temporary and interminably long at the same time?

That as long as you’re not causing yourself of others harm, doing your best to get yourself through a tough time is sometimes the best you can do in the current For Now, before the next For Now comes along?

I’m not telling you to subject yourself to a life of waiting. Be proactive, not reactive. 

And I’m also not telling you that every single thing in your life is a matter of choice. Life is a waltz between circumstance and choice, where at any moment one can take over the leading steps.

All I’m saying is that you, dear reader, dear friend, are in the midst of one of many of your For Nows. 

When you become tempted to tell yourself mean things about the season you’re in, remind yourself:

“The Now is not the Forever. It never is. Sometimes things come easily, some times are tough. I’ve gone through many seasons before this and will go through many seasons after this. What matters right now is that I honor where I am, knowing that where I’m going is just another moment away.”

Do the best with where you’re at, and the best for whatever’s next.

Your For Now is for now, just like your next For Now will be too.

Honoring where you are now allows you to practice honoring where you will be.

Trust it.

 

 


Never miss a post or podcast. Subscribe to The (Good) Word + join the WANT movement:


Laughable Plans: Finding Control When There Feels Like None.

Laughable Plans: Finding Control When There Feels Like None.

Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration

If you Google search “top 10 most stressful life events,” there are a few repeat offenders that pop up on list after list. Death of a loved one. Marriage. Divorce. Starting a new job or losing a current one. Financial problems. 

And then, there’s MOVING.

For the last few months, this one’s been my Stressful Life Event de Jour. And not just moving. Buying.

(*and yes, it’s admittedly a HUGELY privileged Stressful Life Event to even be able to buy — especially in New York City, which has been touted as one of the hardest places to buy due to its many….uh…let’s just call them *quirky* barriers to entry.)

But this letter to you today isn’t about buying a home: it’s about everything else it’s been bringing up for me, and I suspect life has been bringing up for you, too.

PART 1: LAUGHABLE PLANS.

Let me give you some context: I am no stranger to moving. For the majority of my adult life, I moved almost every single year. I think my own personal record was around 2009-2011, where I somehow fit four apartments into a span of 2.5 years.  And then I met Jeremy and started living in apartments for 2-3 years at a time. Apartments that didn’t feel like a “place” — they felt like a home.

About a year ago, we decided that after all these feelings of “home,” it was time to actually make moves and buy one of our own. Knowing a more permanent situation was on the horizon, we decided to take advantage of the “Covid deals” in the city and rent one last time. I don’t have kids (well, human kids — Frankie totally counts!), but I imagine the mindset we had was similar to that of pre-parents who take a “babymoon” before life changes forever: our plan was to have an “adventure year” in an area of the city we’d probably be priced out of during any other moment in time, while saving a bit more in the meantime. You know. Have one last “hurrah” before a new chapter began. Especially because, of course, things in the world would “get better” soon.

Well, there’s an old Yiddish saying. “We plan, God laughs.”

So, you’re welcome for the comedy show, God/universe/whatever you want to call it.

Without getting into all the nitty-gritty details of every single not-exactly-hurrah-worthy event, what I’ve finally realized is that after two years of SO much uncertainty and lack of control over the state of the world, I think we thought we could “control” our way out of it all. That we could put a surplus of concrete plans in place like in “before times” and it beat the system.

What’s ironic is that the surplus of plans we put in place actually worked in the opposite way we wanted them to. Instead of providing us with more security and ease, they made us more on edge and unsettled than ever. We weren’t loving our neighborhood. The pandemic was faaaaaaar from over. Buying was proving to be even harder than the “hard” we thought it would be. Maybe in a different time it would have all panned out differently, but we don’t live in another time. We live now. Everything began to feel fragile and calculated. 

What’s even more ironic is that it all felt exponentially harder to work through mentally and emotionally than in 2020, the year so many of our lives literally changed overnight, and so many of us felt like we had the most uncertainty.

PART 2: AFTERSHOCKS.

