Friday, January 21, 2011

The new now

I heard an interview on NPR this evening with the Executive Director at TiRR, the rehab facility where Gabrielle Giffords has gone for therapy. He was talking about the history of their program, which originated for those with spinal cord injuries. He said that their goal was to help their patients, people with severe life altering injuries, adjust to a "new normal." It occured to me that life is really just a series of recalibrations for each of us, a constant process of adjusting to a new now.

Oftentimes the changes in our lives are so slight, the adjustments so minimal that we aren't aware of the incremental steps we are taking. We are constantly changing tack in response to the direction of the wind. We aren't even aware of how flexible and adaptable we are. Like the whole process of growing older, for example. It happens so slowly, we are constantly adjusting to our new normals as we go along, it's a subconscious process, that we generally take for granted. I know full well that I have aged, and yet, because I look at myself in the mirror daily I don't fully appreciate or even recognize the changes in my appearance, because, after all, it's still me. Were I to not have the benefit of seeing myself, however, for a long period of time, I would certainly be shocked at the increased wrinkles, age spots and grey hair.

Other times, however, we encounter a sizeable upset. Maybe it isn't a literal point blank shot to the head that we experience, but the rather the loss of something significant like a loved one, or our good health. These things can certainly feel like a shot to the head.

Life as we know it, knew it, may not ever be the same for us after something significant happens. In fact, by definition, it just cannot. One day, for example, we had parents. The next day, we do not. One day we were walking, the next day, we might never again. Things ARE different. But it doesn't mean that they can't be both different AND okay.

What do we do when something like that happens to us? It seems natural that we must mourn not only the loss of our loved one, or our health, but also mourn the loss of our old reality. Perhaps we, too, need a period of rehab. We need time for our wounds to heal, the physical and the mental, and maybe more importantly, we need time to adjust to our new normal. And this is all okay. It isn't any different than the adjustment we've been doing every day of our lives, we're just having to do a lot of it all at once, which can be really really hard.

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