Thoughts on "Normal"
We've got a lot on our plate right now, folks. We're not weighing our options. We're juggling grenades.
The future is wildly uncertain. The future is uncertain by nature, but usually with a degree of certainty that you can rely on not to make your existence too unpredictable to navigate. There's a solace in knowing what to expect that you can't really appreciate under “normal” circumstances.
There's that word. “Normal.” "When things are back to normal.” That's what we're all waiting for. Or rather, we're pushing, pressuring, pining & preparing for that euphoric “normal.”
It's no surprise people are really f*cking tired of hunkering down, following rules & being cautious. So there's a lot of slacking going on- that's aside from the outright rebellion against warnings & cautionary tales. The impatience to get back to “normal” is what delays the probability of its return. Isn't it ironic, Alanis?
I don't know that “normal” is a question of “when” so much as “if.”
I think that, maybe with the exception of scientists, researchers & medical professionals, we all felt rather casual at the start.
Early January: “Coronavirus.” Oh, cool- another flu. Sh*t. Just realized I already broke all of my New Year's resolutions.
Mid January: This coronavirus thing is not going away. Huh. Oh well, I'm not worried. Washington state is miles away.
Late January: Wow, you could fly to Germany for, like, $50.
Early February: This coronavirus thing really isn't going away. Probably won't affect me though. And it doesn't sound as bad as Ebola. That was some scary sh*t.
And then things started to get a little more surreal.
Mid February: Yeah, cancelling events with thousands of people makes sense. Good thing my Nick Cave tickets are for October.
Late February: It's sounding more & more like coronavirus is getting out of control. Although the guy I saw at Costco wearing a hazmat suit to pump gas is clearly overreacting.
Early March: Pandemic? Like the board game? That sounds... ominous. I should watch Contagion.
And then things got downright personal.
Mid March: OMG, can you believe these a**holes hoarding toilet paper? They're acting like it's the zombie apocalypse.
Next Day: On no, Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson? The announcement sends my DGA member husband into an anxiety tailspin.
Next Day: Gloves & Clorox wipes at work. Pouring rain, too. Note: really hard to be sanitary in pouring rain.
Next Day: It seems like maybe we should stock up on supplies? Not freaking out. Just thinking ahead.
Next Day: Holy f*cking sh*t, the grocery store shelves are completely empty. This is crazy. This is the the most bizarre f*cking thing. This is insane. This is so weird. I'm not panicking. I'm really not. But some people clearly are, &... that is unsettling.
Next Day: No, we have plenty of toilet paper. It's fine. We're fine.
Next Day: So, there's rumors of a “lockdown.” This sh*t is getting seriously serious now.
Next Day: “Do not report for work.” “Apply for unemployment.” Okay. Yep. Seems like the right move. This will only be for, like, 6 weeks. So... just a brief interruption.
Next Day: Not leaving home without a mask or hand sanitizer. Nope.
Next Day: Sh*t, are we running low on TP? Okay, here's the plan. If we can't find TP, we'll use Kleenex. If we can't find Kleenex, we'll use baby wipes. And if we can't find baby wipes... paper napkins?
Next Day: Kinda seems like this lockdown might go on for more than 6 weeks... Next Day: 5 COVID cases at the memory care facility where my aunt lives. F*CK!
4 months into “Safer at Home,” it's becoming more & more apparent life will not snap back like a rubber band. "Normal" ain't knockin' on the door.
I would say I've adapted to a new “normal.” Which is tricky. It involves a lot of conscious thought about what I can & cannot do. For me it's mostly about the thought that goes into leaving the house. I know I should make one-stop shops. I know I will probably have to wait at certain stores. What will I touch? What will I touch after that? For the 10th time, I shouldn't chew peppermint gum indoors- it makes my throat dry & then I'll have to discreetly clear my throat or someone will freak. My internal mask-dar is on high alert. People wearing masks? Okay, good. People wearing masks below the nose, above the mouth, around the chin, swinging from one ear or not at all? Uggggghhhh WHYYYY?
I consciously acknowledge & thank every cashier, bagger & security guard I come across. I make a point to wave or say hi to my neighbors. I check in with friends & family. The human connections are important right now. “How are you?” That's a question I don't take for granted anymore. I want to be sensitive to the struggles that others are facing. I want to help if I can. Even if all I can do is convey that I care.
That's the everyday stuff. The long term stuff is harder.
How many people are going to die? How many times are we going to relax restrictions & then reinforce them? Will local businesses survive lockdown? Will I survive unemployment? Will I travel again for any reason besides a family emergency? What is the plan? Is there a plan? Does the person in charge of the plan know what the f*ck they are doing or are they just winging it? What is this chaos slushy they're cooking up for us to swallow? Can I even conceive of how big a sh*tstorm November 3rd will be? How f*cked is the economy now & how f*cked is it going to get & how f*cked will we all be individually? Should I completely rethink the rest of my life? Is there a point to making any particular choice?
A problem with no definite solution is usually torture for me. But I'm surprised to find myself remaining relatively calm, neutral & ready for more bad, fake, distorted or alarming news. In this scenario somehow my mind has flipped “we're SO f*cked” to “this is really bad & I have no idea what's going to happen, but I'm still okay.” That's my new "normal" & I anticipate living it for some time to come. I don't really have a choice.
So I've got my man & my dog. We're safe. We're careful. We're healthy enough. It was a puzzle, but we know how we'll pay the bills this month. I'm working my way through an ambitious to-do list. And I'm just gonna take it from there. Day by day. Come what may. That's normal.
***For the record, my aunt is fine & in relatively good health. The challenge with her is keeping the mask on- she has about a 90 second short term memory due to dementia, so the concept of a pandemic just doesn't stick. But the facility seems to have gotten things under control & they are now allowing 20 minute visits with family at a distance.
***Also, for the record, Nick Cave was cancelled & my husband & I are fighting a third party ticket seller for our refund.