Growing up, I was in and out of the hospital with irregular heart-beat. Doctors said they were murmurs, but I always feared that the next time would prove them wrong. For years I believed I was on the verge of a heart attack. The verdict, as it turns out, was Panic Attacks. I was 21. And embarrassed.
The result of growing up keenly aware of your body’s internal state is that you have a very good idea of what your “normal” is. Equilibrium. I knew exactly how hard my heart should beat in bed, at school, and after basketball practice. I knew how hot my forehead got for a flu and the difference between “pass-out tingly” and “slept on it wrong tingly.” When I was at equilibrium, I was safe. With even the slightest change in pulse, or breathing patterns, I knew I was in trouble. The attacks went something like this. Shortness of breath. Pinching in my chest. Heart pounding from outside my chest. Lightheadedness. Numb limbs, and if you spoke you sounded like Will Ferrell in Old School after he got shot in the neck with a tranquilizer.
Back then, I would have thought I was dying. Now…well I still think I’m dying, but I know it will pass. And now it does.
I tell myself 5 words. Words that have helped me overcome panic attacks. Words I have also adopted to navigate life in the face of change and uncertainty.
“This is your new normal.”
You see, the harder we try to hold on to normal, the more debilitating it becomes when nature requires us to adapt.
I used to fight my body’s natural response to an attack so much that I feared it. My belief that I could stop it is what made it worse. I had to learn how to adjust. I had to learn to tell myself, it’s okay, I’ve been here before. This is natural. This feeling right now, is your new normal.
I haven’t been to the E.R in almost 2 years.
Being thrown outside of your “normal” is an uncomfortable thing. Maybe your work schedule changed and it has affected your daily routine. Perhaps you are nervous about a new job you feel completely under-qualified to do. Maybe you are ill and your goals are put on hold. It could be anticipation. Pre-meditated success. Excitement. Anything unexpected that throws us off equilibrium. It consumes us.
The error lies in the belief that we can control the world around us. We know, this is not true. Instead of finding the unfairness or telling ourselves that our fortunes / misfortunes are somehow unique and picked out especially for us, we must understand that sometimes, it just is what it is. This is our new normal. Forget about why, or what if. And carry on.
This isn’t saying we roll over and wave the white flag. This is simply a way to avoid letting change and unexpected events we have no control over, paralyze us. Getting past the first stage is the hardest part.
This is your new normal. Welcome change and stay productive. Soon, it will be just that. Normal.