The new normal eases into a way of passing each day. The chafing of this new ebb and flow lessens. Its awkwardness subsides as you learn to adapt. To make do. To adjust..
You know this new normal has settled in for awhile. It’s not going away anytime soon, still, you wonder, “When will the end arrive? The end of these restrictions. The end of wearing a mask to do your grocery shopping, or not doing your grocery shopping at all and relying on a neighbour, a friend, a son or daughter.
You wonder when will you be able to walk a path and not step off it every time a stranger approaches. Or fear that an unseen microbe could be lying in wait the next time you open a door or go about your everyday tasks.
And you carry on with your day, pushing back anxiety with baking, sewing masks, writing poetry, painting, doing a puzzle, taking solitary walks and reading through the pile of books that have been sitting on the bedside table threatening to topple over every time you turn out the light.
You don’t have it so bad, you tell yourself. Think about families with young children. They can’t socialize. Their children’s playdates are cancelled. School too. They are at home. 24/7 and there is no one to play with other than each other.
And that quote you heard years ago and don’t have any idea where pops into your thoughts. Familiarity breeds contempt.
And you go in search of its origins because, well you’re in lockdown and have lots of time to feed your curiosity. And you discover it’s old, that quote. Old as Chaucer who wrote in the 1300s.
And your curiosity kicks in again and you wonder, ‘when did the plague happen’? And lo and behold, you find out Chaucer was alive in the time of the plague.
Did this happen to him too? Was he quarantined at home with his family? A mere child when the ‘Black Death’ swept through, taking the lives of millions of people.
And your mind does another one of those little leaps and you wonder, how many people lived on planet earth in the 14th century?
You say a little prayer of gratitude to Google Search and discover there were only 475 million humans on this planet, way back then. Before the Black Death that is. After, there were about 125 million less.
You say another prayer of gratitude.
For science. Medical advancements. Hospitals and ventilators. Governments and organizations like WHO insisting we stay home. And all your fellow citizens who, despite the hardships and the pain, are abiding by the rules of social distancing and sheltering-in-place orders.
You say a prayer of thanks for the food in your fridge. The frozen goods that can sustain you for awhile yet. Your full pantry and grocery stores and restaurants that deliver.
And you give thanks for hot running water and soap. You can wash your hands at will. You can keep your distance from ‘the well’ because you have running water in your home. And toilets and electricity and music.
Oh yes. Music.
And television and Internet that gives you access to movies and how-to videos and news from around the globe. Though you do wonder if that’s a blessing or a curse as you once again scroll through the numbers of new cases. Recoveries. Deaths.
It worries you.
This new need to know. How many. Where. Who. And you feel it chafing. This itch for information you cannot satisfy that sits at the back of your skull. And again, your mind does one of those leaps and you wonder, What is that part of the brain called. Your fingers ache to go look it up. And the word pops into your mind before you have to test your resolve to not give into the urge. Amygdala. That’s it. That place where memories are stored and fear responses are triggered.
And you think about fear and the memory of breath sweeps in to wash it away.
You’d forgotten to breathe in your quest to find out. Everything. To know. To have certainty.
You’d forgotten to breathe.
And so, once again, you take a deep breath. In. Deep breath. Out. And you keep repeating the breath. In. Out until you feel the fear subside. And in its easing off, you take your fingers off your keyboard. You stand up. Call the dog. Your children.
It’s a beautiful day out there. Nature is calling for you to come experience her in all her refreshed beauty.
You gather your family around you. The children are laughing. Excited. The dog is barking. You are laughing too. And you put down your cellphone by the front door and the kids put down their tablets and the dog picks up his leash and brings it to you.
You click it onto his collar, open the door and together you step out into the day.
The answers will come. Someday. Soon. Maybe. And even in their arrival, there will be more questions. More known. More unknown. More changes. More new normals.
In the meantime, the normal that feeds your heart and soul, the one that keeps your spirits lifted, your heart dancing with joy, is to spend time with those closest to you. Those who live in the same household.
And so, you step out into the world to savour the day. And say a prayer of gratitude for good health and good companions.
You step out into your neighbourhood. You’ll keep your distance from others. It’s what you need to do. But between you and your family, there is no distance that can keep Love from filling in the spaces where others would be if Covid hadn’t forced you apart.
You carry them with you. Buoyed up by Love, you step into the world with your family around you and say a silent prayer of gratitude for Life, Laughter, Love.