I've been thinking a lot about the word normal lately. I wonder what it really means. The dictionary defines it as something that's regular or natural, something that adheres to a particular standard. I don't know about you, but there isn't a single aspect of my own life that conforms to that definition!
The other day at Mass, I heard the familiar sound of a lancet device clicking and candy wrappers crunching. The woman who often sits behind us is diabetic and these were the sounds of her treating herself for a low blood glucose level. She goes through this routine nearly every day at Mass, and I thought to myself that's normal for her; it's a part of her daily routine.
Over and over again I've been hearing eager parents talk about the back to school rush and comment about how nice it will be to finally get back to normal once the kids have started school. It seems that the morning rush to get people dressed, make lunches, load the van and cart each one to his or her destination for them is normal.
A dear friend of mine recently underwent a mastectomy. I was surprised to see her this past Sunday attending Mass with her family, just as always. She needed to do the things that she usually does so that she could start to feel normal again. Her normal will never be the same.
Today, #3 moves out of the house and into an apartment with some other students. For most people this is a regular part of growing up and of families evolving. Kids grow up and forge their own way in the world; that's the way it's supposed to be. But for our family it means finding a “new normal” to which we can adapt.
So what is normal, really? Is it the way things used to be or the way things are? How do we learn to adapt?
The other day a priest from Germany visited our home. He told us about a book that he was reading, a book that is presently on the bestseller list in his country. The book is about happiness and what makes us truly happy in this life. The psychologist who wrote it concluded that happiness is found in what he calls flow. Flow is the way one thing gracefully moves into another and life progresses in a kind of stream that carries us from the beginning to the end. The priest concluded that flow is holiness. By this he meant that if we live in the present moment, with our mind and heart set on God's will for us, if we move along in the spirit of humility, if we lovingly accept both our strengths and weaknesses, and if we allow ourselves to be formed as true children of the Father, then we have flow.
So when I think about the word normal I also have to think about the word flow. Life continues to change and to challenge each of us, and that's normal. Sometimes those changes and challenges will shake us to our very roots; sometimes they will make us suffer and sometimes they will bring us to the heights of joy. But if we can prayerfully and graciously go with the flow, everything will feel normal, no matter what God's will holds in store for us.