Familiar: The Antidote to Abnormal

When I am working with clients who are going through a big life change like the passing of a loved one, divorce, or retirement, there is a common feeling among them.  This is not normal.  Nothing feels normal.  What is normal anyhow? And yet, they all talk about getting back to normal or what will be the new normal.

I think this definition of normal really helps explain the appeal with getting back to a state of normal: 

Normal: conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern characterized by that which is considered usual, typical, or routine

There some comfort there, right?  Things that are known, routine, typical leave us with a sense of safety and security.  When we are in uncertain times or an unknown situation, I believe it is the human condition to crave that which is usual and standard.  

And yet, the reality is we go through situations all the time that cause us to lose our sense of normal.  If we choose to live our lives, then our definitions of normal will have to shift. 

It goes without saying, we are not in normal times.  The COVID-19 pandemic has stripped us of our sense of normal.  We have been dealing with these unusual times for 9 months now.  And what I am observing is we are tired of it.  We have pandemic fatigue – we are tired of being intentional and cautious and we are desperate for the return of normal.  But being tired of the pandemic does not magically make it go away and as we are seeing, this trying to be normal has led us to have spikes in numbers again. 

And now we are figuring out how to have holidays in these times. Notice that I do not say in this new normal.  I do not want this to be the new normal.  I do not want these restrictions and precautions to define my life going forward.  Do your mental health a favor and reject this term of new normal.  We have not arrived there yet. 

What are we to do in the meantime?  I was talking with a friend and telling her I needed a new word for normal because normal does not make any sense right now.  She suggested “familiar” and this struck a cord.  Here is a definition of familiar: frequently seen or experienced; easily recognized.  I don’t know about you but this idea of familiar is very comforting to me as I think about fighting the pandemic fatigue.  We may not be able to have normal but we can have familiar.  And there is comfort in familiar.  It is not the same level of comfort maybe as normal but there is marked improvement in my mood when I find that which is familiar.  For example, my friends and I gather each year for the Overland Park Tree Lighting.  It is a wonderfully anti-climatic event that we celebrate as if it was New Years.  This year will look different.  Even if they hold the lighting, we will not be attending because we are not gathering in crowds.  Instead, we will likely bundle up and stand in a back yard with our typical beverages of cheer and ring in the holiday season by plugging in some outdoor lights.  It is not normal but it is familiar and when I think about this, I get a lot of the same benefits of the normal event. 

This idea of normal versus familiar can be applied to so many aspects of our lives.  Chad and I had to cancel a trip to Greece this year and instead we went to the lake.  Never ever would I have guessed I would have been as excited to go to Branson, Missouri as I was this summer.  But it was because vacations with Chad are familiar no matter where we are and I needed that sense of something familiar. Think about how you can let normal go for a little while and instead focus on familiar.  With your holidays, with how you spend your time, with how you spend your money and resources, how can you give yourself the comfort of familiar? 

Tip shared by Jessi Chadd, a certified financial planner (CFP®) and a certified financial transitions specialist (CeFT®). Jessi lives at the intersection of wellness and wealth and enjoys helping people be well in all areas of their life including their finances. For more information on how you can improve your financial wellness, please reach Jessi at jessi.chadd@gmail.com. Jessi is a co-organizer for Priority Fit Camp. Each week, we publish a health and wellness tip that is shared at the Priority Fit Camp community workout. The free group class happens every Saturday at 7:50 a.m.  

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“Actual is not normal (a tribute to Edward Tufte)” by kevin dooley is licensed under CC BY 2.0