If you’re nodding your head, I want you to know that you’re a) human, and b) not alone. When you have so much uncertainty thrown your way for so long (and two years is definitely so long!), any opportunity to seize control can feel like not only a lifeline but the rarest of opportunities.

It’s not that uncertainty is the enemy, though. Or control, for that matter!! It’s not as simple as good vs. bad. Both certainty and uncertainty have their pros and cons, sometimes in the same breath.

But as a recovering perfectionist AND recovering self-help junkie, I’ve historically had a tendency to either think that you need to totally control every aspect of something in order for it to “work out,” or you need to completely let go. The latter being a favorite of self-help culture: everything happens for a reason, blah blah etc etc.

This is obviously not how life works. You can’t just always have one thing all the time.

So what do you do when you feel like you have no control at all and everything’s spinning haphazardly?

The answer to lack of control, I’ve learned, isn’t total control. It’s finding a way to feel (and stay, even?) grounded while the floor shakes under you and the aftershocks keep rolling. And I’m from Southern California. I KNOW earthquakes. When I was seven, an earthquake hit our city so big that entire houses fell off of their foundation. My friend Joey’s whole house was flooded. My aunt (pregnant with my cousin Ben, so also, my cousin Ben) had to literally climb out a window to get out of her house because the doors were blocked with debris. Phone lines went down, electricity went out, and parts of the freeway collapsed. People died. This was 1994 pre-social media, when all we had were newspapers, TV, and radio — the latter of the two you might not have had access to if your power had gone out. So for days, so many of us….just….didn’t know….so much.

And the aftershocks kept rolling.

But we got up. We got creative. We did what we could. We helped where we could. We climbed out windows and rebuilt freeways and mourned the losses while we moved forward, knowing very well the ground could start shaking again at any moment.

Whether it’s an earthquake, a globally traumatic event, a relationship beginning (or ending), a job ending (or beginning), or a move, there are times in life that present us with what feels like more not-knowing than we can handle.

Whenever I feel like “nothing” is certain and I start to not only fear but expect the proverbial aftershocks of a moment in time way outside of my control, I do ONE thing that IS.

Whether it’s moving my body in the warmth of my little living room on a cold day, or being intentional with my words during a difficult conversation, or doing that one thing I’ve been putting off for weeks  — that little thing ALWAYS brings me back to myself.

No, it doesn’t fix the situation at hand. But it reminds me I have a sliver of agency, during a time when I often forget I do — and that control isn’t an all-or-nothing event.

PART 3: THE DANCE.

I said earlier that there were multiple “not-exactly-hurrah-worthy” events over the course of the last year. But what I didn’t mention is that there were plenty of “hurrah-worthy” ones, too. Going to the theatre more than ever. Cooking so many new, delicious meals. Home workouts (who knew they’d become so fun?!). Weekend mornings uptown. Midday coffee breaks in Madison Square Park and Washington Square Park and Fifth Avenue. Runs through the streets of Chelsea and Soho. Multiple big work WINS. New friends. 

The thing that all of these moments have in common is that they weren’t in the plans. Even the things I DID expect to happen and DID plan for didn’t happen on the timeline I’d set for myself. I had control in the moment, but that control didn’t come from a strict guidebook I was following. The uncertainty actually enhanced these experiences, come to think of it. I appreciated them more. And eventually, allowed myself to go with the flow with the other stuff rather than fighting the tide.

I have no new news to report on the homebuying front, other than the fact that I’m finding peace in doing what I can and then letting the rest be. Like in life. Sometimes control will be there, and sometimes it won’t. Trying to force everything to line up perfectly isn’t the answer — but neither is letting go so much that you’ve lost the hope and joy that comes with expectations. You’ll be able to control certain things, but not all the things. Internalizing and accepting the presence of both those things as simultaneous truths is key to making the moments matter. An investment in both the attachment and non-attachment. An ability to move forward with plans and accepting they might not work out but moving forward anyway.

So many times we try to control our way into the fullest, truest life we can imagine.

But a full and true life isn’t about being in total control.

It’s about controlling what you can, then letting the rest unfold.

A dance between knowing and not-knowing.

 

gaining control uncertainty