I have long resisted the idea of a ‘new normal’. I hate that phrase. It conjures up images of restricted movement, masks and touch-free living.
Nevertheless, ‘a new normal’ has become a part of ‘our new vocabulary’…which is another story.
My daughter’s birthday was this week, and she is at the tender age when a birthday party is an integral part of social life. Thankfully, she is also at the age when she understands the various restrictions in place now and the reasons behind them.
Given the fact that my country is now declared to be without any cases of infection, we suggested that we could ask two of her friends to meet us outside on her special day to ride their bikes with her. We made it clear to our daughter that we would have to make sure that her friends’ parents were comfortable with meeting face to face and that, if so, there would be no frills, no fuss… no party. Just a chance to spend a short time outside with two friends. All protocols and guidelines observed.
The idea of seeing a friend ‘in real life’ was enough to overwhelm her with excitement. It then dawned on me that she hadn’t seen any of her friends since school closed abruptly in the middle of March. Sure, she ‘saw’ them everyday during her online classes, but only through a screen.
I readied myself to send a message to the moms. “Please don’t feel pressured to say yes” I typed. “We completely understand if you’d rather not just yet.” My heart sank further with each word. It felt unnatural to frame an invitation in such a way.
To our great delight, both moms were happy to oblige. One mum even returned the favor of continuing the unnatural conversation by asking whether the kids should be masked. We then laughed at what she called ‘the bizarre conversations that have become normal’.
The new normal. Again, not my favorite concept.
A few minutes before going outside for our physically distanced meet-up, I felt like I again needed to dispel some grandiose idea of a birthday celebration that may have been lurking in my daughter’s mind. I called her close and cautiously said, “I know that you are looking forward to this, but remember, this is not a party. We’re just going to see our friends for a bit.”
Her answer was immediate. She said, “Oh, I know! I’m just so excited to see them!”
That’s it. That’s all that mattered to her. Not a party. Not a celebration. Not a cake. Not a gift. These things may have mattered before, in times gone by when a birthday party was a standard event to be planned and executed. But not now. Not at a time when we hadn’t seen friends in over two months. Not at a time when we were mostly indoors until recently. Not in this ‘new normal’.
Then it hit me, what is it about the old normal that I longed for? What did I miss? Certainly not the busyness, the constant rushing, the excessive consumerism or the ingratitude that accompanies certainty and comfort. To be frank, the only things of old that I want are health, safety and security of employment and, admittedly, even in ‘normal’ times, these are neither certain nor guaranteed.
This ‘new normal’ in which we have been ordered to stay isolated has birthed within us a genuine appreciation for connection and interaction.
Although we are now without so many things that we consider to be ‘normal’, I find myself enjoying so many things that, although not new concepts, are new experiences.
Things like prolonged uninterrupted family time.
Things like reaching out to loved ones in the middle of the week just to chat.
Things like taking the time to rest, to reflect, to read and to grow.
And for the first time, I am excited for the ‘new normal’ that faces us after quarantine.
One in which we are immensely grateful for the little things, like bike rides with friends.
One in which we make time for connection with loved ones, even in the middle of the week.
One in which we embrace tightly and aren’t the first to let go.
One in which we work like it’s a blessing and run our errands like it’s a privilege.
One in which we greet each other wholeheartedly because we no longer need a screen to be seen.
One in which we don’t spend all week wishing for the weekend, but we appreciate that each day brings the opportunity to find joy.
One in which we spend time on things that make us come alive, not because a pandemic has forced us indoors, but because we now know that there is more to life than efficiency and productivity.
One in which we no longer place emphasis on a celebration with presents because we have learned that the only thing worth celebrating is presence.
One in which we remove not only our physical masks, but we set aside the smoke screen of perfection and embrace authenticity.
One in which we spend less time doing and more time being.
One in which it is normal to be grateful.
One in which it is normal to live simply.
One in which it is normal to be content.
Yes, a ‘new normal’… I quite like the idea.
About the Author: Hailing from a small island in the Caribbean, Angelina Lee is a wife, mother of three and Attorney-at-Law. After her Plan A life left her wanting more, she is exploring her Plan Be in which she tries to live more intentionally.