“Normal” is a relative term. Some even argue it’s a figment of our imagination, merely statistical shorthand somebody thought up to more easily make sense of the world. During disaster its slippery nature is glaring.The rug may be repeatedly pulled out from under in ways never imagined possible.
What is normal? Exactly what is it we’re trying to get back to? The murkiness of this dilemma rears its head following any major crisis, no matter whether the disaster is community-wide or singularly personal. There are as many different answers to what it requires as there are people who ask questions.
Does normal mean having things back to how they were before the crisis? Even if all physical consequences and other external trappings of disaster were returned to their unaltered state, this rarely happens. We are no longer who we were before. We experience the world differently. We see vulnerabilities previously ignored. Large boulders roll into our path. The way around them may not be clear.
As tree roots weave their way around rocks in the search for sustenance, so also do we adjust to accommodate obstacles. We fill in new holes with something else agreeable. We’re designed to grow this way, to adapt. Along the way, we often stumble onto previously unrealized strengths and abilities. These assets become a more active part of who we are. So in addition to everybody differing in what they judge to be normal, normalcy as a goal for any given person is a moving target.
“Is it impossible? Will I ever feel normal again?” Of course. When we long for the comfort of normalcy, what we really seek is a return to homeostasis. We yearn for stability and predictability in our day-to-day lives. We strive to feel safe and secure, and comfortable, and to ensure this status is relatively dependable. We need it to be able to function freely, to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, and move forward.
Keeping to as much pre-disaster routine as possible feels healing to those whose lives are disrupted by disaster. Routines are a part of their own personal normal. Likewise, it helps to establish new routine to replace that which no longer fits, or is no longer possible. It fills in the holes.
The entire course of our lives is a growing chain of such adjustments. We create new links as we go through geographical moves, new jobs, births and deaths, losing and gaining various relationships, the ravages of aging, even changes in the seasons. It seems overwhelming following disaster because so many transitions are happening at once.
We adjust all the same by taking it piece by piece. After a crisis we discover new solutions and continue to plod forward, often in the same manner that has worked for us throughout our lives.
- Take stock of what is changed
- Focus and prioritize
- Slowly mold your new life structure
This is the template for revealing your new personal “normal.”
For More Information
For more information on recovery, see “Recovering After a Disaster or Emergency,” by the American Red Cross.