When You Realize a "Normal Week" is as Common as a Teenaged Witch | marycarver.com

After asking everyone I know for their recommendations, I was all set for my grown-up grocery store field trip. A friend and I (and our younger kids) had planned a trip way across town to Trader Joe’s. It’s a solid 45 minutes from my house, and I’d never been. Based on the dozens of Facebook comments and, no joke, HUNDREDS of suggested purchases, I was about to experience the errand of a lifetime, the grocery store trip of my dreams. That orange chicken and everything bagel seasoning was surely going to CHANGE MY LIFE.

And maybe it would have. But it hasn’t yet. Because the morning my friend, our kids and I trekked to TJ’s, my older daughter went on her own field trip. To the skating rink. Where she fell. And broke her leg.

I got the phone call as we pulled into the store’s parking lot. Immediately, my plans for grocery enlightenment evaporated, along with my intentions to catch up on laundry, deal with a ridiculous stack of books that had recently collapsed the shelf they were sitting on, and finally finish two big projects for work. My day, my weekend, my entire next week were swallowed up by managing the urgent and surviving the crisis.

Because, as it turns out (surprising this nearly-40-year-old woman who’s never broken a bone), breaking your leg and getting a toe-to-thigh cast IS a crisis for a child. And her family.

Now, it’s not the worst thing in the world to happen. Obviously. And even in the midst of our wide-eyed, adrenaline-fueled reactions on that first day, we were easily able to list off so many things we were thankful for (not the least of which is, for my daughter, getting out of PE for the rest of the school year). But it has been a difficult time, to put it lightly.

It’s also been an enlightening time, in so many ways. In just 10 days I’ve learned a lot about my daughter, myself, and the healthcare industry. It has not all been pretty, but it’s all valuable. Some of the things I’ve realized are truths that have been right in front of me for a long time and are now crystallized and clear, while others are details and lessons I just hadn’t had reason to know before now.

One of those HELLO, HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE YOU TO GET THIS truths is that if I’m waiting for a “normal week” in order to accomplish anything, I’m probably never going to accomplish anything. Because while I expect nearly every week to be a normal week, that just isn’t reality. Normal weeks are just about as common as a teenaged witch.

As you can imagine, my daughter has watched a lot of TV over the past several days since breaking her leg. And for some reason she’s wanted to spend a lot of that time binge-watching Sabrina, the Teenage Witch on Amazon Prime. I remember watching this show as a kid (my whole family was a sucker for the sarcastic talking cat), and my daughter discovered it sometime last year. We’ve been watching an episode here and there, but being incapacitated has led to her (us) watching practically an entire season in just a few days.

All that to say two things…

First, if you have a tween who you pretty vigorously shelter from the less-than-stellar influences of older kids’ and adult programming, this show from the 90s isn’t necessarily a great alternative. The series does appear to have a more innocent vibe than many shows on TV (or streaming) today, but it’s not rated G by any means. And, honestly, Sabrina is kind of a brat sometimes. If you have a tween who loves magical stories, I’d recommend Just Add Magic on Amazon Prime and The Worst Witch on Netflix over this one.

And secondly, waiting for the perfect time to do something more than likely means you’re never going to get around to doing it. Whether you’re determined to begin a home improvement project, finish a book proposal, organize your pantry, zero out your inbox, quit eating junk and start using your treadmill, or finally get caught up on your book club selection or Bible reading plan, saying you’ll get to it when life gets “back to normal” is just an optimistic way of saying, “I’m not going to do this thing.”

I know, I know. That sounds harsh! And it is. Darn broken legs and TGIF marathons shoving the truth down my throat! I don’t like it one bit, and I want to protest. I want to tell you that you just don’t understand. That this week is crazy but everything will settle down after the holidays, after baseball season, after my cold goes away or my daughter’s dance recital or my husband gets off the night shift. Life is hard right now, but as soon as it gets easier I’M ON IT.

Except…life doesn’t really get easier, does it? A “normal” week that goes according to schedule and doesn’t throw a single wrench in my planner only shows up every once in a blue moon. It IS a possibility, just like running into a magical teen must be, based on the strangely high number of shows about adolescent witches. But it’s not real likely, and impossible to predict when it will happen.

In just about every episode of Sabrina, she uses her magical powers for her own advantage and then must face the consequences. Sabrina learns her lesson and POOF! everything goes back to the way it was before.

If only.

Even if my daughter’s leg magically healed itself tomorrow and she jumped off our couch to return to life as normal, I’d still be stuck with the aftermath of the situation. The mountains of laundry, the cups and knives covering my kitchen counter, the bills I keep forgetting to pay, and the 10 pounds I’ve gained from stress eating aren’t going to disappear.

And sometimes our crisis, our hard situation, our difficult circumstances aren’t as temporary as a broken bone or magic spell gone awry anyway. Sometimes it’s simply a new way of life. So, short-lived or permanent, how do we move forward? How do we keep life from passing by while we deal with the day-to-day?

We give ourselves grace. Sometimes the urgent or the crisis really does force everything else to stop. Sometimes you really can’t do another single thing or think another single thought. And that’s okay. Give yourself space to breathe, room to adjust, time to wrap your mind around what’s going on.

We accept help. When my friends offered to bring us dinner and another set of friends collected a “takeout fund” that they slipped into my Paypal account, I wanted to say no, don’t, it’s too much. But I thought about how many times I’ve been honored to take a meal to a friend . . . and I thought about how I really had no mental or physical capacity left over for cooking dinner . . . and instead I said yes, okay, thank you. When you’re just barely putting one foot in front of the other and someone offers to help? LET THEM.

We scale back. I’m a perfectionist. And so many times my perfectionism leads to procrastination because I look at a project or an assignment or a dream or a goal, and I get overwhelmed. I think about the reality of my situation and hold it up against the reality of the work my project or assignment or dream or goal will require, and I am gutted by the impossibility of it all. So rather than attempt to make some progress or reach part of my goals, I just walk away completely. After all, if I can’t do it all and do it all perfectly, what’s the point?

Well, obviously the point is that some progress is better than none. So a smaller, simple goal met is better than an awesome goal ignored. And a few tasks crossed off the list is better than throwing away the list because you can’t bear to look at it much less tackle a single thing on it. It’s okay to re-evaluate our goals and dreams and plans in light of a change in circumstances. It’s okay to scale back and tackle a small hill when we just aren’t able to climb the big mountain.

We take baby steps and gain momentum. Those small hills? Like writing for five minutes every morning or doing one load of laundry a day or taking the stairs instead of the elevator? They matter. They do! And they’re doable, usually, even in hard or complicated or stressful situations. (Not always, guys. Remember, grace.) I’m not sure who originally coined the phrase, “Do the next right thing,” but I’ve heard it many times from my friend Emily — and I try to remember it when I’m in crisis and seeing my regularly scheduled programming screech to a halt.

Doing the next, small and right thing will help you feel more in control of your life, even in the midst of chaos. It might even be a reprieve from whatever situation has hijacked your “normal” life. And it will keep the proverbial ball rolling toward your goal, so when you’re ready and able to work harder and do more, you aren’t starting from a full stop.

“Normal” isn’t completely made up; it does happen on occasion. But more often than not, our lives are full of disruptions and cancellations, snow days and broken legs, family emergencies and all the unusual circumstances we can imagine (and then some). So let’s not fall into the trap of waiting for a “normal” week before we do the things we’ve been preparing for and dreaming of and praying over and planning. Let’s stop for a breather when we need to but keep the momentum going with the baby steps we can manage. Let’s see what kind of “magic” happens when we quit waiting on “normal.”

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