Raise your hand if you enjoy stretching. My hand would’ve stayed steady at my side when I was younger, but now my hand would shoot up in the air. What used to seem like a waste of time now feels like a drug that I can’t live without. We are all tapped for time at some point in our life, and there are times when exercise, whether it’s hitting the gym or hitting the trails, becomes a checklist item that we need to fit into our day.
What I came to learn, is that stretching improves flexibility and range of motion which have a direct correlation to our strength, speed, and durability. When we are young, our muscles heal quickly and maintain flexibility. As we get older, our muscles shorten and take longer to repair, so stretching becomes essential to maintain that youthful resilience. This youthful adaptability goes far beyond the physical.
Lessons From the Children
I am amazed by my children. They maintain excitement for the simple things in life and have a wonder for the more complex. Their imagination allows them to be transported into a different world through role-playing, reading, toys, art, or video games. They forgive me for my faults, time and time again, willing to trust me even if I had let them down before. Perhaps their greatest virtue though is their ability to adapt.
I remember the first day we sent them off to preschool, and now one of them is heading off to high school. All of that time in between is filled with newness, growth, and the tension of change. Physical growth, mental growth, emotional growth, location changes, facing fears, stepping into the unknown time and time again; This constant growth and change are what makes us resilient, yet sometimes we forget that the norm for life is just that: change.
Change is Consistent
Physical flexibility improves strength, childlike adaptability improves mental resilience, so how can we harness these ideas to frame balance change and consistency to define our normality? If adding flexibility to our bodies can improve our strength by improving our range of motion, we should be able to stretch our mind in a way that strengthens our emotional resilience, by improving our range of expectations.
If we expect change, we can accept change, and in this acceptance, we find the ability to adapt to the new form of life. A friendship may change due to children, a new schedule, or a change of location. Relationships change as we go from dating to cohabitation/marriage to parenthood. We grow through financial changes, emotional changes, physical changes, political changes, and in the current state of our world; societal changes.
How this Pandemic Brought Focus
Our world got turned upside down this year. The well-oiled machine of economy, commerce, and community had the gears fall out with the global pandemic. Not only did people lose their connection to the amenities that we had become accustomed to such as theaters, amusement parks, restaurants, gyms, and the like; but we also lost our base-level understanding of a “normal” life. The simple joys of having friends over for dinner were stripped away, and some families were kept apart to protect susceptible family members.
Each of us was brought deep into our immediate lives and our inner self. We were forced to adapt to a massive change in our very state of being, and it brought the focus into our state being. How financially prepared were we? How much toilet paper did we have in our house? How much of our happiness was achieved from life taking place right in front of us compared to looking everywhere else for that happiness?
What was brought into focus for you? For me, I was brought face to face with my ability to be okay with my own company. I have my wife and daughters with me, but along with that came my state of mental health. If there was ever a time for self-improvement, that time was now. How can I use this time to develop and grow, so that I am a better human to those around me?
So, What is Normal?
I guess normal is the same as it ever was, ever-changing. There was a revelation to everyone that there is a lot more out of our control than we realized. So we move forward now with a better understanding of what is within our control. With that new understanding, we have a chance to reinforce the foundations of our life, creating a steady plain that must stand firm regardless of the external situations in life.
We must stay rooted in love, not only for others but for ourselves as well. Remember the resilience that lives within us, that childlike ability to forgive, adapt, grow, and love endlessly. Change can be good, and even though this global pandemic has brought our understandings of normal crumbling down, perhaps we can find chunks of goodness to take from the rubble.