Everyone talks about the "new normal". Some complain that it's talked about too much, that it's a cliché that shouldn't be used anymore. Sometimes it probably is a cliché; but if so, it is because it's true.
A few times I've tried to pretend for stress-relief purposes that everything's just like the normal-that-was. This is how that works out for me:
So I'm just walking along, doot di doo, wearing my dust mask-- Wait. That's not normal.
Okay, well, I can tune out the dust mask. So I'm just walking along, doot di doo, listening to my iPod, smelling the thick citrus scent of a portaloo--
No, look, I can do this. Walking along, listening to my music, enjoying the beautiful hills and beautiful sky (no more search and rescue helicopters, which I'm not thinking about), stepping carefully over some torn-up asphalt--
And there's a traffic cone on a pothole, and an abandoned house, and the stain of brick-dust on the footpath, and a concrete block fence fallen down, and construction work at the mall, and malfunctioning real-time ETAs at the bus-stop, and safety railing around a demolition site, and another portaloo, and another fallen fence (brick), and several houses in a row with plywood in the walls and patches on the roofs where chimneys used to be, and safety tape around an unsafe property, and more rough footpaths, and some silt that didn't get cleared up, and my favourite grocery store, for lease, and and and... a roughly-repaired bridge, a sign excluding all traffic but residents, a container in the road in front of someone's house, stopbank works along the river, blue above-ground waterpipes.
(This was a 40-minute walk.)
Earlier this week I tried to pretend things were normal while walking in a part of town I'd never have been in if it weren't for the quake messing up my normal routes. Nevertheless I managed to work it, until I reached the gates of Selwyn House School where the kids have pasted up hundreds of hearts bearing messages like "Kia kaha, Christchurch."
It's just not possible to pretend things are as normal. I can't think of anywhere I can go to pretend that. Not home, not work, not on the bus, not at the shops. (Another ChChian has just posted photos of an average commute to work
Maybe at church, except the projector's still shining off-centre and they've still got the wooden statue off its pedestal, and as soon as we move from the set stuff to the more social stuff there's bound to be quake-talk. Maybe at choir, if I ignore the new route I take to get there and back and ignore the social talk... except one of the events we were practising for has been cancelled due to catastrophic lack of venue. Maybe at my friends' place in the northwest where I stay the night sometimes -- until the morning when I log on via the internet to start my day working-from-home because I haven't seen my desk in six and a half weeks.
Having a shower or washing dishes isn't normal (conserving water). Watching TV isn't normal (new TV, sitting on the floor surrounded by books by the gasfire that'll stay cold until checked by someone qualified). Going to bed isn't normal as I put my laptop under secure shelter and hang my bag on the nightstand. Going to the toilet sure isn't normal (whoops, forgot to add chemicals when I reassembled it this afternoon).
Lying in bed in the morning before I open my eyes and see the cracks in my ceiling -- that's still normal. But that's... really that's pretty much it.
Some of these things we'll get back, but they won't all be the same. We won't want them to all be the same. There'll be new shops and new technologies. We'll have made new friends and new habits -- many of us already have. We're not the us-that-was anymore either.
I think that part of the hard thing about the six-week mark is that it's becoming untenable to pretend that this is just an aberration. I can't pretend that things are the normal-that-was. They're not, and never will be again.
The only thing I can do is accept the normal-that-is, with all its cracks and portaloos and temporary repairs and little inconveniences. Because when the normal-that-is becomes so normal that I don't see it anymore, that's when I can walk down the road, doot di doo, and see someone's roses, blooming riotously in red and white and sunrise.
Retraining your brain to see what you want it to is hard work.