“But don’t you want to get back to normal? I know I do.”
That was the reply someone left on my Facebook post the other day. And I will admit to you, it has stuck in my craw ever since. More than 36 hours later, I am still working that idea around and around my brain. Back to normal. Or do we mean a new normal? And what does it even mean anymore? Do I want to go back? Exactly how would that work at this point, anyway?
The short answer here, friends, is that I really don’t think I do.
The good parts version of “normal”
So, let’s break it down, shall we? What kind of “normal” would I want to go back to? Would I want everything to go back to exactly how it was before covid-19 came and basically shut down the world for a while? No, not exactly.
But here are some of the things I wish I could do again…
I want to enjoy grocery shopping again.
I want to go out for coffee or drinks or lunch with my girlfriends and go on a date night with my husband.
I’d like to have my parents come down to visit.
I’d like to send my children back to their schools.
And I’d loooooove to get a haircut!
I would absolutely love for my son to be able to have his actual, live and in-person, graduation ceremony.
Our other son would be able to take driver’s ed at school and get his learner’s permit on time.
And our our girls could still go to dance class and prepare for their recital.
Then, I’d like for my husband’s work project that he’s been slaving over to come to fruition instead of getting shelved.
Maybe I would stroll the aisles at Target, take my kids to swim team practice, or let them play with their friends in the neighborhood.
Of course, we wouldn’t have had to cancel our family vacation, either.
And, most importantly, I would be able to go to Mass with my family again.
The good parts version of this “new normal”
That all sounds amazing, doesn’t it? I mean, there are days in the midst of all of this mess that I really feel I’d give my eyeteeth for even one of those things.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
There is good in each and every day now, too. Good that, if we’re honest, wouldn’t have been found, noticed, or appreciated if life had stayed “normal.” Things like…
+ enjoying dinner as a family, gathered around the dinner table, every night. All six of us.
+ starting a habit of saying prayers together as a family every night.
+ watching each of our children grow in independence and responsibility through their experience with distance learning (or crisis-schooling or whatever it is you want to call this).
+ getting to spend so much time with our oldest before we send him off to college in the fall.
+ taking the time for bi-weekly Zoom cocktail hours with my family who are spread out across the country. We could’ve started that any time, but just…didn’t.
+ sleeping and waking more with our body clocks than with the requirements set by our crazy schedules.
+ having the time to actually witness and enjoy the beauty of spring as it blooms around us.
+ taking almost nightly walks with my husband.
+ baking to my little heart’s content (and to the delight of my family).
So, considering all of that, we can’t say that these last however many weeks have been a total wash, can we?
Anybody got a time machine?
Would I like to get back to normal? I don’t know.
Or, maybe the better option would be if somebody can get all “Back to the Future” and get me a time machine. Let’s go back to a time when things felt normal and we didn’t know any better about coronavirus or what was headed our way. Or, let’s move forward in time to when we have survived a pandemic and recovered physically, financially, emotionally, socially, and all the other “-ally”s.
Where we are right now, though, is just plain hard. And the only way to get through it is to move forward. It’s like what happens whenever a baby is born, you know? Everyone asks you if you are ready for life to get back to normal. But the reality is that there is no normal to go back to. Something, or someone, has come along and completely turned your old normal on its ear. It’s time to find a new normal, a healthy normal, a normal that is right for you and your family.
Find the new normal
I guess what I’m coming around to here, friend, is that when all is said and done, there is no normal. There’s what’s normal for me, for you, for my family, for your family, for my state and your state, etc., etc. And when any of us have been through an upheaval (which, let’s be honest, we all have), the old normal simply vanishes. What we are left with is a desire and a drive to find the familiar again and to make the most of our situation.
You know, I just have to put this out there, too. My family has had it easy. We haven’t had to deal with the worries or the loss that others have faced so bravely. And because of this, I know our journey to the new normal will be quicker and less painful than what many will experience. Those of you who have lost loved ones, jobs, homes, and are staring at a future that you never dreamed you’d face, you are deeply in my heart and in my prayers.
For all of us, though, I sense a new normal on the horizon. Let’s be smart enough and intentional enough about discovering it, though, that we make it the best it can possibly be. We’ve been given one hell of a chance here, kids. Let’s don’t blow it by giving in and going backwards.
You may have to wait longer than you would like, you may have to bear privations; but, bear and forebear. Have confidence in the Providence that so far has never failed us. The way is not yet clear. Grope along slowly. (St. Mother Theodore Guerin)