As a child growing up in Jamaica, I remember watching the movie, “Where were you when the lights were out”. Many years later, I discovered that the movie was about the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965, which left millions of people in the dark. The question on everyone’s minds after the event took place was: “where were you when the lights went out?”(hence, the title of the movie).
Nowadays, during my travels around the country, I am often asked, “Where were you on 9/11?” We all have certain events that are time-stamped in our memories. Perhaps, when you were a child, you remember receiving a toy that you always wanted . . . or that time when a boy in your high school algebra class was mean to you. On a larger, global scale, it could be the day the Challenger exploded or when the Berlin Wall fell or the day Michael Jackson died. When those events occurred, it was as if time stood still for many of us. In fact, these events become part of history. Interestingly enough, there is no record of what people were doing in the weeks, days or hours leading up to these events — moments of no particular significance because it was just another normal day with people going about their normal lives.
In our general day-to-day existence, we spend most of our time pouring our energies into succeeding in the here and now as well as making plans for the future. That is how the majority of us conduct our lives until change occurs – whether that be a wonderful happenstance or tragedy paying us a visit.
Calamity, heartbreaks and setbacks, I believe, impact us even more profoundly because they are so far outside of our normal lives. Change is inevitable and constantly butting heads with the status quo. None of us is immune to its omnipresent force and without question have felt its effects in every area of our lives. Whether minor or life-altering, these changes take us away from an aspect of our lives that we were intimately familiar with to something brand new and unknown—a new normal.
We all felt that punch in our emotional solar plexus on September 11, 2011, when we learned or watched the news clips of the jetliners flying into the Twin Towers. Collectively and without warning, we were thrust into a new normal. I miss the days when I could sail through airport security and check in at the gate for my flight. Now, we have to endure long, agonizing lines and practically disrobe in order to make it through the detailed security screening. In 2008, billions of dollars evaporated from the stock market, millions lost their retirement nest eggs, hundreds of thousands of homes went into foreclosure and huge corporate conglomerates crumbled. Now we throw around terms such as “too big to fail”, “bail out,” “stimulus,” “subprime lending,” and “underwater mortgage.” Here again, the status quo was altered, and we were collectively thrust into a new normal.
Some changes are not so widespread but are equally disruptive and devastating. When the company in which you have invested many years working tells you that you are being let go, you can’t help but feel your world crumbling down around you. When your spouse or partner tells you they want to end the relationship. Or when the doctor walks in and compassionately reveals that you have a terminal illness. Once again, in an instant, your normal has been irrevocably altered.
This is simply the natural rhythm of our lives.
How should we respond to these unwelcomed intrusions in our neat, comfortable worlds?
Should we ignore them and fight tooth and nail to return to the way things were? Should we plan for them? Embrace them?
Over the next few articles I intend to share some thoughts with you on how I believe you can not only survive but thrive in this battle between your status quo and your new normal.
Keep On Pushing!