Rendered Fat Content


A shower of cards in Alice in Wonderland from the color illustrated Nursery Alice published in 1890 with illustrations by John Tenniel
" Coping must mean that I'm still noticing differences without taking them as necessarily definitive."

If there's an art to adapting, it's for certain a dark one not taught in any higher learning institution. It seems a low sort of learning, imposed rather than chosen, and however much I might crow about my own resilience, I can assure you that it's all bullshit. There never were any masters of resilience and not only because there never could have been. You see, mastery demands an object exhibiting certain replicabilities, patterns emerging at least somewhat regularly, where practice might prove possible. Nobody ever improves their innate ability to predict what random number might emerge next. Likewise, each emerging NewNormalScene will likely never seem completely normal. Nostalgia taints assimilation. One cannot help comparing and finding the new thing wanting. These days never seem very much like the good old ones.

Saturday morning comes and I still feel a reassuring compulsion to head over to Davey's Diner for a platter of loaded hash browns.
I won't go, of course, because going would prove too dangerous during This Damned Pandemic. I'll peg-leg some inferior alternative and swallow that with enough simmering negative vibes to disrupt radio transmissions. The new normal might well become permanent, and if it does, it will take its place in a distinctly inferior position when compared with whatever came before. From here, I can see a succession of favorite breakfast places stretching back more than fifty years, each replacement a little worse than the one before it. I'm certain that if I were to travel back in time, I'd find there an inferior breakfast from how I remember it. Originals can never be successfully replicated. Newer normals never successfully replace whatever came before them. Newer just seems stranger, though any initial strangeness tends to get overlaid with newer newers seeming even stranger. Life's a long descent.

In one way, The Muse and I seem extremely fortunate. This Damned Pandemic arrived after we'd experienced a decade of practice surviving displacement. Our exile following our financial dismemberment introduced a seemingly never-ending sense of estrangement from normal. What emerged to replace it remained mostly disorienting, and, honestly, it still does. We managed to construct a support system of sorts, for some of which we now feel genuine nostalgia after moving on again and again. Each NewNormalScene seemed in turn like a rookie prospect, unlikely to ever earn nomination into anyone's hall of fame. Some became anchoring, but only ever temporarily. Those who lived more stabile lives, must have experienced a stunning displacement when life-long familiars suddenly became inaccessible. To know that grandchildren were just across town yet still off limits must suck even more than the knowledge that they're still more than a thousand miles distant and always were. If ready access was never possible, I suspect that the ache might be less than if one had never not known easy access. We lost that virginity long ago.

Each new caution, though, brings a fresh flood of some NewNormalScene, uniquely unfamiliar and unsettling. I well remember those first days out before we'd figured out very much of anything. We not only didn't know where we'd live, we had not yet discovered how to find a place to live. Every living moment felt alien and uninviting. We attempted to anchor our experience by discovering a couple of places we could think of as our own homes far away from the home we knew. A coffee shop where we would never become regulars. A grocery that stocked a few old familiars. Adventure replaced the inevitable indenture familiarity once sustained. Nobody ever knew our names. We lived anonymously and never once accidentally ran into anybody we knew when shopping at any grocery. Eventually, even that alien environment came to feel like home. It never really felt normal, but always some exception, a break from the truly rational. Every NewNormalScene seems first crazy making.

I abandoned not all hope, but any remaining of hope that life might one day flip back into any old normal. It was a hard lesson to swallow, and I'm still sort of choking on it, but I recognize that I long ago abandoned normalcy, or it abandoned me. My nostalgia for how it used to be, for how I sincerely still feel it really should be again, is not my friend but my enemy. It blinds me from seeing what presents itself now, stuff that will eventually become the template against which I gauge my future dissatisfactions. I'm coping, which is not to say that I'm used to this or that any of this seems particularly normal yet, or ever will. Coping must mean that I'm still noticing differences without taking them as necessarily definitive. I need not insert very much judgement. The NewNormalScene might seem worse but I'm not especially cursed by all I've lost. The old normals were apparently never really mine, but leased with no option to ever own even the least of them. WhatNext might be my only true friend.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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