Moving to Moderation

HBR article “In Praise of Extreme Moderation” spoke to me this morning. This is an article that will resonate with every one of us regardless of where we fall; moderate or extreme. It calls out the new norm of practicing extremism in all that we do. It calls out the “new” need to do everything to a level of excess. Earning badges of courage and worthiness is where we find our value in today’s society. A society that reveres everyone as “something” whatever the label or title. A new world where competitiveness is a label that has become the norm and when lacking it speaks to ones drive, or lack thereof.

We are swept up in extremism so easily as companies push their products and services as only best consumed in excess. The tell us to:

  • Only write if you have an audience and are working on a bestseller.
  • Only run if you can get a PR every time and not only win a medal but rank.
  • Only eat what you are prescribed via a specific diet and track to prove you are doing it.
  • Post everything you do publicly as proof that you are doing what you say you are and therefore validating.

It is so easy to sucked into this way of living, or at least attempted living. It is maddening when we are in it and it is reckless when we are not.

The article brings us back to what is “enough”. When is enough enough. That is as personal a decision as it is public. It is when one-by-one we start removing the value assigned to extremes. It stops when we applaud those living in the middle and calm the accolades around those that are pushing the bar so far that reaching for it threatens everything you are if you don’t land on top.

The best way to conclude is to quote the author who sums it up perfectly.

But I have spent a lifetime honing my daily practice, worshipping at the altar of “good enough.” Today, I am neither superrich nor superfit nor supersuccessful. But I have just enough of each to qualify in my own personal marathon, the race for a balanced life. In the end, maybe this only really matters to me and my dog, who does get a lot of good walks out of it. To me, that’s enough. – Avivah Wittenberg-Cox

Live as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 20

Day 20 prompt:

At what point in your life are you in striving and how far away is being content?

Entire prompt:

Joel Osteen notes, “We spent all this time striving and and now can’t be content where we are or with what we have achieved. Enjoy where you are right now.”

My answer:

We are certainly challenged to sit back and take-in all that we have achieved and who we are in this pandemic. Do you find yourself content with your observation? I am although it has been hard to see the forest for the trees at times due to the nature of our current state of being in a place we have never forced to be in. In my case, I look at the home that we have created and I am grateful for it because regardless of stay-at-home orders there is no place I would rather be today and always.

I watched a sermon on Sunday and the pastor said, “the normal you are praying for today, is the same normal you were pray away (yesterday)”. May this time remind us all to be grateful for what we have and who we are in this moment.

Closer to content – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 19

Day 19 prompt:

Author Janet Mock noted, “None of us should reach for normal. Normal is so basic.” What is your opinion?

My answer:

Well this is a fun prompt. I am not sure how I feel about this as I have tried it so many ways and normal feels resolved, normal feels calm, normal feels less resistant. I find lately that I actually prefer normal over those reaching to be above-normal as I have never been someone that follows the crowd and in today’s world the crowd is doing anything but normal. It is normal now for adults to be athletes, competing in Ironman competitions so frequently that completing such a fete no longer seems “special”. It is normal now to go to college at any age and achieve educational degrees at one-time meant for the purpose of expertise in career. It is not uncommon in today’s world for someone to achieve a Master’s degree for the sake of saying they have achieved it.

It is ironic and maybe hypocritical for me to cite abnormal as unappealing as I have lived much of my life working to breakthrough norms or expectations. I have reveled in much success in my life that would not have been considered “normal” for my upbringing or capabilities. While I do not take for granted any of these achievements the efforts were exhausting. Worse is the pressure to do it again and again for the sake of doing it. This is where my “want” for normal exists. I want to be happy with what I have, not wanting for more, enjoying where I AM. This, I am finding, takes as much work as achieving a place where contentment can live. Hoping that my normal is as basic as I can make it.

Living life as I see it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 16

Day 16 prompt:

What is your level-set? Why?

The prompt is a long-one this morning so I set the question above and offer the entire prompt here. Admittedly I do not like the way I originally wrote the prompt so I am revising as I rewrite it below. 🙂

  • Everyone’s normal is predicated on their upbringing. There is no “normal”, this is what we all come to realize early in life as we are introduced to people outside of our household. If you come from a wealthy family, your “normal” may already be planned for you, while if you are from a poor family, you may be working to leave that “normal” behind for you and your family.

My answer:

Based on how you were raised, you define your first concept of normal. This quickly becomes what you are used to and when you see examples of normal that our outside of what you “know” you are left with a condition to compare against. These early realizations occur when we are young. I remember realizing that what I knew as “normal” was very different than my friends in the neighborhood and in elementary school. At that point I did not know better from worse, I just knew it was different.

