Ever since a close friend visited me in the hospital, and mentioned to my wife that we will now have to adjust to “the new normal” (post heart attack), we have batted that expression around and discussed the variety of possible changes in my/our life from this point forward.
I began cardiac rehab six weeks after my myocardial infarction, and my blood pressure and a number of other factors have been measured from time to time. By my count I am improving, so I figured health care professionals would heartily agree with my self assessment.
Sadly . . . they have been reticent on the subject.
This has led me to face repeatedly the very real possibility that my heart’s pumping power, i.e. ejection fraction may not (despite my desire and prayers) come back to a healthy percentage. I should know the verdict by December 7. [I choose not to comment on any possible allusion to that date which may come into the reader’s mind. Hush!].
And that has prompted me, today, to begin to think in terms of what I affectionately call the New Abnormal.
Whether or not you have experienced a heart attack, some other life threatening or otherwise debilitating situation, you are no doubt familiar with the universal life experience of dashed dreams, unexpected tragedy, or a simple change in plans with far reaching ramifications.
What was once the normal flow of your life is radically altered, and you enter the interim phase that sits prominently between the Old Normal and the New Normal; I call it the New Abnormal. I call it that because: (1) it is indeed NEW; and (2) it is anything BUT normal for you.
Harsh realities have a way of winning out in the end. In fact, the only way I know of to avoid acknowledging them is to enter into a fantasy world that could easily be referred to as psychotic. So, unless you want to go down that path . . . acceptance becomes the hurdle you must vault.
And acceptance rarely comes without a fight.
I don’t know what view you have for your life, or what features you have banked on, counted on, depended on in order to reach a place where you would say you have lived successfully. That varies greatly, of course, depending on factors that relate to emotion, religious faith, financial income, health, relationships, etc.
But I do know this:
every one of us has in our mind’s eye
an idea of how life ought to turn out for us.
You may not have written your idea down on paper, but you have one. You may not be able to clearly articulate it . . . but it is present, deep in your psyche. In fact, it is like the ground upon which your mental house sits; you assume it, and never question it until an earthquake compromises its soundness, or a large crack in the foundation indicates its erosion.
You trust this idea, this perspective, this emotional lens (if you will) until your mental spectacles are dropped and broken, someone else cracks the frames, or you realize (perhaps for the first time) that the images you see through those glasses are out of focus, blurry, and clearly misrepresented.
Congratulations! You have now entered the New Abnormal, where everything in your life must be looked at again; where your time worn plans, objectives, and expectations must be reevaluated and refocused; where relationship with yourself and others changes, and
what was in the past can no longer be from this day forward.
When I was young I used to observe older men exercising, e.g. walking in their slacks, etc. And I used to say something like this: “If I can’t do enough exercise to merit wearing gym shorts, etc. I wouldn’t even bother exercising!”
But today, at cardiac rehab, I walked a 2 mile per hour pace on a treadmill for 15 minutes, then rode a recumbent bike at Level 4 for 15 minutes (careful not to get above 50 RPMs), and finished with stretches. All in long pants. And not at any speed I would have honored in the past. And there is a chance that in the coming month I may receive the news (as incredulous as it sounds to me now) that I am. . . disabled.
Today . . . I was the consummate old man I used to observe as a young man.
You see, I am in the middle of the New Abnormal. I am in the process of grieving the loss of past strength and health, and discovering what expectations to construct for the future. Because no matter what happens on December 7 . . . things will never be the same again.
My initial reaction to unwelcome change is disbelief, anger, and fear. But as time goes on I will have the chance to see new opportunities. I can (as my friend, Landon Saunders, once said) learn to . . .
use my wounds as tools.
My life is not all gloom and doom now. New adventures lie ahead. New discoveries about myself, the world I live in, and the people that people that world. And if I will but surrender to the New Abnormal . . . the sun will indeed shine in my future, and . . .
A New Normal will emerge.