There is no normal (is there?)

I started this sketch with the words:

“There is no normal. We are not going back to normal. We never had normal.”

And then I thought about it, and realised making sweeping statements isn’t quite what I want to do here.

After all, some people really do want to “go back to normal”. Maybe you’ve even said or thought that in the past few weeks.

But today i want to ask the question.

Do we?

Do we, do I, want to “go back to normal”? If so, what does that look like? How does that feel? Why do we want it?

On Monday of this week, I felt like I had the most incredible day. I…

  • read a Brene Brown book, and thought a lot about how it applied to me, and journaled about it
  • listened to several podcasts
  • did my situps and pushups (nearly to 100 of each)
  • visited a friend I hadn’t seen since before lockdown – drove to their house, went in, had tea, chatted, caught up on life
  • drove into Glasgow, parked, went to the hairdressers, and got my hair done
  • called a friend to clear some things up, and to talk hurt and expectations and healing

Six months ago, that would have felt like a “normal” Monday. Maybe even a little quiet.

This week, it felt ground breaking. Not just for the healthy decisions of all kinds (mental health, spiritual health, relational health, physical health), but for the sheer AMOUNT of things I did in one day.

I was encouraged it didn’t feel exhausting. I wasn’t worn out by the end of the day – there were some hard things, but overall i was revitalised and refreshed. Little steps on things I’ve been working on throughout lockdown, and little things I didn’t get to do for a few months (like driving into Glasgow and getting my hair done!).

But I thought, I don’t want this to “feel normal” in the sense that I’m going backwards to what it used to be.

I was amazed by each one. I was amazed I chose to read a good book and listen to some solid podcasts and have the mental space to think about how they apply to me. I was amazed at the simplicity and beauty of stopping by to visit a friend. The wonder and excitement of actually getting my hair done. The choice to ring the friend for what could have been a really hard conversation but ended up being a healthy and refreshing one.

And “normal” would have felt like presuming on these. Of course you can visit someone. Of course you can go into their house. Of course you get your hair done when the silver is coming in. Of course , of course.

But there’s no ‘of course’ anymore. And I don’t think I want there to be.

I will begin to settle into new patterns, and some of them will be familiar. I didn’t have to think very hard about driving into Glasgow – it didn’t feel weird, or strange. I went into a sort of auto pilot and got on the motorway and turned off the motorway at the correct junction and parked in the parking garage I always use. It wasn’t mind blowingly new.

But if my goal is for everything to feel “normal”, to feel like it used to, then have I really learned anything? Am I going forward, or going backward?

When this all started four months ago, I felt really unsure about the concept of “going back to normal”. I had an idea in my mind this wouldn’t just be a few weeks or a few months. I felt like the world as we knew it was changing – maybe subtly, maybe in small ways – but disruption was happening.

And disruption is not a tidy little concept for TED talks or a new app or product by a tech company.

We talk about the disruption of the motor car and how it edged out horses and carriages. The disruption of the mobile phone and handheld devices.

There can be a new and exciting element to disruption: but most of the time, there are scary, hard, difficult, confusing elements too.

A podcast I listened to recently suggested that this is the largest worldwide disruption since World War II. That the last time the entire world was shaken up over something together, so massively, for so long, was 75 years ago.

It certainly feels true: and I still find it hard to be trying to process things while I am going through them. In WWII times, people just did what they had to, and processed it later. (Many of them didn’t really process it at all, they just did the next thing.) There’s pluses and minuses on both sides. Some days I’m weary of reading yet another article, listening to yet another podcast, suggesting how we’re supposed to think or not think. What covid is, or isn’t. What we know, or don’t.

But we are where we are, there’s no going back. And really when I think about it, did we ever have “normal”, anyway? What does that even mean? 

What it seems to mean – the way I’ve heard it used especially recently – is, “what I’m used to”.

The things I had. The places I could go. The way I do things.

And all of that is still in confusion.

No, I don’t want to live in a constant state of disruption. Eventually, I’d like to settle into new patterns and not have to think about the mind blowing concept of arranging an appointment at the hairdressers. But there are things I don’t want to go back to, and that’s what I want to be on my guard against. There are things I want to keep, and for me those centre around being honest, and real. Authentic.

Brene Brown says authentic means being the same person no matter who you’re with. Not exactly the same, maybe: you cover different topics or open up a bit deeper with this group of friends or that person, but in the end all of your friends and family and co workers and clients and people you see regularly would tend to use similar words to describe you.

