“Things may never go back to normal. You may need to create a new normal. And that’s OK.”
We’re hearing a lot these days about a “new normal.” The idea is that it isn’t possible or even desirable to go back (as in “let’s get back to normal”). Growth is never backwards. It is always forward, into the unknown and the new.
The idea of a new normal isn’t new
For years and years, I have run into the intensely human yearning to “get back to normal” when I teach yoga to women who are having their first child. Their bodies are changing in weird and wonderful ways and yoga gives them an up-close-and-personal experience of each of these changes.
Yogi mothers-to-be celebrate some of these changes – pregnancy (after the first trimester) actually improves a woman’s balance and the same hormones that allow the body to expand to make room for the baby also make the mother feel marvelously loose on her yoga mat.
Other changes – the inability to fold forward, a constant feeling of heaviness, chronic discomfort in the low back or hips – leave many expectant women bemoaning the current state of affair on their yoga mats. This is when I hear most often, “I can’t wait to get my body back.”
As important as it is that I help these women to find safe ways to continue their yoga practices, I feel it is even more important that I help them to change this mindset. Rather than wistfully looking back to the way things were, they can choose to look ahead with hope, curiosity and optimism to the way things will be.
In other words, rather than investing energy into yearning to get their “old bodies” back, I gently suggest that the process of exploring and learning all about their new (post-partum) body is one that that will make their yoga journey even richer than it already is.
Practice embracing a new normal when adult children come home
This past weekend, when my two oldest children came home for a 3-day visit, I discovered that the “other side” of motherhood also offers us opportunities to release our attachment to “getting back to normal” in order to explore and embrace “new normals.”
I feel fortunate that my three children go to college locally. Up until this pandemic, I was able to see them fairly regularly for dinner or a quick visit. Since March, however, my older two have not been home at all. And I haven’t been with all three since January.
A lot of growth and change happens in five and a half months – especially when you are in your early twenties. My son, who was working full time, has been navigating quarantine and a rather desperate search for a new job. My daughter has transitioned from working full time at her co-op back into full-time nursing student mode.
New friends have been made. New passions discovered. New favorite bands have replaced old favorite bands. I even discovered new food preferences and aversions. Because they’re both of age, drinks were made and beers were purchased – which was an entirely new experience for me.
All of which is to say that their visit was simultaneously strangely normal and completely new. Perhaps because of all the pandemic talk of looking ahead to a “new normal,” I managed to embrace the process of reacquainting myself with them. I stayed curious. I asked questions. I tried my best not to operate from old assumptions. I listened to learn rather than to respond.
Looking back is sweet, but life is right here, right now
I have treasured each stage of motherhood. (Ok. Let me be honest. I’ve treasured MOST stages of motherhood.) It would be oh-so easy to get hung up wishing we could once again snuggle into my bed for a bedtime story or all fit in the armchair to watch a Disney movie. But that would be focusing on going backwards.
Life does not go backwards. Life – and all its gifts and opportunities – lies ahead. Therefore, I am deliberately choosing to embrace and to treasure this stage of motherhood. I am trusting that the future will continue to bring days that feel as sweet as the days did when they were small.
And the same is true for all of us as the world begins to reopen around us. We have a choice. We can be determined (and, I suspect, deeply frustrated) to “get back to normal.” Or we can choose to be curious, hopeful and optimistic about what lies ahead.
Even more importantly, we can be mindful and deliberate about the choices we make as we navigate this next transition. If we succeed, our “new normal” could be sweeter than the “normal” we left behind.
Yoga is more than a physical practice. It is a way of being aware of and managing your thoughts, perspectives and beliefs. If you’d like to learn more about the inner practices of yoga, check out my self-paced, on-line yoga philosophy course, or join in the new weekly YWS Yoga Chats via Zoom, where we will study the 8-Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga and explore how they apply to our lives right here and right now (email for info).