As I have become an adult I have come to realize that what may appear from the outside as a “better normal” is tested as when you look beneath the surface you come to realize that normal is not defined by wealth, health or relationship status. There were many years, especially through my 20’s, that I attempted to hide my “normal” as I felt it made me “less than” those around me. As I continued to evolve as an adult I was fortunate to realize that my childhood experiences served me extremely well in the varying environments I would experience throughout life. I was better equipped than those around me because of the early-experiences in my life.

To answer the specific prompt, “What is your level-set? Why?” My level-set or normal is very different than the way I was raised. This was a normal that was created intentionally as I was determined to live it different. It is hard to change your normal because the very act of changing what is normal in your life requires a path through uncharted territory. I had the courage to do it because I knew that what I experienced early-on was not the life I wanted to live as my “forever”. I knew this because I had the benefit of observing other lives that were more appealing and if I am being honest, less devastating.

I still work on this life that I now consider my normal, daily. It takes a great deal of discipline and sometimes that discipline feels like “force” because it is. I have a great deal of fortitude and summon it often. My weakness is where I am not able to control the environment because I rebel and am hesitant to follow. I revel in controlling my fate, which in itself is an oxymoron because the very definition of “fate” is “the development of events beyond a person’s control“.

This prompt created discord from the moment I read it. I didn’t like the way it was written, I didn’t like what it represented and ultimately it forced me to seriously contemplate. It is when I am pushed into a place that is uncomfortable that I find my reveal. I learn things and ultimately admit things about myself that I may not have readily seen previously. The example of this is in the last paragraph where I actually use the word “rebel” in describing myself. Many years ago when taking a Personality Test it described me as “rebellious” to which I was almost offended. When discussing it with those that had also taken the test I told them that the test was wrong as I was not “rebellious”. They quickly corrected me…ha! Over the years I have also come to realize and own my rebellion.

Rebellious is defined as:

“…showing a desire to resist authority, control, or convention.” or “…(of a thing) not easily handled or kept in place.”

Yep…that is me…try to hold me down…but be ready for the fight…rebellious is my level-set/normal.

Life as I have lived it – Miami Gangster

Seeking Normal – Day 14

Day 14 prompt:

How do other people affect your normal? How do you control those affects? Do you choose who’s in your life and what role they play?

My answer:

Other people affect our lives in all roles we play. While we would like to believe that we can control everything, we know better, and in this case there are too many external factors that ultimately limit out ability to control who is in our lives. For example, you cannot choose your family, your coworkers, your neighbors or even the most remote of interactions like who gets behind you in line at the grocery store. For this reason the effort and practice that we need to deploy is about controlling how we react and what we tolerate.

In my life there are people that have and do ultimately affect me negatively however I have made a concerted effort to remove those people from my life. Where I don’t have the freedom to choose I have chosen to limit my interactions and ultimately to control my reaction. I have learned that people will show themselves without my assistance and my intervention can appear to be part of the problem versus a solve. I have also learned that saying nothing at all, or in this case not reacting, makes more of a statement than words ever could.

The reason this prompt is important in the discussion of “normal” is that if you do not take steps to control your reactions or continue to allow people in your life that do not serve you well, your reaction becomes your normal. A normal over time makes you a victim of those people. Becoming a “victim” in any sense of the word is never okay especially when you can control and deny the victimization.

The more I write about this topic and others the more I realize that the common denominator is ALWAYS your ability to DECIDE. You decide everything in life. You decide if you stay, if you go, who you go with, how you go…YOU DECIDE. It is the power of that decision that ultimately affects everything. This is a topic for another day but I must say that it is where I have seen people NOT decide for themselves that they play victim to their environment. NOT deciding is also a decision and if that is the choice you make, own it, don’t make excuses, don’t blame others, own it and where you don’t need to explain, don’t, just decide.

Life as I decide – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 7

Day 7 prompt:

Is your normal the same as someone else’s? Why? How do you separate the expectation? How does someone else’s normal inspire, intimidate or disappoint you?

My answer:

I like this prompt as much of what makes something normal is that it is what everyone else has, does or is. The very act of getting up every morning, going to school or work, coming home having dinner and adhering to a bedtime is “normal” because it is what most people do. That routine is what has set the expectation for normal for most of us. If others don’t do these things that we see as commonplace then they or it is “not normal”.

