What Is Normal? / by Alice Absolutely

I slide into the warm water of my bath, taking a look around at my concrete board walls, partially grouted tile and wondered what is even happening in my life!  It's 4:33 on a Wednesday, I didn't go to work today, and I'm too tired to do much else with my day besides lay in my tub.  But my question still remains, "What is normal any more?  And how did I even get here?"

Let's spend a moment to review this week.  On Monday, I attended a mandatory pep rally for work.  My school district bused 9,000 professionals to an outdoor sports stadium for a two and a half hour professional development pep rally in 90° temperatures with no shade.  There are a number of problems with this plan, but really, this is just Monday and we need to stay focused here. Suffice it to say that the word, "asinine" was heard a number of times throughout the event.  To add insult to the matter, the extremely expensive keynote speaker told a story that many in our district had experienced first hand and would have been willing to deliver the same speech for free and at an indoor, air conditioned venue and would have done it with considerably less white guilt and condescension.

Also Monday, at 7:00 pm, my air conditioner at home went out.  No, I was not capable of enjoying the situational irony at the time.  I fixed it.  Yes, you heard me right, mild mannered leadership teacher me, FIXED IT.  I'm not talking flipped a breaker, changed a battery fixed it.  I turned off the breakers, went outside to the unit with my 5/16 thingy,  removed the panel, disconnected the burnt capacitor, reconnected the new one, replaced the panel, turned the breakers back on and viola, conditioned air.  Seems simple, but I felt like a badass...the a/c repair guy charges me $200 for an $11 part and fifteen minutes of work.  Call me Wonder Woman!  (Earlier the SAME day I could not conquer the gas pump to refill my car, but that's a different story.)

Tuesday, my mother had surgery.  On the way home, the road in front of her house looked jinky with water bubbling up from the asphalt.  I stopped the car, got out, stepped softly on the pavement and realized the bedrock beneath the roadway was giving out: a sinkhole would open up soon.  Got home, called the city to report it, settled mom in, ran after her prescriptions and generally took care of her through the day like she did for me as a kid: lunch, dinner, chores, company, et al while the city worked on the sinkhole outside.  I wrote most of a short story and helped the tv repair guy a bit.  When I finally got home last night, I realized I was headed towards a mean respiratory infection and medicated up before I went to bed.

I woke up feeling pretty awful.  Made all the arrangements with work at 4 am to call in sick and I tried to spend the rest of my day in bed: finished the story, wrote this blog post, did some short communications things for work, etc.  I checked on mom, took care of my own meals, you know, adult stuff. Until I slide in the tub just now looking for a solution to my body aches.  

That's when it hit me...this is normal.  This is my new normal.   Somewhere along the way normal became, "meh, whatever life throws at me."  And what is that all about?

I bought a new range last weekend.  The door of my previous range managed to lock itself shut.  Luckily I got the food out that time, but I am not going to chance it again.  As I was shopping for this new range, I found that they had a price window from $300 to $3000 dollars (maybe more...the sales guy clearly could tell I wasn't that into this purchase to be bothered with anything higher than three grand).  I don't know what to do with that information...first, aren't they called ovens...what is a range anyways?  Second, I only have one guiding premises on the purchase of this "range": does it get hot?  That's it.  That's all I know to ask...and I'm not a terrible cook.  But, this is the new normal.

So I ended up purchasing a new double oven range to be delivered to my house....some time in the future, we will call you.  Knowing about my mom's surgery, I called them when they didn't call me first.  I said, please don't deliver this week.  They said no problem, your new range is at least fifteen days out anyways.  (What?  Are you forging the metal special for my oven from elven steel? Hope I didn't pay for that upgrade.) Later that next, I get a text message saying the oven will be delivered on the day of mom's surgery....because this is the new normal.

I'm writing this and thinking of all the things that have become normal in life: five tries on a new washer to get a blanket all the way through a wash cycle, recycling centers that don't accept glass, check out lines that don't accept cash and have no cashiers.  The modern world is baffling and this is the new normal.  I am so often irritated at the pile of things that stack up and prohibit me from painting.  I become angry with myself over my laziness.  It's nice though to take a moment and reflect on how not normal everyone's normal has become.  That way I can reassure myself that everyone else is struggling with the same disconnect with reality that I am in a time of mass shootings, racism, reality tv star presidencies, misogyny, rape culture, and denial of global climate change.  We are disconnected for a reason: normal no longer makes sense.

Just the normal view of my not normal, partially finished bath tub.  Not enough tile. No showerhead. But the chandelier is up!

Just the normal view of my not normal, partially finished bath tub.  Not enough tile. No showerhead. But the chandelier is up!