Sunday, November 06, 2011

What is Normal, Anyway?

      “Life isn’t a bowl of cherries- deal with it.”  ~ Mean Jean, 2006

All the widows in the bereavement group groaned as the leader said, “I know you keep waiting for your life to get back to normal, but the reality is what you consider ‘normal’ is no more.  Now the challenge is for you to find your ‘new normal.’
This was five years ago but I can still see Ruth, the widow who sat next to me, practically jumping out of her chair to shout “I object” like she was in court demanding to approach the bench.
I remember thinking, Get a grip, lady and while you’re at it change your f%$#@ seat!  I don’t need Perry Mason to be sputtering and spitting all over me.  Hell, I’m grieving, too, you know!
I have no idea what happened to Ruth and if she ever found her ‘new normal’ which is as elusive as the “G spot” but for her sake, I hope she’s found one or the other or both.
Ruth never would have survived the techniques of Mean Jean, my one-on-one bereavement shrink.  If there is a ‘snap out of it school of shrinks Mean Jean graduated with honors.
She was typically rough when she brought up ‘the new normal.’  But since she often used fruit to explain life I found her gruffness entertaining, not to mention, healthy.  I always left her office craving a banana.
“Listen up, Pumpkin” she’d begin. “Life has thrown you lemons. Yes, it’s the pits.  Why? For one: Life is not a bowl of cherries.  For two: Refer back to the lemon analogy.”
Mean Jean’s mantra was, “Did you feel peachy all the time before your husband died? Of course not. Well, now you’re going to have many more of those crappy days.  Deal with it.”
It’s been years since I’ve gone to Mean Jean, although, I always think of her when I bite into an apple – or if I hear the word ‘delicious.’  Macintosh doesn’t come up very often.
“New normal doesn’t come up in conversation often either, but I’ve figured out and maybe you have, too, that’s it’s something that just sneaks up on us as we are busy living our life.  The flavor from the gum is gone and we keep chewing and don’t even notice.
And, today, I noticed just a little bit.  I was on a tour of my friend Barbara’s walk-in closet.  She’s a real clotheshorse and she was showing me something she had just bought.  I glanced to the left and noticed men’s shirts and pants and suits and ties.  Quickly, the Nancy Drew in me assessed that must be her husband Michael’s’ side of the closet.
I felt an immediate twinge – an awareness that Jimmy’s clothes are gone and this is what our closet used to look like.  (except my husband was a bigger guy and he had less clothes…I guess, factoring that in equals everything out and so Michael and Jimmy took up the same closet space.)
The point is the twinge didn’t last.  Even last year it would have lingered.  Today it was gone and replaced with How did I manage to fit my clothes and his clothes in the same closet?  There may have been a hint of boy am I lucky to have all that space to myself about to surface but I’ll never admit to that.
So, have I found my ‘new normal?’ Well, after all is said and done, as I write this, it’s Saturday night and most of my friends are out with their couple friends.  It would be beyond weird for them to call and say, “Why don’t you and Jimmy join us for dinner?”
And, it’s okay.  I know I said it was okay long before it was okay, but now it truly is okay.  It’s normal for me to no longer be part of a pear.