We are being transformed
We speak of normal as if it were a thing, a real thing that we loved about former days, for which we yearn. There is no more normal, whatever that ever was.
Here is the bad news. There is no normal. There never was. No Normal families, just the ones whose dysfunctions we accepted as ours. No normal schedule or way of getting a thing done. No normal experience, just experiences that we got used to having, good or bad. No normal people, even, just ones we know well and ones we think are like us. And normal by whose standards?
We are creatures of habit, seeking it, habituating to it, naming it normal. And we need it too.
Now, we think Zoom is normal and meeting over a screen is and visiting with family virtually is too.
I wrote last week of listening to loss. What we thought normal is lost too. But here’s the idea I want to share today: we are being transformed. That is what we resist when we seek normal. Transformation is the process of loss. We never revert to who we were before the loss. Every loss chips away at our illusions, at our grasping for treasures that can be collected and held, at our sense of immortality, at our denial of vulnerability. Every loss gives us an opportunity--while painful and searing--to grow, to choose who and how we will be in the world. No loss, even the smallest ones, leave us where we were.
There is a mistaken sense that we get through loss “to the other side” to some kind of acceptance and resolution, and then go back to normal. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is no other side, only the hope of integrating the loss, living with the grief, and choosing wholeness through it all. The resolution of grief is its integration. Everything and everyone we have loved and lost has changed us. I hope it has made us more reflective, less frantic, and with a deeper capacity to love. Henry David Thoreau wrote “There is no remedy for love but to love more.”
Who will we be when we are permitted to gather again, to meet face to face, to see smiles and offer hugs? Who do you want to be as we move forward through pandemic, through political trauma and division, through illness and loss, through racism and justice seeking? It’s not a foregone conclusion, but an invitation, a choice, and a gift.
Jan Fuller is the University Chaplain and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org