I was not a spontaneous child. I liked routine. In fact, I loved routine. That weekly sameness offered a measure of comfort and security. As I grew up, I learned there are those circumstances where you adapt, or you die.
My primary experience with adapting comes from transitioning from wife to caretaker. As my husband’s disease progressed over 8 ½ years, what had been “normal” was in a constant state of flux. Each day or each week brought a “new normal” and it was essential to mentally adapt.
I recall the moment when I realized that I had deluded myself into what normal was anymore. Someone asked me how my husband was doing - he was on home hospice at the time - and I replied he was good. I remember the look of incredulity and realized how far from normal our lives had deviated from those of our friends. But God’s grace had provided the ability to adapt to each new normal, so my reply was appropriate for his condition at that moment in time, in the world in which we were living. It’s one of those unfortunate experiences you have to live through to fully understand.
After he passed, there was a period of adjustment but not what you might think. It was almost like a form of Stockholm Syndrome. Being away from my home for more than a few hours triggered a feeling of urgency, of doom, the need to be home for something or someone but I didn’t know what for or for whom as well as the feeling I was doing something wrong by not being there. There were other overwhelming moments, but I didn’t succumb. I think another new normal was fighting to get out.
With the center of my existence for 43 years and 51 weeks gone, I saw my life as a blank slate on which to write a new story. And 17 months later, I was doing just that – writing for the Examiner.
As for exactly what is normal, those in the newspaper business know there is only one thing you can count on with regularity, and that is that press day will come, hell or high water notwithstanding!
A reporter’s life allows little time for routine. Spontaneity is the name of the game whether it’s “breaking news,” last-minute requests for photos or event coverage, holding the presses till midnight for election results or juggling multiple events the same time, the same day across a county that is 802 square miles. I don’t know how my journalistic cohorts with families have a normal life, and I’m guessing they have redefined their “normal.” As for me, it’s safe to say that I have come to embrace this new spontaneity.
This concept of normality and my own experiences came back to me while thinking about friends and acquaintances who recently lost their spouses. My mind drifted to forgotten moments and insignificant activities in my life which were routine because we did them over and over again, but that comforting repetition meant all was well. I pray my friends soon find that sense that all is well in their lives and find a new normal full of opportunity and possibilities.
Connie Clements is a freelance reporter and award-winning columnist.