That’s what I want, more than anything. More than I want “normal”.

Authenticity.

I want it for myself and for others, and I want to figure out what it means and how to be it.

Because then, no matter what happens, we remain transparent about how we’re really doing. At least so far, people are still doing that, and I love it. When I ask someone how they’re doing, they’ll tell me if they have had a bad day, or have been struggling with anxiety, or they had good news and yet were working through the fear it wouldn’t work out after all.

Maybe that’s why I resist the concept of “normal”: because to me, that included a mask of a different kind. Not the physical kind, but the one where we put on this face for work and that face for home and this face for church and that face when with that one friend….and all the while rushing about without any time to think about who the real me actually is.

I’m still working on it myself, and I trust you are too.

Do you feel like you’re being more your “authentic self” than before? Or is that hard?

Follow me

ON THE GRAM

I’m not actually bummed about the grey weather we’re having. Here’s why.

I went for a walk in the MORNING today, which felt like i’m winning at life. 🏆 

Lately I’ve been fitting in my daily walk at 9 or 10pm after a long day of meetings. I’m super grateful for the way it’s still light so late at night, but a walk-at-end-of-day doesn’t have the same motivational kick as the walk-at-the-start. 🌑 

So that one little thing I did puts me at champion status, and affects my entire mindset for the day. 💪 

There are a lot of contributing factors to this morning’s walk, but the top one was that it was grey, cool, and windy...which is far more motivational to me than bright sunshine. 🌬 

I know, it’s weird.

The rest of britain is like UGH WHAT A SHIT SUMMER and i’m here going um...i really, really love the rain. And clouds. And cool breezes. And grey skies. ☔ 

I’ll join in the conversation and be like yea, yea, it really does suck...but that’s just to start conversation and show British solidarity. Deep down I don’t think it does suck. 👀 

I do like sunshine, but after spending 25 years of my life in Arizona, I don’t love or crave the heat. ☀ 

Anything over about 20 degrees and i start getting a bit antsy...and my limit is “23 with a breeze”. 😎 

If it’s higher than that I’ll literally hide inside, not rush out to sit in a beer garden or at the beach. I really don’t enjoy heat at all. 

So thanks grey skies and wind, you helped a lot today. 💪 

Just me? Everyone else dreaming of 30+ degrees and sunshine?? It’s okay if you are...i just...don’t get it. 🤣 

#justkeepgoing #walkoftheday #goodmorning #wegotthis #onestepatatime #motivation
Cancelling things is a superhero skill.

Not all the time, of course: we want to be trustworthy.

And the sheer stubbornness of being a business owner is good.

I can do it. I will do it. No matter what! I can make. this. work.

A product, an event, a new hire, a business.

So we keep pushing. Show up, send the emails, make the phone call, record the videos. More training for the new hire, more new hires. Make sure we never let anyone down.

Of course, things happen. We get sick, something happens to a family member, or there’s an emergency and we need to shift things around.

But cancelling things can be a superhero skill: when you do it well, knowing why it’s time to cut the cord and communicating it well.

Here’s some of what I consider when I’m trying to decide if it’s time to dig in, or stop & go another direction:

1. Does anyone even know about it?
Sometimes it’s been a big part of your business life and used a lot of brainpower, but no one outwith you and your team know it was meant to happen.

2. What’s the cost of not doing this now?
The full cost, more than financial, including:
- Motivational cost for you, team, clients
- Decreased trust for clients
- Loss of strategic partnership connection

3. Could you replace it with something else?
Another day, an online option, a template instead of custom build? Sometimes a replacement isn’t a cancellation at all. You’re doing it, but in a less costly way.

4. Do I have the energy and appetite to keep going?
I can do it with an automaton approach…but given the other things on my plate, where do I want my energy to go? How much do I have to give? Will it renew energy, or drain it?

I ended up cancelling a small event recently, & whilst I was disappointed, it was the right decision for these reasons.

It can feel embarrassing...but cancelling something can be a superpower, if it’s done well & communicated clearly and honestly. And when it’s more the exception than the rule.

Anything you are considering stopping? What impact might that have?

✨This is from this week’s Creative Headspace note. They go out every Friday - except for the rare occasions I skip a week for my own sanity. 😄 Sign up in bio!💌