The New Normal

"Life's about changing, nothing ever stays the same." ~ "How Can I Help You Say Goodbye?" - song by Patty Loveless

Change is a hard thing.  We claim we embrace it, but often it becomes this huge brick wall we must scale. The important thing to remember about change, though, is that it is constant. As the song said, nothing ever stays the same.  Most of us love routines and traditions.  We like the constants in our lives such as the return of yellow school buses at the end of August, the singing of the National Anthem before every football game, Christmas decorations in the stores by July (ha!), turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, and dandelions in our yards by April. We set our watches (or our mobile calendars) by them.  When something happens that changes our traditions, we mourn a bit, and then attempt to move onto what I call the New Normal.

I know a lot about the New Normal.  When my boys were very young I left their dad and moved back home.  It was a harsh, hurtful, heart-wrenching time of my life.  One of the most difficult parts was when the boys went to their dad's house in Chicago.  I was left with this big gaping whole of a weekend.  No noise.  No Hot Wheels.  No mac and cheese to make. No faces to wipe.  At first I would just lie on the couch and watch hours of vapid television.  I might venture out for food, but I would find my way back to that couch. Holidays were even worse.  My kids always spent Christmas Eve up in Chicago. I would leave cookies for Santa, but they didn't see that he had eaten them until the next afternoon. I never knew Christmas morning.  I wasn't a recipient of their childish anticipation at 5:00 AM. I didn't see their faces as they opened presents from Santa. Their dad had all of that. I eventually learned not be sad about this loss.  I had many other moments....the first day of school, bathtime, dinners at McDonald's, time at the playground, parent-teacher conferences, back to school shopping, band concerts, show choir competitions, and much more. This was my New Normal. Another divorced friend of mine once told me something she learned in a therapy session.  She said she was mourning the loss of the "normal" family life, and her therapist said that as a member of a divorced/blended family she would never have the Cinderella happy ending, so get over it.  Wow.  I didn't even have to go spend money for a psychologist!  That statement changed my life.  Really, none of us can expect the Cinderella story.  Was she even happy?  The story ends on her wedding day.  We don't know if she and Prince Charming fought over money, wrangled about the dirty dishes, argued parenting styles with each other, or even stayed together.  Maybe she eventually got tired of his perfect teeth and hair.  Maybe he didn't like the way she sang with the household rodents.  Anyway, it's just a fairytale, you know.

So what is my New Normal these days, you ask? First, I am entering my second year with no children in the house. The boys have flown the proverbial nest. Our home is quiet, tidy, calm, and practically drama free.  Sigh.

One of the major New Normals right now is how my work environment has changed.  We have a new principal, many new teachers, new Common Core requirements, a new contract with many stipulations attached, and I am teaching a new class this year!  Already I have put in countless hours preparing myself for all of this.  A few of my colleagues have complained about how different it is at school and how they don't appreciate all of these recent changes to their routines.  I keep reminding them that this is the New Normal.  There is no going back, most of these changes are for the good of the students and their learning styles, and we can't (or shouldn't) want it to go back to the way things were.  My firm belief is that constant complaining is not beneficial to anyone...not to you or the people who have to listen to you.  It's physics:  negative people create negative energy.  Positive people create positive energy. Maybe I am Pollyanna, but I really do love my job.  I enjoy teenagers, I like what I teach, and I have a smile on my face...most days.

The New Normal is here to stay......until something changes.