by Edie Weinstein
Among the terminology added to the vernacular in the past few months in the face of COVID-19, along with ‘flattening the curve,’ ‘social distancing,’ and ‘essential businesses,’ is ‘new normal’. The first time I heard that phrase was when I was in seminary in 1999. A classmate was giving a presentation on the topic of grief. As she was sharing her story about the death of family members, these poignant words came through, “When someone you love dies, nothing will be normal again. You need to create a new normal, without their presence in your life.” I was learning that first-hand as my husband had recently died which was the catalyst for my course of study with the goal of becoming an ordained interfaith minister. I have pondered that concept over the past 20 years, and it has been both a blessing and bane.
How we define ‘normal,’ determines how we respond to the shifting sands in our lives. I have a bumper sticker on my car that says, ‘normal is relative’ and I have heard it said, that ‘normal is a setting on a washing machine.’ What may be normal for one person would be out of the box unconventional for another.
Those who are in treatment for mental health issues or addiction know this concept from direct experience. Their lives prior to entering recovery may look vastly different from what they are emerging into. In conversation with long term-clients, we marvel at the ways in which their day to day differs from what they knew in the years prior. Something as simple as an attitudinal shift, from ‘life is hard and I will never succeed,’ to ‘there are times when I will face challenges and I have what it takes to overcome them,’ can make all the difference. A ‘new normal’ for someone who has relinquished substances in favor of sobriety may be frightening since that had been their go-to when emotions become tidal-wave overwhelming. Without their anesthetic, self-medicating properties, they are initially left floundering. Reaching out for the life-raft of family, friends, a therapist or a 12- step community may be what allows for stability in the midst of it. Eventually, they become accustomed to an upgraded way of living and celebrate their evolution.
Contemplating what ‘normal’ will look like in the next few years, is, for many, a terrifying prospect. It is as if we all walked through a portal where on one side is relative stability, or at least, predictability and on the other, chaos and uncertainty.
On New Year’s Eve 2019-2020, I was eagerly anticipating what I thought would be the marvels of a new turn of the calendar page. I had no clue, as I gathered with friends who are of a metaphysical bent and we offered prayers and intention for the next 12 months, that two months into 2020, we would start to hear whispers that turned into roars, about a novel virus. Now, at the end of May, according to the CDC, the numbers of cases, and subsequent deaths are staggering. In the midst of the devastation, I take heart in reading about those who have recovered. It gives me hope, as in my circles, I know one person who has died, one who had severe and debilitating symptoms and is recovering and have a friend who has lost several family members over the past few months.
Uncertainty about the duration of the crisis contributes to the heightened anxiety that even those who are not predisposed to the condition are feeling. What I have observed in four decades as a therapist is that people are better able to endure change and trauma if they know it is time limited. Because of the novel nature of the virus that morphs rapidly and affects various bodily functions, the news about it changes on a daily basis. What source to believe is a salient question.
Social norms have been altered. When once we used handshakes and hugs as a form of greeting, offering support, and expressing affection, for the time being, we are discouraged from doing so unless it is between people who share a home. What was a sign of love has become a harbinger of death. That leaves people who are living alone, bereft of physical contact with other humans.
Skin hunger, according to social scientists, medical professionals, and therapeutic clinicians, is a need that is vital, just as hunger for nutritional sustenance has to be met. There are people who express feeling as if they are starving for physical affection. According to psychologist Virginia Satir and validated by many other experts: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” Many will be at a sincere deficit and may seem like someone who is crossing a desert, feeling parched, looking for an oasis, when we are free to hug again.
Businesses that were thriving, may no longer be. Those that were vulnerable and teetering on the edge of dissolving even prior to the pandemic may have toppled over and shuttered their doors for good.
People are making what could be a simple matter of prevention into a partisan matter, literally taking up arms to express their ire over belief that freedoms are being taken from them.
Are those things to be the ‘new normal’?
What if part of the future that we create together involved cooperation rather than competition? How about looking out for the good of the whole and not just those in our immediate circles? Stories abound of people stepping up and caring for neighbors in need. Television or streaming broadcasts raising money for hunger relief causes both entertain and educate us as the celebrities performed from their own sequestered locations. Faith communities have found ways to gather online that allows for collective prayer. Friends and family are using technology to connect in ways that would not have been possible decades ago. We are discovering creative means to reach out through neighborhood serenades and distanced dance parties. Even behind a mask, we can still smile and speak words of encouragement to those we pass on the street or in the supermarket.
Nature is rejuvenating itself; the skies are clearer and the water, cleaner. Animals are coming out of hiding. Sadly, unless the population of the world takes it to heart, we will regress to the acquisitive, fast paced, self-serving behaviors that led to environmental decimation in the first place.
Humans are resilient beings and our species has survived famine and drought, war, disease, and natural disasters. If we use those skills that were necessary for rebounding, we could create a healthy new normal
Clearly, it’s time to make a new beginning.
REV. EDIE WEINSTEIN, MSW, LSW
Love Ambassador, Opti-Mystic & Bliss Mistress
Edie delights in inviting people to live rich, full, juicy lives. She is an internationally recognized, sought after, colorfully creative journalist, interviewer, author and editor, a dynamic and inspiring speaker, licensed social worker and interfaith minister, BLISS coach, event producer, certified Laughter Yoga Leader, certified Cuddle Party facilitator, and Cosmic Concierge. Edie is the founder of Hug Mobsters Armed with Love, which offers FREE HUGS events world- wide on a planned and spontaneous basis. For more than three years, she was the host of the Vivid Life Radio show called It’s All About Relationships.
She speaks on the subjects of wellness, relationships, trauma recovery, addiction, mental health, spirituality, sexuality, loss and grief.
Edie is the author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary and co-author of Embraced By the Divine: The Emerging Woman’s Gateway to Power, Passion and Purpose. She has also contributed to several anthologies and personal growth books, including Taming the Anger Dragon: From Pissed Off to Peaceful.
Over the past 30 years, she has had the honor of interviewing His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Louise Hay, Judith Orloff, Debbie Ford, Arielle Ford, don Miguel Ruiz, Wayne Dyer, Bernie Siegel, Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Marianne Williamson, Grover Washington, Jr., Dan Millman, Ram Dass, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Weaver, Mariel Hemingway, Ben & Jerry and SARK.
In the last four decades, she has worked with those who have been diagnosed with life-altering conditions, including mental health issues, cardiac disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, infertility, end-stage conditions, eating disorders, addiction, traumatic brain injury, stroke, depression, and anxiety. She focuses on her clients’ resilience and assists them in developing a solid toolkit of coping skills. As both a clinician and a patient, she is aware of what it is like to be on the other side of the treatment relationship and can be of service to the patient, their caregivers, as well as the treatment team. Edie can address the issues that arise such as body image, trauma, sexuality, relationship changes, vulnerability, change in physical or cognitive ability, aging, end of life issues, and communicating needs.
If you want to:
- Embrace life fully
- Release patterns that have kept you from moving forward
- Re-write the narrative to create the life of your dreams and desires
- Enhance your relationships
- Become an Opti-Mystic who sees the world through the eyes of possibility
“Contact me today to see how I can meet the needs of your organization, publication or the person who looks back at you when you gaze in the mirror.”