Back to “Normal”?

Many people are understandably eager to get back to what they see as the pre-pandemic “normal.” However, I’m a big fan of picking and choosing what works for you in that regard. Many of us have no desire to start cramming ourselves onto airplanes at the drop of a hat, going to theme parks, hugging anyone and everyone, feeling obligated to visit people in their houses or invite people into our houses though we have vastly different lifestyles, etc.

This article borders on introvert-shaming. As life creeps back, some feel dread of emerging from pandemic ‘cave’
Experts say taking small steps over time is one of most effective treatments.
Dinner reservations are gleefully being made again. Long-canceled vacations are being booked. People are coming together again, in some of the ways they used to. But not everyone is racing back. Their stories are emerging as the world begins to reopen – people secretly dreading each milestone toward normalcy, envisioning instead anxiety-inducing crowds and awkward catch-up conversations. Even small tasks outside the home – a trip to the grocery store, or returning to the office – can feel overwhelming. Psychologists call it re-entry fear, and they’re finding it more common as headlines herald the forthcoming return to post-pandemic life.”

I say phooey to a lot of that! Lots of stuff about what we call “normal” life IS overwhelming. Leafblowers, jackhammers, and other loud machinery operating constantly; harsh lighting and extreme cold air in public buildings; TV screens and LED signs covering every possible surface indoors and out; endless-looping bad-news announcements and loud music everywhere; roads clogged with traffic and bad moods. Maybe not wanting to go back to what passes for “normal” in U.S. culture is actually a sign of health. Everyone, feel free to stay home, or just go for a quiet walk around your neighborhood, when you don’t feel like going out into the fray! Not only is it good for your sanity; it also helps reduce our collective eco-footprint.

Sure, some of the pandemic syndromes mentioned in this article (washing your hands a hundred times an hour, or constantly scrubbing the floor of a hallway when you are the only person using it) sound like indicators of mental-health issues. But for those of us who don’t always fit the norms of a society that values and rewards extrovert behavior, the shutdowns gave us a chance to find our own levels of comfort and satisfaction, even bliss. Don’t let anyone shame you about what your level is.

I particularly love the stories about people who are finding their creativity — a common result of spending quiet time alone.

Along those lines, this article “Pandemic a chance to reexamine physical greetings” makes a good point: “The lack of physical touch has been trying, but many have gotten used to newer, more creative ways of greeting one another, whether it’s a friendly wave from 6 feet away or an elbow bump. As more Americans get vaccinated and are able to abide by the new CDC guidelines, we may be able to go back to hugging, shaking hands and cheek kisses soon. But should we?The pandemic has taken the pressure off forced interactions and allowed us time to reevaluate boundaries around physical touch, experts say.”

I’m all for that!

I have written extensively on this blog about “silver linings” of the pandemic slowdown/shutdown/reboot of the default settings of our consumerist culture. Many people and businesses have taken the opportunity to adapt and reinvent, to their own benefit and to the benefit of our planet’s ecosystems.

If in the quiet of the shutdown you’ve found new habits and practices that work for you, keep them! Personally I am finding a lot of freedom, and perfect excuses to keep my footprint low.

And really, who likes sitting in traffic?

On a related note, I was listening to a music video on YouTube, and one of the commercials was for VRBO vacation rentals. It showed this idyllic scene of a family sitting around the table. The message was all about creating lasting family memories. Ironic because this “once-in-a-lifetime boutique vacation memory” used to be just normal everyday family life, before people started rushing around so much.