Our New Normal

This month is always a weird time for me. Too many negative memories all clustered in one frustrating birth month.

So, it’s no surprise in hindsight, I suppose, why I’ve been feeling more dissociated, weird and generally “floaty” than normal recently. I always feel more dissociated, weird and generally “floaty” on Hallmark holidays, during my least favorite month, and when I’m out of phase with everyone else.

Dissociation is all about being out of phase with everyone else, after all.

Usually my “out-of-phase” feeling this time of year is more mentally/emotionally than physically. This year, I am also literally out of phase with many others.

While seventy percent of America has embraced our “new” normal, I am not in one of the places that have reopened. “Normal” for us out here is still supposed to be virtual. But, I’ve lived in so many places over the course of my life that my Facebook feed has at least the plurality – if not the outright majority – of my collection of half-remembered “friends” gleefully posting about how good it is to able to celebrate with mom in-person out in the world again today. My Facebook feed is full of pictures of families gathering in places and group sizes that suggest we have fully returned to “normal” in America.

Mother’s Day has always been a bit of an out-of-phase holiday for me. Holidays in general have always been more than a bit out-of-phase days for me unless I literally flee my own “normal” to some far away place (which is still not part of anyone’s normal yet as of this month!)

And, this particular month has always been the most out-of-phase of all for me because of how insistently the “global” response to trauma has always been to deny, ignore or question it if it infringes upon our collective view of what is – and isn’t – “normal.”

It has been damn unsettling for this trauma survivor – who has dealt with systemic abuse that was disbelieved because it seemed so very “abnormal” before – to watch everyone else spontaneously decide this week that “everything is normal again.”

The bad stuff is all over now! All of the collective trauma and discomfort of the past two months is finally behind us! (At least if you believe much of our leadership, Fox News, and my Facebook feed.) It’s time to embrace our new normal by taking our moms out to lunch at all of those newly reopened restaurants!

If we all decide it will be okay again, what will we ever let go wrong?!

If the majority believes things are okay, then they are okay! And any dissenting voices asking “are we perhaps being a bit premature?” or, “maybe we need to acknowledge there are still some serious systemic structural flaws in our plans right now?” must be the ones almost laughably out-of-phase, right?

Reasonable data suggests that everything is not just all okay again. We aren’t just all “done” now. In fact, if we take the Northeast out of the U.S. trend lines from the past week, the U.S. looks like it is still very much on an upswing in covid-19 cases. (We can argue about how appropriate it is to present data that way for the U.S. as a whole. But, the fact remains, that even the trend lines for many of the places that have fully reopened by themselves do not look like a continuous fourteen day decline, if they look like a decline at all.)

As my Partner darkly put it, “Well, if 1918 is anything to go by, all those people celebrating in close proximity this Memorial Day will mean you will have a lot more company in hating being reminded about the existence of Memorial Day at this time next year.”

Maybe that second wave seed start will prove true. Maybe it won’t. Maybe, as we are also facing a national financial apocalypse that most definitely isn’t “all done” yet – and won’t be whether we rapidly open up or not! – due to the previous systematic dismantling of what little safety net we ever had by our idiots in charge, it doesn’t even matter. Maybe we’re in for pain either way. (Because maybe we should have implemented a temporary form of Universal Basic Income, which isn’t the pipe dream in economics circles that the average Joe acts like it is, but because we’re economic Darwinists, of course we didn’t!)

Maybe things will get worse. Maybe we’ll dodge the bullet because random chance happens. And, maybe America will collectively not even care next year if they do get worse because we’ve all decided that our “new normal” is one in which the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans barely raises an eyebrow.

But whatever happens over the next month or so, it shouldn’t be “normal.”

Yet, people are ready to return to “normal.” So, normal it shall be. Whatever it is. And, any evidence to the contrary will be summarily dismissed to maintain that narrative.

You’d think I’d be jaded enough by now not to still be triggered by what I’m used to as our “normal.” Or, at least, that when I am inevitably still triggered by it – because shouldn’t it be more normal to be affected by projections of the deaths of 3,000 Americans daily than to not be? – that I’d immediately recognize why I am triggered?

But, no, it took me the better part of a week wondering why the heck I was feeling more spacey, sad, and ready to bite the heads off of a few particular assholes on my Partner’s family’s Facebook threads to remember why “normal” is so triggering in and of itself.

For many compassionate people, the fact that “normal” in many sections of the country right now means Facebook posters who are doubling down on the idea that it is okay if the “weak and old” are lost so the “healthy” can preserve their “God-given freedoms” feels like something very “new.” (Yes, that was a real – and really well-liked – comment posted by my Partner’s extended family’s circle on Facebook recently. Including a follow-up specifically to me that folks like me who haven’t “fought back” for our freedoms don’t deserve to call ourselves American. If staying home and wearing a mask makes me un-American, than I’m proud to be un-American!)

To me, it doesn’t feel that new. Given some of my previous May experiences of being out-of-phase with the non-traumatized, it almost feels “normal.” But, it still doesn’t feel okay.

The extreme lengths that people are so often willing to go to to preserve the illusion that whatever difficult thing they have been forced to look at is “over now” never ceases to trigger.

It reminds me of those prior years when it wasn’t everyone’s world falling apart. It was just mine (or mine and my Partner’s). But, not only did I have to deal with the systemic abuse itself of those past May Days, I also had to deal with everyone else around me who just wanted the world to remain “normal” suggesting that – rather than there being real abnormalities lurking behind the facade – it was me who was abnormal.