When we shift the conversation to how someone else’s normal inspires, intimidates or disappoints us it requires the acknowledgement that their normal is NOT ours but we see it as “theirs” because it is something they do routinely. I am inspired by others that create their normal around things that I realize take huge discipline. Waking up at 4 am to get a workout in, is inspiring because it takes discipline beyond what I choose because of comfort-level. Conversely I am disappointed only by those whose normal does not serve them, and those around them, positively. When we see those that are living a life that causes them or others around them “harm” it is disappointing.

I have seen more social media posts in the last weekend about “what is normal” as we were all faced with our first holiday during this pandemic. Easter was not at all what most considered “normal” because we were not supposed to go to church or gather for family dinners. However it is/was still possible to create an alternative holiday that inevitably will create a new normal or a fond memory. We will always look back and remember “that” Easter we were in our homes and not able to get out to do those things that we consider holiday protocol.

For now I hope that as you are exploring this “new normal” that you are finding the parts of it that you appreciate, enjoy or are finding a refreshing change to carry-on with long after life returns to “normal”. This time would be wasted if we did not pay attention to those things that we are learning along this journey.

Life as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 4

Day 4 prompt:

What is the normal I am longing for?

My answer:

This one is easy. I long for a day that I am not ridden with anxiety that I cannot define. I long for a day that I end the day feeling inspired and not exhausted. I long for a day when I feel like I know what tomorrow might offer and not fear it. I long for a day that I can invite all of my friends and family over for the fellowship that we are known for engaging friends from all corners of our universe.

In the meantime, I am enjoying the intimacy of being with my immediate family and feel blessed that we are so close in proximity that this part of life is uninterrupted. I am enjoying watching my family weather this crisis as it confirms that we did raise “them” right; they are fighters and it shows. I am enjoying the time at home, we have created a home that serves us and it is paying off. I am enjoying my work and the colleagues that I am blessed to connect with daily now. While I miss the many colleagues that are on leave, I know there will be a day when we will all be together again and that gives me hope but more important the passion to push hard to get them back to work!

Normal is a state of mind not a state of being, in my opinion. I am fortunate that I can switch gears quickly and relate to the state of mind required at that point in time. This has served me well in my life and certainly now as I am not as antsy to sprint out the door as many of my social media friends.

What is the normal that YOU are longing for? Share in the comments. Be honest and reveal as it comes to you mind; don’t analyze or overthink it!

Life as I long for it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 2

I love this one as my husband often says I am being “extra” or going too far in my humor! I think it is a compliment. 🙂

Day 2 prompt:

Consider the antonyms for normal, abnormal, exceptional, odd, out-o-the-ordinary, strange, unusual, extraordinary.

Are they better or worse than normal? Do they describe you?

My answer:

Funny that some of these words are those that we are honored to be described as and others would be insults but all are the opposite of normal. It is also funny that those that we would consider insult are the ones that BEST describe life today. I love to be considered extraordinary and exceptional but do not want to be described as abnormal, odd or strange.

If I am honest those words, all of the words, do describe me in many ways. It is “abnormal” to think the way I do for many but for me it is normal. I push myself harder than most would and that is “unusual“. It is my “normal” and feels right in the way I choose to live my life.

It is my opinion that in your journey to find “normal” that you do have to reconcile with the opposite of normal. The only way to define normal in your own life is to acknowledge the opposite of normal as it is an identifier or the “out of the ordinary”. This is also where the gratitude is found.

The world we live in today is definitely “abnormal”. We are told to stay home, don’t leave your home and risk sickness if we expose ourselves to others. While we recognize that this is “strange” and “unusual” it is the world in which we have to live at this time and finding a semblance of “normal” is simply a way of managing. If you do not reconcile with the opposite of “normal” you cannot relish in the condition or state of being as it is defined. We are missing life as we knew it and are no longer taking for granted the ease at which we could leave our homes, go to the store without concern, eat out with hundreds of strangers around us without a second thought and join in large crowds for the sake of entertainment. I only worry that what we used to consider “normal” will now be “abnormal” in life as we move past this period of devastating loss. Will we always be sensitive to someone being “in our space” will “social distance” be a way of life? No one can know for sure because ultimately what one person chooses as their new normal affects us all.

Life as I live it…unusual as it may appear – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 1

Last year we published a prompt journal called “Seeking Normal” after a journal entry I had written about my journey to get back to normal after losing my Mom. It was in that journey that I began to understand that this “normal” I was searching for likely never existed. My original post can be found by clicking on the book cover below. It is raw because it was through that unconscious writing session that it occurred to me that what I was searching for what will NEVER be again.

It was after that day that I began to “accept” that normal is a state of being but is not “real”. Normal is what you make it, what you believe it to be. There is a process in finding normal or identifying it as it is exists in your mind versus your reality.

