Here’s an understatement: The disruptions in daily life have forced huge and, in many cases, unwelcome changes to our routines. Seems like there are new “rules” for everything – how we interact with each other, our sleep patterns, our work lives. I’ve heard many people describe how they feel ungrounded and lost.
“I can’t wait for things to get back to normal.”
“Is this the new normal?”
“I just want to feel normal again.”
Absolutely valid questions but…
What if normalcy isn’t what we need?
The word “normal” implies measurement against a standard. When, in our COVID-riddled lives, our everyday experiences don’t measure up to that standard, we’re thrown off balance. We have little control over what’s happening around us and we yearn for some sort of order in the chaos. We tend to describe that order as feeling “normal.” The absence of it has us experiencing and feeling things we’ve never encountered. And, not only has the rest of the world gone awry, the disruption has seeped into our homes.
Normal, my friends, is gone. And, quite frankly, I think normalcy is overrated. It’s too judgey and too devastating to us when it changes or goes away.
How about instead of looking for normal we reclaim our sense of being home by finding things that are familiar?
For me, familiarity comes with a connotation of comfort. The kind of comfort I get from my morning coffee or the blanket I curl up in when I read or the smell of lavender. No matter what has happened in my life, I have had certain touch points to help ground me and bring me home. Home to familiarity. Home to myself.
About Sensory Memory
Humans have five senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. The sensing organs – skin, eyes, ears, nose and tongue – serve to help us perceive and make sense of the world around us. Sensory Memory allows us to retain impressions of what we’ve sensed long after the initial sensing takes place.
Find your sensations of home
Rather than searching for normal, what if we can use our senses to access the memories of familiarity? Take a few moments to consider the list of senses below with the intention of inviting comfort. Sensory Memory, of course, stores not great memories, too. Keep your intention on finding the lovely ones.
Notice what ideas or memories come to mind with each sense and jot them down. Notice, too, that tapping into one sense can activate others. The senses are engineered to work together as a system. Which sense(s) can you activate to bring you to a place of feeling at home (in yourself as well as in your personal space)?
I’ve provided a few examples here:
I love a good hand massage. When I slowly rub my hands with my favorite lotion I can bring myself back to a beautiful retreat I visited in New Mexico. I can hear the sound of the wood flute that played in the background.
I feel soothed by the sight of ocean waves. I notice that if I watch the video I took in Florida, I can bring myself back to the sensation of relaxing on the beach. Sometimes, if I go deeply enough into the sensation, I can recall the smell of the water.
I know that I respond very strongly to music. I can choose to listen to songs from my past that make me want to dance, help me feel calm or bring me to tears when I feel like I need a good cry.
My spice cabinet is a treasure trove for calling up memories. Sage for memories of the dressing I only make at Thanksgiving. Cinnamon for sitting outside Isles Buns & Coffee in Minneapolis sharing coffee, cinnamon rolls and laughs with close friends. Because I love food so much, I’ll bet I can come up with a memory for every spice.
For most of my adult life, my morning has started with a quiet time and my big mug of coffee, just the way I like it. Dark roast, maple syrup and milk. I’ve continued that ritual during the stay-at-home order. It’s a nice way to begin my day, regardless of what might show up later.
What joy and calm can you find in your Sensory Memory?
Enjoy this journey through your sensory memories. Please know that in a chaotic world where it feels like all normalcy is gone, you can access familiar sensations and create comfort and joy.
You can create your sense of home and I’m here if you’d like some help with that.