Thursday, September 9, 2010

A New Kind of Normal

Humans are amazingly resilient creatures.

A week ago, a shallow, magnitude 4.something quake about 5km from where I live would have had me ducking for shelter.  Yesterday I stayed seated.  I still didn’t like them. When the tremor starts my stomach immediately knots up and I take several seconds to figure out whether it’s going to be one of the really big ones or not.  There’s been a couple that have been, but most of them I’m riding out.

Yesterday (Wednesday) morning there was a particularly sharp 5.1 magnitude shock.  My four year old carried on playing with her blocks, until I scooped her up and carried her to the door frame.  By the time we got there the shaking had stopped again.  A facebook friend posted photos of her children playing Jenga, with any aftershocks being treated as just an extra challenge to the tower falling over.

Of course we’ve been lucky to suffer no structural damage, and there are reports of very traumatised children in the evacuation centres whose families weren’t so fortunate.

But it got me all thinking about how relative “normal” is, and how “normal” changes over time.  When the shaking finally gets round to stopping, however long that takes, life in Christchurch will return to “normal”.  But it will be a normal minus certain historic landmark buildings around the city.  It will be a normal that sees a lot more people with emergency stocks of drinking water and camping stoves than we had last week.  Earthquakes will no longer be something that happens “somewhere else” like Wellington or Rotorua or on the main Alpine fault.  It will be a normal with rebuilt houses, and possibly rebuild suburbs.  In a few years time, we probably won’t notice the difference. 

Normal changes in other ways as well.  When I was growing up, I lived in a comfortable middle-class home.  Now I live in a low-income neighbourhood.  My perception of normal has shifted accordingly.  Parenting one child is quite different from parenting three children, and our normal has adjusted with the arrival of each child.

When you think back, how has your “normal” changed over time?

1 comment:

  1. A friend in Sydney recently bought a $1.4 million home, and thought that was normal. And it is - it's a very normal 3-bdr house in a suburban street. (I'm glad I don't live in Sydney any more.)

    "Normal" around here is living with the threat of bushfires for around 4 months every summer. Normal used to be empty dams and brown lawns, although we're rapidly adjusting to a new kind of normal where rivers burst their banks and drinking water is contaminated.

    No earthquakes yet... but we're expecting a locust plague this summer.