There is NO time like the present to pull this journal out and explore this NEW normal that we all find ourselves in. For this is normal as it exists now and the sooner we realize it the sooner the angst that is driving us to want to break-out will resolve.

My offering TODAY is to launch a 90-day online journal series where we will explore the daily prompts online. I will post that day’s journal prompt and answer within the post.

So let’s get started…

Day 1 prompt:

So, we know what the dictionary says (about “normal”).

How do you define “normal”? How does that fit with how you feel the world defines it?”

My answer:

I define normal as a routine that reoccurs over a series of days, weeks…any amount of time. I have routines that I prefer and want as my “normal” however that does not make it so. My normal right now is waking up early, as I always have, writing, working out, getting ready for work and then walking to the dining room table where I will work. My commute is much less as it is a walk through the kitchen to get to that dining room table versus the hour in the car that I used to spend to drive the 50 miles to my office. This is what the start of a normal day now looks like, better or worse is irrelevant as it is what it is and for now this is my new normal. In my mind, it is important to label “normal” so I am not longing for something that is not possible.

How the world defines it? Well my impression is that normal is something that is standard. Dinner table fellowship, going to work, playing with friends on the weekends…yes that is what we are taught is “normal” but ultimately that is NOT normal but quite the exception at this time in our lives. It is why we see so many people going out of their homes despite the order to STAY HOME! When you are “seeking” you cannot find contentment.

This is my Day 1 entry and I invite you to note your response in the comments section to continue this conversation. Let’s unite and find understanding by sharing our common condition. We are human, we are one trying to find “normal” together. You sharing how you are exploring this new journey will help someone else…please share. – L.

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Seeking Normal…

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When pontificating on the theory of Normal one day I needed to get it out of my head and out on paper and from that intention this journal entry was created.

Normal.  What is this word?  Is it a verb, is it a noun…let’s dissect this theory (if that is what it is) for a moment.

I continue to communicate that I “just want to get back to normal” but I am lost in trying to determine what that is…a state of being, a thing you do or is it simply how we are?

When I think about the normal I want “back” (I am never really sure I had it to begin with) I am thinking of some dreamy routine where you wake up in the morning well-rested, have a cup of espresso while reading my morning devotional and then steadily get ready for work.  Then the normal retains when I get home from work where I expect dinner to be made within the half hour, sit and watch tv with my spouse and back to bed by 9p. Wait, normal includes a workout somewhere along the way, right? Wait, normal is logging every single thing you eat that day, right?  No, wait, that is obsessive behavior that is not normal or is it??  

When I think back to what changed (I really want to write disturbed here but holding back) my normal I remember telling my mom that July that things in my life seemed so perfect that it scared me…little did I know it was more than a feeling.  The 18 months that would follow would leave me speechless and gutted, literally. I lost my mom to Stage 4 lung cancer one year after diagnosis and then I would be faced with my own health crisis that would disrupt my normal for months to come.

The reality is that normal did not exist before July 2018 either.  Unless normal is me having gastric bypass to stop from eating myself to death.  What the hell is this NORMAL that I am longing for then?

Why is normal even a “thing”?  

Thinking on this subject this morning it occurred to me that maybe what I am after is contentment.  Thinking back to the Buddhist text I recently read; content is a state of being. But again as defined is it being “normal” or having routines or is it simply being satisfied with your state of being at that moment.  Is it wrong to long for contentment beyond this moment? Is this where lacking gratitude begins?  

The more I ponder this state it occurs to me that what I am longing for is control.  Control over every single emotion, person, stressor, etc. that is in my life. Isn’t this what it’s always been about; control?  The discipline and the rigor of my life and stubbornness has been about control after all. I won’t allow myself to be controlled.  This statement unfortunately has morphed into “I won’t allow myself to be cared for”…interesting take on control isn’t it? I don’t want to ask for help and I don’t want to rely on anyone BUT I want there to be ppl there; just there.  Just sitting in the room, not saying anything, not doing anything but if I need something they should know it telepathically so I don’t have to ask…because asking goes against the control I have to have over myself and all things all the time.  

Wow, all of this comes out of a reflection of what is normal?  No wonder my brain never stops…searching for answers is what I do day in and day out.  Even where there are no questions, I am searching for answers. Judgments on everything I do, who I am and worse judgments of strangers all around me.  I cannot look at a stranger without a judgment crossing my mind. Why?? What does it matter? Or is it is all about comparing? Comparing me to you; my education, my dress, my speech, my life to someone that has no idea that I have just waged a full-scale competition against them for simply walking by me.  Normal…yea I think not. L.

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