Opinion: The idea of normal is shifting

By Pamela Noel

Special to Plumas News

Nothing lasts.  I lose a vase of flowers when it wilts. Leaves brown and dry, falling from the trees in the fall.  Fire rages, leveling a town. A “normal” life recedes into the past as a pandemic invades our lives. When change happens I sometimes lament the fact that it is occurring.  I  mourn some types of change. When spring becomes summer, I often wish spring would last a bit longer When the weather shifts, becoming windy, I want the wind to cease. And when life as we know it, shifts into another scenario, not to our liking, we may suffer. We want the good things to last, and the bad to leave. In this historic moment we are all faced with significant change.

As a child I learned about the impermanent nature of life when my cat was killed by a passing motorist. Her body was brought into the back porch, wrapped in a blanket. My father, wanting to protect me from this knowledge, asked me not to come onto the porch. I persisted however, understanding that something very important was occurring there.  Going over to my beloved Pepper cat I touched her fur, asking my dad what had happened. I had not yet experienced grief at that young time in my life.


My dad then described to me how nature operates — that everything has its season — but will ultimately disappear in its present physical form. Nothing lasts forever, he told me. Not even rocks, which we think of as solid and unyielding to the forces of time. They wear down and become sand or soil. I built upon this knowledge with other lessons of change and loss — a toy broken, my dad leaving to go to England for 6 months, the death of my grandparents.

The challenge is not merely the fact that everything changes and is impermanent.  The problem or suffering we feel, is when we resist it.  In resisting, we do everything we can to avoid, ignore and deny this fact. We order vitamin supplements to “ensure” our continuance on the planet.  We buy wrinkle cream and hair dye in order to perpetuate the illusion that we don’t change.

We know at an intellectual level that everything wears out eventually, despite our best attempts at creating and maintaining a “secure and stable” existence. Not only our bodies and other  physical “objects” will cease to exist, but even our thoughts, our emotions, our ideas are constantly shifting. Like clouds that spring from the blue and float past our gaze, our opinions, beliefs, and assumptions are capable of emerging and disappearing as well.

We can hold fast and try to make concrete our ideas and thoughts as the unassailable truth. This often results in both inner conflict with ourselves and outer conflict with others, as we often see reality differently from one another. Another choice is becoming curious about our circumstance and reaction to it. We can see our current situation as one that will not last forever. Only when we try to make things permanent and solid, we suffer.


So, just like the world we “knew” that existed before our current pandemic, the world we know now will also cease to exist. It will change. We will change. The idea of normal is shifting. And I think this realization of impermanence will allow us to let go of fixed ideas, resulting in more resilience in the face of this dynamic world. We can choose how we see the world. Each one of us is responsible for how we navigate our inner world and how we relate to others. It’s up to each one of us.