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A Year in Rear View

New IS normal

It’s a curious thing to reflect on the year 2020 when it is in fact, far from over.  By the time you read this the world could be different. 72 days is more than enough time to turn life inside, outside and upside down...again. It would be easy to think of 2020 as a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, but to label it as such, would be to ignore what is shiny and bright and perfectly normal. 

You’ve probably heard the words “new normal” tossed around a lot lately. But what’s new about normal? How can we classify one day, or one experience, as more normal, or more newly normal than any other, when our human experience centers on the new?

From the very moment we enter this world as a new baby, we are wired for the unexpected. We expect to be surprised in delightful and awful ways.  We learn that each day may present a challenge or a lesson that we will either face head on or kick down the road only to dance with a different moment of growth or loss when we least want to or expect it. This past year has the same structure as any other; 365 days, a cast of humanity, and 525,600 minutes to get it right, fall apart, clean up, deconstruct or rebuild ourselves as individuals, families, Nations and so on. 

The biggest surprise of 2020 is that 2020 has managed to surprise us, in spite of our.  bottomless capacity to adapt and flex to pretty much anything, even the self driving cars that seemed impossible when only George Jetson had the key

So while 2020 made us feel like we were drinking from a firehouse of uncomfortable “new,” experiences, we also had many times more “normal” newness to celebrate, or lament.  In case you missed it, a lot of OTHER things happened this year and its worth pausing to remember just what normal and new really mean.

Of course, not everything new is happy or good.  It’s normal, but painful to experience setbacks and loss, and even worse to recognize the scales of tragedy and tribulation are unfairly tipped towards some over others.  2020 delivered new ways to suffer, and we found new ways to grieve. As usual, we gathered in outrage at pivotal moments and paused in helpless awe as we witnessed nature’s power. Personal battles and mighty wars played out on stages big and small. And for far too many, every day revealed another struggle to hold on to basic needs, a job, a loved one, a marriage, healthcare and more. Bad people were rewarded for terrible decisions, while good people suffered in silence. Disparity isn’t new, but a good thing about 2020 is that talking about it became more usual...more normal.

Gallows humor can be blunt, but this year it became vitally important as we sifted through the rubble of uncertainty and strife to find a belly laugh, and some comfort, in and amongst familiar, normal, everyday treasures; newborn babies, nice neighbors, opportunities realized, problems solved, hearts opened, horizons expanded, talent discovered, peace and recovery found. We made brave decisions, stayed home while journeying to faraway places, like the moon and wherever the heck Tiger King happened. New lifestyles were launched while long careers landed or retired. Fashion stepped back while interior design stepped forward. And we danced.

The kids stayed home. To fight. To attend school...or not. To stay up all night. To cry out in frustration. To serve as tech support for the adults. The kids are alright.

As the calendar sets on this year, we can look back and recognize our innate instinct to try and surf the waves of turmoil isn’t new. We have changed the way we live, work and play.  We look different (no more lipstick), we act different (admit it).  We are rubbing elbows more than ever, still connecting, but on a friendlier level. No one wants to repeat this past year. And that’s normal.