The New Normal

Everyone is talking about “the new normal” as if it were a bad thing. But I didn’t like the old normal all that much, now that I’ve had plenty of time and space to think about it, and I’m not in a big hurry to go back.

Like everyone else, I’m worried and scared. (Well, most everyone else. I wonder what it feels like to be one of those oblivious people who still stand right up close to others in public, or the folks who still sign up for cruises?) At the same time, this COVID-19 way of life, for those of us with the luxury to hole up in our homes with our fridges full of food, our shelves full of books, Zoom and Tiger King and that jigsaw puzzle that’s only missing a piece or two, is oddly peaceful.

I have read more books in the past month than I read all last year. I have cooked more, and more wholesome, meals than ever– and really cooked them,. I have talked — really talked, and, more important, really listened — to more friends and family members with more regularity and more appreciation than ever before for how precious even the smallest of small talk becomes when it comes from the lips of someone you love.

I have taken walks (wearing the decorative face mask a friend made and delivered). I have done yoga, all alone on my mat. I have scribbled in my journal. I have organized my closets. I have made coffee and sipped it while looking over the South and West ends of Hartford from my eighth-floor balcony, the branches of new-budding trees below. I have napped. I have bubble-bathed.

Most of all, I have thought. With so much clutter cleared out by COVID, my brain has thought fuller, richer, more thoughtful thoughts than it has since perhaps my childhood, when each new thought felt original and revelatory. Some of those thoughts have rearranged parts of my past in ways that make them suddenly make sense, as if there were a purpose and a power all along.

Of course, this thing will have wide-ranging and damaging repercussions that will alter all of our lives, for the rest of our lives. And we will lose loved ones, and we will lose faith, and we will lose that secret, irrational but nonetheless sure sense that we ourselves are somehow going to manage never to die. That’s a lot of loss.

But our loss of what we’d come to accept as normal, because, well, it was in fact the norm?

I, for one, can live with that loss.

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