The New “No Normal”…Wisdom from Martha

no normalI remember how relieved I was when I first heard someone say, “This is the new normal.” I was always trying to resist change, and I’d never, ever succeeded. The idea of a “new normal” allowed me to relax, no longer fighting pointlessly against the continuous change that is reality.

Recently, though, I’ve had to update the concept “new normal.” Change has gotten so incredibly zippy and sustained that it’s pretty obvious the only “new normal” possible anymore is “no normal.”

Now, the word “normal” comes from the Latin “norma,” meaning a carpenter’s square (not to be confused with “norma rae,” meaning a small feisty union leader). “Normal” things conform to precise measurements and angles. They’re consistent. Predictable. Just like…pretty much nothing that will ever happen to you from now on.

Take the weather. Please. Meteorologists were onto global warming when I was a kid, but no one predicted the weather patterns it’s creating now: the mega-drought parching us Californians, five-foot snow dumps in New England, my kids in Tucson complaining about all the rain. Economist Thomas Friedman recently labeled this “global weirding.” And it’s just going to keep getting weirder.

The same thing’s happening in other aspects of our lives. All institutions are unstable, all situations fluid. In such an environment, letting go of normal is the best thing you can do for yourself. It puts you in “don’t-know mind,” the Zen ideal of being fully present, observant, and accepting of whatever happens.

So what’s that you say? Pluto got fired from being a planet? Geneticists combined the DNA of spiders and goats and created goats whose milk turns to spider silk? You can now buy bacon-flavored toothpaste? Bruce Jenner felt like a woman all along? None of that surprises me. Ain’t nothing surprising up in here—not since I embraced the No Normal.

So my advice to you is to drop-kick whatever attachment you have to a square, predictable, normal life, and embrace the global weirding of everything. I’ve found that when no normal becomes your new normal, the weirdness can be a damn fine ride.

Lame Animal Totem: Passenger Pigeon

Happy-Go-Lucky in a Dangerous World
I’m into Passenger Pigeons this month because their closest relatives—Band-Tailed Pigeons—have been showing up at my bird feeders. Scientists are now asking people (this means you!) to put up feeders, because human interference appears to be killing off all birds, everywhere. Buzz-kill, huh? But wait! It gets worse!

Passenger Pigeons were once the most abundant birds in North America, so numerous that flocks of them could darken the entire sky. They were also very friendly, so people used to club thousands of them a day, just to pass the time (this was before YouTube). This continued with undimmed enthusiasm until 1914, when the very last Passenger Pigeon died in captivity. Her name was Miss Martha. (Coincidence? Yes.)

But I digress. If your totem animal is the Passenger Pigeon, you are happy-go-lucky to the point of insanity. You walk through dangerous neighborhoods in nothing but swimwear, carrying wads of cash in your outstretched hands. You accept massages from maximum-security prisoners. You’re sure that your neighborhood serial killer just needs a little yoga, maybe someone to hold a space when he gets triggered. You may well be dead.

Use Passenger Pigeon energy to feel blithely unconcerned during medical testing and political elections. Call on it to help you accept abuse, agree with psychopaths, and always, always blame yourself. And as you hang up your own bird feeder near your own home (please!) expect the spirit of Passenger Pigeon to remind you that it is good to be innocent and hopeful, even in a dangerous world.

Not to Worry: 10 Things to Stop Worrying About

Everywhere I turn these days, people are urging me to worry. “Restaurants are swarming with bacteria!” shouts a local news promo. “We’ll tell you what to beware of!” From the computer in my lap, a parenting blog warns, “There’s plenty to be anxious about.” Noting the pallor of my furrowed brow, a neighbor clucks, “I read more…

Lame Animal Totem: Gophers

Gophers are dirt-brown rodents with tiny eyes who hoard food in their large, fur-lined cheek pouches, bite aggressively when threatened, and use their hairy tails to feel around when they walk backward through their subterranean tunnels. In other words, they’re just like your Aunt Helga. (Remember Helga? She used to come over a lot when read more…