How to be ok in a shitty “new normal”
Updated: Jan 14, 2020
I injured my back two weeks ago exactly. I have a bulging disc in my low back, which is both extremely painful and very prohibitive in movement. I spent most of the first week in bed and the second week hobbling around in a lot of pain and limited mobility.
I’ve journaled and worked with my thoughts on a lot of days, becoming aware of what my default/unintentional thoughts about my injury, and noticing how unhelpful they were. Today was one of the kickers…
“My life is on pause until I heal.”
This thought couldn’t be more debilitating. When I choose that thought, I feel frustrated. Then, I distract and comfort myself, I complain a lot to whomever will listen about all the things I can’t do, and I think about what I’ll do in the future when I’m back to “normal”. All this results in literally my life on pause until I heal. Ugh. No thank you.
The truth is that life is always shifting, always changing. And the human experience is a balance of positive and negative. Fact. The times I resist the inevitable ebb and flow of life, and expect that for some reason I shouldn’t experience the negative, are the times I suffer the most.
To be human is to be happy only part of the time. When the high times aren’t happening, can I choose to accept “what is”? Or do I resist it and believe that things, and I, should be different?
What I’ve learned is that resistance to “what is” only piles negative on top of the negative. It’s actually ok to feel bad. No human out there can avoid it. But, it’s silly to feel bad about feeling bad. It’s choosing an optional layer of yuck on top of the mandatory one.
So, I caught myself (through journaling — my most recommended self-development practice) thinking that super unhelpful thought “My life is on pause until I heal”. I decided that I wanted to try on a different thought that might land me in a different result. And check this out…
“This is a new normal with its own possibilities.”
When I thought that, I felt curious and wrote down a list of things that I can do right now:
I can work on my computer.
I can write.
I can read.
I can walk in nature.
I can connect with people and animals.
I can coach.
I can move (slowly and mindfully).
I can take epsom salt baths.
I can do inner work.
I can do my shamanic practitioner coursework.
I can study my coaching course.
I can cook.
I can clean (slowly and mindfully).
I can connect deeply with my body.
I can slow down.
I can nap.
I can practice asking for help when I need it. (daily) =)
I can empathize with others who are also in a “new normal”.
After I made the list, I strategically planned my day, and ended up with one of my better days. I owe that result to changing my thought this morning.
A “new normal” takes a lot of energy, especially if it’s a challenging one or one that is outside of our control. The good news is that we get to craft our experience of it through choosing our thoughts about it.
I can choose to be in this shitty new normal as a frustrated, complaining, 39 year old lady in pain, and dump a bunch of optional negative on top of the mandatory negative.
Or, I can choose to accept the “what is” of this shitty new normal, then shift my perspective to what is possible for me right now. It doesn’t mean I’m not in pain, or that I don’t miss “normal life”. It just means I’m choosing to spend my healing time more in what’s possible and less in a miserable, stuck pause.
(Psssst: I have to do this process with myself every. single. day. I wish it was an on/off switch, but rather, it’s a dedicated practice of changing my brain. #worthit )
Real talk — Many days I did my journaling and thought work in the morning and had decently productive, decently content-ish days. AND, I also spent several days in a tailspin consuming ALL THE SUGAR left over from Friendsgiving, watching “The Voice”, and attending back-to-back pity parties. I was pissed, scared, frustrated, impatient, irritable, and I cried. A lot. But this time is different from previous hard times.
This time, I’m choosing to reflect and learn from the days I buffered with food, tv, and self-pity (sometimes with my coach) with as much curiosity and self-compassion as possible. Why?
Because I’m committed to refining my inner game, so that next time a back injury or some other shitty new normal comes along, I will take it more in stride, have fewer pity parties, and less optional negative on top of the mandatory negative. Because that’s how we do.