Kirsten Panachyda

Writer, Speaker, Singer-Songwriter

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How Many New Normals Are There?

“The New Normal.” It’s a phrase on its way to cliche. Encapsulating that odd experience when life’s unthinkable changes morph into habit, “the new normal” helps us make peace with transition.

Now that I’m back after a brief summer sabbatical, I’m ready to talk about yet another new normal. Last year at this time, I was glowing with the joy of sending Nicholas off to college. How could we have imagined, two or three years prior, that this kid with unrelenting suicidal depression would be able to make such a step? The victory felt so real that I could almost see the gold medal shining on his chest.

He had a successful year, with some bumps in the road. He handled the separation and homesickness, the schedule, and the unfamiliar environment. Not all his grades were stellar. He suffered a relapse in January that sent him to the ER one night for evaluation (he was sent back to school, not needing a higher level of care. First time an ER evaluation didn’t result in hospitalization!) However, he finished with a solid grade point average, and with his mental stability intact. Success.

How I wanted him to be all set- merrily following the path to independence and adulthood and a career he loved.

He did not go back to college this fall. He is still doing well. This change is not the result of his illness, but of a change in direction. His original major didn’t work out and now he wants to major in something his school doesn’t offer. In taking a year off to explore the new career path and new colleges, he chooses wisely.

I’m the one who struggled a bit to turn the ship around. One day it occurred to me that it’s kind of funny: a mom who spent fifteen years providing alternative education for her kids through homeschooling, now wrestling with the idea that one of them is straying from the traditional path. It also took me a while to come to terms with the truth that this new decision doesn’t take away any of the remarkable success of last year.

So how many New Normals are there? As many as there need to be for God to work His plan. Or maybe I need to accept that a life lived following Christ is never about normal. It’s always about trust, and grace.

Whatever success is, it surely rests on this:
“Be content with such things as you have, knowing that He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5.

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