Back to Normal?

Alison Raffalovich Article, Front Porch Flyer

by Judith and Steve Katzman

From the March 2021 Front Porch Flyer print edition

As Americans, we love our freedom. We all look forward to being free of masks, social distancing, and a virus that could outpace us. We want out of restrictions and confinement. 

Ironically, confinement has expanded our space. In the quiet and absence of “normal” in 2020, we have found more time to consider how we live our daily lives. Not everyone wants to return to normal. Not all of it, anyway.

We value some of what we’ve been forced into, and we don’t want “normal” to take it away. One neighborhood couple says they’ve spent the year cooking together and don’t plan to stop. Someone else says he’s gotten to love being at home more, having our park nearby during the day, and can’t understand the point of all those hours in an office. 

We’ll be called upon to get busier. “Busy” is often a mask. We can hide behind busy, not taking in others or even our own needs for quiet, for play, for relationship. Normal can be a life of being busy, justified by our movement from task to task. This kind of busy-ness isn’t really “living” life.

One thing the pandemic has brought us is a clearer view of the hidden parts of normal. Hate, for instance. In front of our screens, unable to hide behind busy-ness, we were forced to see it in living color. Social disparities and what “essential” really means became clearer. Normal doesn’t mean all is well. We might consider how to change our lives to include our new awareness. What can we do differently to change the dark side of normal?

We had habits a year ago, some of which were soothing. But maybe we can look at those. Did it really feel that great to stand in line for a triple grande skim wet cappuccino? Maybe we can re-evaluate how many days we really need to be at the office. Maybe the new connections or rhythms at home are too precious to pull away from. 

Some people don’t have the luxury of thinking about how they might change their lives for the better. They are busy surviving the virus, looking for work, or looking for food. But for those of us who aren’t, we owe it to everyone around us to think about how we want to spend our time as we start emerging from our forms of confinement.