Finding a New Normal

I ran today. Well, perhaps that is an overly ambitious use of the verb. I completed three miles today, perhaps a third of which might be considered running. After bringing home a doozy of an upper respiratory infection from Poland, this was my first exercise in almost a month. I honestly did not Want to go running today, but I felt like I Ought to.There was a raging debate when I first woke up. The smart thing to do would have been to put on my shoes and go, but I paused for a split second. This was ample time for the voice of laziness and complacency inside my head to make a fairly solid case for the extreme comfort of my cozy covers. Still, somehow sound reasoning determined not only that I Should get up and go, but that I Would. 

The last couple years have brought a great many changes in my life, some of which I intentionally chose, others, not so much. Some heartbreaking and some truly amazing things have occurred. Through it all though, I’ve felt myself struggling, flailing through life. My two essential foundations – Jesus and Jeff – remained rock solid, but nothing else seemed to quite make any sense. And, I’ve gotta tell ya, Type A people don’t like it when things don’t make sense.  

My new boss is a genuinely fantastic woman with an uncanny ability to “read” people. She suggested I check out the book “Who Moved My Cheese.” If you have not already done so, invest about an hour of your life with this tiny, incredible book. It’s an analogy for business, and for life, told as a modern parable about four mice in a maze searching for cheese. It is neither fancy nor complicated, but it helped so many things suddenly make sense. 

I’ve known all along that I needed to find my new Normal. But try as I might, I simply have not been able to. This has been the source of MUCH frustration, which my family has endured like champs because they love me and know that sometimes I just have to wrestle my way through things. Reading this little story helped me t see that I’ve been trying to make completely new circumstances fit into my old way of doing things, to make the new Normal fit into the same mold as the older one. This is a sure-fire recipe for failure and frustration, and man alive, that’s where I’ve been. 

I used to run almost every single day, raced at least once a month, and consistently placed at the top of my age group. I used to be a pretty doggone good teacher, confident and poised, and ready to bring out the best in my students. Those were great times, enjoyable seasons of life. Today things are different, therefore my approach must also be different. New circumstances require a new ways of thinking.  

So today I went rambling around the pond. It was later in the day, and quite warm, but what a beautiful backdrop! The sun was shining, the squirrels and ducks were each amusing in their own way, and there were other families out enjoying the day. My mind contemplated these things while Daughtery and Def Leppard fueled my feet. I ran and walked and breathed. Then, without warning, I felt my stride shift from awkward shuffle to the smoother glide of former days. Was I as fast as I used to be? Not even close. But, who cares? I don’t need a finisher’s medal to prove that I gave my best. I walked away slimy, completely spent, but absolutely satisfied. 

Seasons of life come and they go. Things change, and that’s more than okay; it’s actually quite exciting. My Should will eventually catch up with my Want To. It’s counterproductive – and impossible – to try to squeeze today into yesterday’s mold. There are too many wonderful things ahead to dwell in the past. Sure. It may still take some time for all the elements of my new Normal to ease into place. But they will. 

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

Quite often these days I am asked how I am enjoying retirement. Technically, I resigned my teaching job. Retiring would have brought with it a pension and perhaps an AARP card. I have neither enough years of age nor service for retirement. Right now, I’m fine with that.

But to get back to the matter at hand, people often ask this question with a slightly envious gleam in their eyes. They want to hear how utterly fantastic it is to do nothing all day, how I’ve already written that book, and how I spend my days rescuing starving orphans all around the globe. Okay. Perhaps that’s me projecting just a little. I have found myself tossing off the chit-chat reply, “Man, it’s great!” and leaving it there. Thing is, this is a tough question to answer authentically in the time that whirlwind greetings typically allow. As we have learned from every telling of Aladin, when you get what you wish for, you also get what comes along with that wish. Many times these are challenging consequences, or at least by-products, you had not considered.

With this in mind, I have compiled a list of the pros (+) and cons (-) of leaving the incredibly lucrative career (HA!) of teaching to become a professional writer.

(+) Each day presents me with 24 hours. I can invest or squander them however I wish.

(-) The majority of my friends have regular jobs during the day, so I have no one to hang out with. Some days I tire of my own jokes.


(+) No one tells me how I should spend my day.

(-) I miss the camaraderie of a team in a work setting. Occasionally I feel isolated and alone. I enjoy collaborating with others and bouncing ideas off them.

(+) Thankfully, there are people I can email or text or IM on Facebook. They help me talk my way through the fog and come up with a workable premise. They also help me gain perspective during those times when throwing my body under a bus starts to sound like a fantastic idea. These conversations are not as quick or as personal as walking across the hall, but technology certainly makes this a viable option.


(-) I have started sleeping later. Some days, embarrassingly late. Two or three hours of productivity can easily be lost.

(+) The last two years of my life have been exceptionally stressful. It is nice to Be Still and REST! Restoring my soul now will help me to be more productive in the days to come.


(+) I have time to exercise and run. This challenges me. This makes me stronger. When I am physically fit, my mind works better.

(-) This can quickly turn into an excuse to procrastinate in other areas: “Oh, hey, It’s already 11:00. I’ll start on that project/laundry/article after lunch.”


(-) I have no money. I know this will improve in time, but as of today, this is a grim reality.

(+) Since I don’t have a regular job, I am able to participate in ministries that I love and believe in, such as teaching English to refugee women. Their individual stories and cultures are varied, but their needs – language, help understanding life in a new land, and friendship – are universal. And there is a whole melanin rainbow of babies who need my kisses!


(+) I have time to write!

(-) It is time to get serious. That whole “I am going to write a book” thing has passed from One Day to NOW. I have done enough talking; it is time for action. And one thing I’ve learned – this is pretty profound; you may want to jot this down – is that words do not write themselves. They require your time and attention and effort. And effort. And effort.


(-) Writing requires a great deal of discipline and self-motivation.

(+) I have given myself the luxury of flying by the seat of my pants for several weeks. That’s new territory, but I have enjoyed it. However, now my OCD nature longs for structure. I get more done when I have a definite plan. I feel better when I get more done. That’s a nice loop. This week I am working on establishing “office hours” to bring some order to my day. I love to set goals then cross them off the list once they are accomplished. Even if they are baby steps, each one taken is forward momentum.

So, the honest answer to how I am enjoying this new season of life is that, while it is not perfect, it truly is good. Very, very good. I am struggling with redefining Normal and with choosing the best use of my time on a daily basis. Still, I know that God has entrusted me with Words. This amazing gift is not just for myself, but to strengthen and inform and encourage others. There is much to learn as I hone my skills, and I have no idea where this writer girl journey will lead, but I am excited to find out.