Learning to appreciate a 'new normal'

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I think I have super hearing. I’ve trained my ear to know certain sounds. I know there is a creak in the stairs on the fifth one up. That sound could wake me up from a dead sleep since it’s usually followed by the entrance of a little blond head announcing he can’t sleep, has a stomach ache or some other middle of the night issue that requires mom to abandon another good night’s rest.

I know the sound of their footsteps anywhere in the house, partly because they have the feet of cement blocks clamoring down the hallway, but party because I just hear them. I can hear them laughing from my visiting college freshman son’s room, lounging on the bed, sharing secret not-intended-for-mom’s-ears stories, but unknowingly giving mom an intense shot of overwhelming joy and security.

There is an incredible amount of comfort in the ordinary noise in our house. Dogs barking, the cat begging for food, the microwave dinging at 2 a.m. when popcorn is done for a basement full of boys. Doorbells, phones, music that’s not mine, video games, ball games, broken windows, hurry up’s, gotta go’s.

The ordinary chaos that makes our family us and drives me crazy all at the same time. That’s what I’m learning to appreciate more everyday because those sounds are as precious as they are fleeting.

With one son gone at school, and a constantly traveling spouse, that leaves the mundane, day-to-day routine to me and my youngest son most days. We discovered a new normal fairly quickly once the dust and tears settled after the oldest transitioned to a college life and left his room quiet and neatly put away.

It’s back to the days when the youngest was too young for school, just us at home. We now enjoy lunch and dinner for two most days. We run the house together as a team. We rattle around the house doing the same things we’ve always done, just with a few more echos since it feels bigger and a little hollow without all of us here adding to the messiness that over time exhausted me and yet filled me up all at once.

It’s only now, that all those mountains of little annoyances of routine life have been winnowed down to small piles, that I can appreciate all the little quirks of our family for what they really are. And it’s now that I see the comfort in them, opposed to anxiety. I can actually feel a physical reaction and calm in putting away dishes as my youngest packs up his backpack for “just another day” at school. His room, with piles of clothes both clean and dirty littering his floor, makes me smile, instead of launching into a litany of reasons why it shouldn’t be this way.

I know with glaring, crystal clear clarity why I’ve been feeling something so unsettling at times in all these familiar places of our home. It’s my trained ears. They’re on alert, but for no reason. It’s just me and the animals here again and it’s a new normal that leaves me feeling unraveled, not all together. I’m at loose ends, awkward in my own space. I’m completely caught up, nothing is pressing down on me to take care of, no one is tugging or pulling at me to go, do, see. I’m staring down the future.

So, I cling to the unexpected comfort I now feel in those familiar need-to-get-this-done moments that long ago made life so full of stress. The irony of it all stares at me because I realize it’s the natural order of things and yet it feels all wrong. I just didn’t think this would happen to me.