Surely the fact that things were so bad was simply because I hadn’t done what I should? Or, I deserved it? Or, I was just willfully ignoring an obvious solution? I mean, really, if the Too Little Too Late Inn was so bad in 2018, why didn’t I just “go somewhere else?” (And if some people are still worried about a disease that is “just a flu,” then why don’t they just isolate themselves and stop bothering everyone else who isn’t afraid?!)

Gee, thanks. I never would have thought of that in 2018! I absolutely just hadn’t considered going elsewhere! (And, all those high-risk people just haven’t considered sitting in their homes forever while Republicans take away their unemployment insurance, I’m sure!?) Surely, it was never that the systemic abuse was so systemic that 2018 wasn’t my first experience with a horrible place! (And surely high-risk people are lazy buggers who don’t have to eat, right!?) It couldn’t be that I had literally camped out in my own state to try to jump the impossible lists to try to get my sibling out of the 9th Circle of Hell and still failed because of impossibly long wait lists and bureaucratic nightmares! And, it couldn’t be that we called the entire list of providers in the 9th Circle of Hell and were repeatedly told “we don’t want you” while the state said that was fine! And, it wasn’t that we ultimately had to chance the un-vetted Bed Bug Motel because the alternative was the street while that place ended up being so bad the state closed it, too!

No, no. Of course not!

That would suggest that things weren’t “normal.” It must have been that we didn’t “try hard enough!”

In my previous trauma narratives, it has always been so much easier for others who felt uncomfortable by proxy to just decide that the person experiencing the trauma or systemic abuse must be the abnormal one. It has always been so much easier to think that we just didn’t want to take our “business” elsewhere instead of that that we had nowhere safe to go.

It was always so much easier to blame the victim than to question whether “normal” maybe wasn’t really so normal after all.

And if it was that way with the many forms of systemic abuse lurking behind the “American Way” before covid-19, why would it be any different after it?

It’s extremely isolating to be outside of what the majority wants “normal” to be. It doesn’t matter if the objective facts say it is “right” to be skeptical. It doesn’t matter if there is plenty of data from plenty of rational scientists to suggest that we aren’t all “okay” and “done” with our pandemic. It didn’t matter that there was also plenty of data to show that past abuses that have made May such a rough month for me had always been there, too, for any who cared to look.

Reality, I have learned, isn’t what the facts say. It is what the majority of people believe. And, if the majority of the people in the room believe things are “normal,” than they are. No data will ever demonstrate otherwise.

The facts never mattered in Hell in the past. They don’t seem to matter to a lot of people now.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that – even with the “facts” of the matter on my side – it has been damn hard to actually bite the head off of those idiots in my Partner’s home state who have been posting Facebook messages about how the covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is a lie. No, the U.S. has not been over-inflating its raw death counts in a blatant attempt to discredit Trump.

But none of that will matter if more people eventually choose to believe it than not.

Just like it has never mattered that systemic abuse has always been present in America because more people have chosen to ignore the continuing existence of systemic racism, economic inequality, etc., then to confront it.

That is always going to be very triggering to me personally. The denial of objective reality on a potentially national scale is a bit of thing, especially in May. I don’t know why that fact keeps surprising me, but traumaversaries are a thing before, during and after global pandemics. And idiots behaving badly in global pandemics don’t help.

So, for anyone else looking at our abrupt return to “normalcy” and wondering why it still feels strangely unsettling when things “should be getting better,” you are not alone. I get it. It sucks. It is lonely, sad and spacey.

I have been feeling more than a bit out-of-phase with many of those (at least virtually) around me again this week as they embrace a “new normal” that feels too much like the “old normal.”

Because it just keeps reminding me that this “new normal” – like the old one – still has a whole lot of abnormality lurking behind it.

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out my Glossary of Terms.

9 thoughts on “Our New Normal

  1. Yes the “back to normal” rhetoric is very triggering. Thank you for putting it into context. Mother’s Day is very difficult naturally.

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  2. Great post. It made me think about something: is it the history of trauma that allows us to see that all is not “fine and normal” in the world despite the protests of far-ish right-wing conservatives? Is it because we are hardwired for disaster so when it shows up, we can see it for what it is? Things to ponder.

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  3. “And surely high-risk people are lazy buggers who don’t have to eat, right!?” 😂 Honestly, I’ve questioned so much shit lately and I think it’s the rest of the world that’s crazy!
    I can’t even begin to imagine what you’re feeling beyond the words you’ve written, or what it’s like as a trauma survivor for the things you’ve been through. I don’t know if ‘happy birthdays’ and such are quite fitting. And I think normal is overrated, too. Normal is just what people construct it to be, but ignorance and the need to shove things under the carpet mean this social construct is usually as flimsy as a wet piece of toilet paper.
    Sending rather useless – but fully meaningful – gentle hugs your way.  ♥
    Caz xxxx

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    1. Ditto what Caz has said. I try not to say normal anymore, instead I use typical. Normal is just too far a leap these days. It’s such a loaded word, with such negative connotations if you don’t fall into what’s normal. Typical feels better, to me. Happy Birthday month. I know you don’t like it but I’m hoping at least the universe is good to you this year. It’s so busy wreaking havoc else where, surely it’ll give you a break. Take good care 🌸

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      1. Oh, don’t even say that! We at one point were going to seriously consider the whole “where do we stand on children” bit this year. Because America may be stupid in general, but things were “going okay” for us. The universe responded to that one with a global pandemic. Don’t *ever* test my irony magnet powers that way. You don’t know what they are capable of…

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