How to Be Normal When the World is on Fire

It’s been eight days since seditionists attacked the Capitol. We are still in the midst of a pandemic. Way too many people choose conspiracy theories over reality. And I’m wondering how to be normal through all this.

Seriously, I tried Googling “How to be normal after…” and then stopped typing because I wasn’t sure how to sum it all up. After what? Insurrection? A terrorist attack? A pandemic? All of the above?

The auto-fill Google results were not helpful.

How to be normal after... (Google search)

I did come across this useful PDF from the FBI on Coping After Terrorism. It includes many things I already know about self-care, and they are good, practical tips.

But even if I’m getting by at the basic, not-super-depressed/anxious-or-suicidal level*, it’s still hard to figure out how to be normal these days. Whatever “normal” means.

(*Note: if you are struggling with depression or anxiety, or having suicidal thoughts, there’s no shame in that. We’re dealing with A LOT of triggers for those feelings. Please talk to your doctor or therapist, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trust me, you are NOT alone in those feelings and there are specialists who can help!)

What is Normal?

Honestly, sitting down to write fiction feels pretty frivolous right now. Mundane chores, like cleaning the house, feel unimportant, too. It’s hard to shake the “shouldn’t I be doing something?!” feeling.

But what should I be doing? My normal will always seem frivolous and/or mundane compared to being a first-responder during an active crisis. That doesn’t mean my normal isn’t worthwhile.

All of our lives have been disrupted by the events of the last year (or so). We are living in times of political instability and health insecurity. In countless ways, our sense of control has been damaged. And that’s hard to overcome.

We can’t turn a blind eye to what’s happening around us, but we also can’t spend our lives assuming a crash position. What can we do? Cling to our “old normal”? Create a “new normal?” Give up on the idea of “normal” at all?

Embrace the Normal

If you’ve read this far, you may now be expecting some magic answer for how to be normal and get your life back on track. I don’t have one.

But here’s my best shot: Embrace the most frivolous and the most mundane parts of your life.

Does cleaning the house seem pointless when the world is on fire? Do it anyway! Does pursuing a passion feel frivolous when the world is on fire? Do it anyway!

Our normal lives are made up of mundane and frivolous things. When big events happen, like the attack on the Capitol, our routines may be disrupted. We may have new fears to assess and new emotions to examine.

By all means, stay (reasonably) up to date on what’s going on in the world. Educate yourself and speak out when an opportunity arises. But let’s try not to throw out the rest of our lives in the process.

Do the mundane things. Do the frivolous things. They are your normal and they are beautiful.

I Can’t Do It For You (Duh)

“I can’t do it for you!”

Many months into the pandemic, while still trying to get my post-virus stamina back, mixing up my routine with some online cardio dance seemed like a great idea. Enter Figure 8 Fitness with Jaana Kunitz, who loves calling out encouragement like “Keep going! I can’t do it for you!” or “Lift your knees higher! I can’t do it for you!”

In my weakened, grumpy state, her peppy rallying cries were a bit much. They prompted some grumbled replies like “I’m off the couch, I’m moving, what more do you want from me?!” as I grudgingly kept moving, even if my knees weren’t lifting very high.

Her frequent repetitions of “I can’t do it for you!” were particularly grating. On a good day, I might laugh it off with a mocking “well, duh!” Oh a bad day, when I just wanted to collapse on the couch, I was more prone to snapping “Nobody asked you to do it for me, Jaana!”

Yet, sometimes, the most profound revelations come from the most obvious observations.

I can’t do it for you!”

Jaana is absolutely right. She can’t do it for me. Even if she were to show up at my house, attach strings to me like a marionette, and move my body for me, that wouldn’t work.

If I want to get stronger, I have to put in the work myself. Buying an exercise video isn’t enough. Watching an exercise video isn’t enough. I have to physically get up and do the exercise.

“I can’t do it for you!”

It’s an incredibly obvious observation, but—if I’m really honest—there are plenty of times when I buy a workout video… or a foreign language app… or a book on nutrition… etc. and feel a sense of accomplishment… even though I haven’t done the thing yet.

“Look at me, buying a book on healthy eating! I will now be super healthy with perfect nutrition!” I might think, while skipping lunch because I ate too many Fritos for breakfast.

Or, on the flip side, I might be irritated at my lack of progress on something I do inconsistently. “I spent an hour playing the piano after not touching it for 6 months, why is this so hard?!”

Taking that further…

It’s the same with pretty much anything in life. There are resources everywhere, but they don’t do the work for you. Reading a guide on how to knit will not make a lovely scarf appear. You have to knit that scarf yourself, stitch by stitch.

As a writer, this has come up more than you might expect. Many people hear about my books and say, “I’ve always wanted to be a writer.” So, I ask what they’ve written, and often get a reply like, “Oh, I’ve never written anything, but I have lots of ideas.”

If you want to do something in life, you have to start doing it. Your first attempts will not be great. You will likely need to research and find a teacher who can show you what typically works for others. But, ultimately, you still have to do the work yourself.

I may not lift my knees as high as Jaana, but I’m off the couch and moving.

Because she can’t do it for me.

Surprise New Book!

Surprise new book: Audrey & Esther Geekify Greenville

We need all the fun we can find during this pandemic. For me, that’s meant setting aside my other projects to write a fun and silly, surprise new book!

Audrey & Esther Geekify Greenville is now in the hands of the publisher and should be available for sale in the next day or two. (Yay!) I’ll update here and on social media as soon as it’s ready.

Update: The book is available now!!! Buy it here: Audrey & Esther Geekify Greenville

Now, this new book isn’t a novel. Instead, it’s what I’m calling a Twist Your Fiction Storybook.

What does that mean? Each story section gives you options for where to go next. Your picks change the storyline and the genre, meaning you could get a story with sci-fi, fantasy, or rom-com touches… or more likely, a mix of all three!

Want a new story? With 3 genres and 22 possible endings, you can start over, and over, (and over) again! You may even find a time loop. 😁

Pulling all these story parts together has been a crazy challenge! (So many places to go!) The stories themselves are pretty silly, which made writing this even more fun.

The book kicks off with two friends, Audrey and Esther, starting their weekend at a small, pop-culture con called Geekify Greenville. Audrey is selling her knit and crochet crafts. Esther is working as a con volunteer. You get to decide where the story goes from there.

This project has been on my back burner for nearly two years, and I have a lot of ideas that didn’t make it into this book. Which means, I’d love to send Audrey and Esther on even more adventures. After I finish Book 3 of The Psychic Traveler Society, of course!

I’m really excited to share this surprise new book with you. I hope you’ll be excited to read it, too!