But compared to what?

It’s often said that life is strange, oh yes,
But compared to what?

~~ Steve Forbert, “January 23-30, 1978”

This business of creating a new life is complicated, messy, sometimes really scary, and most definitely nonlinear. Every time I think I’ve started to figure things out and take some steps in the right direction, something weird happens that distracts me, confuses me, or smacks me in the head on my way over the cliff.

The past few days have been like that. I’m really making an effort to get out, try new things, see and talk to real people face to face. It can feel fun and natural one moment and terrifying the next. As an introverted person, being in a crowd of people has has never been easy but it is especially hard for me now because I can’t go find Kurt when I get freaked out. I can feel comfortable and at ease in a large room full of people for a few moments, and then suddenly see or hear or feel something that makes me so overwhelmed with Kurt-memories (that I didn’t even know were ever present in that room) that I have to leave. I get that strangling tightness in my throat that my doctor insists is directly caused by anxiety (he told me that the “lump in your throat” feeling is a literal, muscular phenomenon associated with anxiety).

Usually, when it’s not too bad, the best cure for that sort of anxiety is to just go out and run. All the shaky, fluttery feelings vanish once I settle into my running stride. But this weekend I didn’t even feel motivated to run. I seem to be one of those people who is affected by rapid changes (up or down) in barometric pressure, and by the winds that accompany those rapid changes. Wind makes me a little bit crazy; it always has. So I could not even consider going out this morning, but I was so unsettled, tired, shaky, and headachy that I couldn’t look at my treadmill either. Maybe tomorrow after work I will feel more like it. Maybe the wind will stop blowing. I’m registered to run a 5k “turkey trot” race next Saturday, and I intend to get out there and do it unless there is snow or ice on the ground… which there very well could be.

I want my life to move in the direction of a “new normal,” but I’m also aware that “normal” is an illusion; everything and everyone who is alive is changing all the time. “Complex adaptive system operating far from equilibrium” is a reasonably good definition of a living organism. If I want to keep living (and I do), then I have to accept that there will always be lump-in-the-throat moments, and that those very moments, no matter how strange, are the “stuff” of our lives. Life can be painful or just plain weird sometimes, but it’s also exciting to live in the midst of such strangeness, especially in the context of the “compared to what?” existential question.

One step at a time.


Posted on November 13, 2011, in grief, LIfe_goes_on, Philosophy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. 🙂
    I’m glad you sort of pointed out that there is no normal. Life isn’t linear. There are ups and down, and lots of bumps and curves. I really believe that life is in the LIVING, and not the TRYING. I know sometimes we hav eot put in extra effort and push ourselves to do things. That can be tough. Eventually, hopefully, the things we end up enjoy (even after the pushing) become the things we do naturally, and how we LIVE, rather than how we PUSH. Sort of like running, right? At first, you REALLY have to put in work and make yourself get out there. All of a sudden, you don’t know how to NOT do it, because doing it gives you LIFE. Doing it IS life. That, to me, is living.

    No two journeys are the same. I just hope that yours is more enjoyable than it is stressful, and even if it pushes you a little, you manage to dance in the sunshine AND the rain. 🙂

    • That is wise and insightful advice. Most of us don’t have the 10,000 hours to devote to becoming world-class experts at anything, but we can keep pushing the comfort zone in many different ways, sample new ideas and experiences, and always keep learning and growing. Living that way never feels “normal” because it’s always new, but one can come to live (and even learn to enjoy) the normalcy that exists within the ragged and off-kilter edges of new growth.


  2. Lori, what you have shared is really so true…for all of us, I think, but of course made more poignant in your particular circumstances. One of my “new normals” is being in relationship with so many wonderful friends who are in phases of such shifts and change–tremendous illness, loss of a marriage through divorce or death of a partner–the tough stuff! I’m someone who values connecting, works at maintaining relationships and loves my friends. My “normal” then is moved in sympathetic response…so I think it will help me to use your words and begin to think of “normal” as an illusion. Your thoughts give me a little push in a new direction. My yoga practice is a similar boost to me in the way you relate to running. I hope the wind dies down, literally and figuratively, and you can keep your 5k turkey trot commitment! Debra

    • Debra, I agree… My current circumstances are not anything new or unique to anyone. The very nature of life is about constant, sometimes difficult change. “Hello” and “goodbye” are both risky things to say, do, experience.

      We all have to find our own paths but I think it helps to understand something about the general lay of the land. I’m one who tends to observe and reflect upon my own experiences as I have them. I have to guard myself from other people’s pain sometimes so as not to internalize and get lost in their pain. But to block myself from other people’s experience would be to isolate and stagnate myself… to limit myself to only seeing a small part of the territory.

      We’re all in this world together. I’m learning that I need to build a circle of “normal” heathy relationships that allow for both/all parties to grow, change, feel and express their joy as well as their pain. I’m trying to move out of my solitude and toward that direction, but that very process feels scary, stressful, and far from “normal” for me. I’m learning that — like it or not, I’m going to have to get used to that off-balance feeling, because that’s what life is.


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