The New Norm

Recently I’ve been contemplating definitions and criteria or qualifications to be deemed a certain word or situation. For example, what is the point at which “the last straw broke the camel’s back”? When does teasing cross over into humiliation? What is the place or situation where one crosses the line from being sane to insane?

In my professional work, myself and others on my team are frequently given short notice (sometimes an hour) to complete a project that even on the best of days takes a couple of days to finish. But it is the nature of our business to move fast and think on our feet. We’ve learned to think creatively and use innovative ways to get things accomplished in a hurry. We often think we’re performing magic, which is a really good feeling to have. But when such feats become everyday occurrences, you can no longer call it magic. And people begin to assume you can perform tricks every day and they wonder why you’re not putting in your best effort when you can’t.

A popular catch phrase these days is “the new norm.” On one hand it can sound edgy and hip. On the other, it frightens me. Because I know from past experience that people can easily form high expectations and assume nothing can overwhelm me.

Many times throughout life I have heard the phrase “God only gives you what you can handle.” I have to tell you, in my life of fifty years I have delivered more monologues to God than I can count. He has a different set of criteria in determining what I can handle than I do. When I was a little girl, my father would tell me times of struggle help us to build character. I’d like to think I have plenty of character at my age and I don’t need any more, thank you kindly. But I also know that I make mistakes, I am not all-knowing or omnipresent, and so maybe I do need more character-building experiences to prepare myself for whatever awaits me when I die.

But today I am very much alive and grateful for that as I have too many things I still want to accomplish. No, I’m not referring to a bucket list, although I have started creating one (on Pinterest, if that counts). And it is these as yet-unfinished accomplishments that have me pondering definitions and criteria.

I was talking with one of my sisters yesterday and after telling her everything I have going on in my life at this very moment, she told me she was tired out from just listening to me. Last week my husband asked me how in the world I have managed to stay out of the insane asylum. To which I appropriately responded, “Because I have you as my rock, honey.” Last night, a friend commented that she would have given up months (or years) ago had her son given her as much grief as my two youngest daughters have given me.

So I wonder, am I insane? I’ve asked my husband this question and he’s appropriately responded, “You’re the most sane person I know.” When I feel overwhelmed and want to sit on a pity pot, my husband will say to me, “You’re the strongest person I’ve met in my life. You can do this.” More proof he is my rock.

In my mind, I am overwhelmed and there is a lot going on but I’m handling it. I’m taking things one day, sometimes one drama, at a time. What else can I do? I’m not a quitter. I’m not suicidal. This is the hand I’ve been dealt. I’m not going to fold. So do these thoughts mean I’m insane? Am I really handling things as well as I think?

Again, I have to wonder, is this level of daily high drama and extraordinary complications in life my new norm? When I get through all of this “stuff” will there be more waiting? Or will I get a reprieve and live happily ever after once my youngest daughter maneuvers these last years of adolescence? I don’t want my personal life to become like my professional life. I don’t want to create so much magic that everyone believes I can handle anything and so they throw more at me and then I end up in the Rest Home for Magicians.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m willing to do the hard work. I’m not a slacker. I show up for life every day. But I do need a rest once in a while. Some days my back hurts from the burden and I wonder, is today the last straw? Is forgetfulness an early sign of insanity? Some days I am more forgetful than others and I wonder, am I getting early onset of Alzheimer’s? Or is it the strain of the burdens I carry that causes such forgetfulness? And then I’m back to wondering if this moment is that last straw. Is today my new normal?

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