Normal: Natural, Ordinary, Routine
Catastrophic events change all who live through them. Some changes are abrupt. Others take a long time to unfold and be understood for what they are. Recognizing this caveat, we recently surveyed friends and family with the following question as it relates to the current pandemic:
Based upon your personal experience, once we get back to some semblance of normal, are there specific things you already know you will change in how you live your life?
Responses often displayed a common sensibility, while other answers were far-reaching in their implications for more significant societal changes. Here is a sampling of actual comments received along with our own comments.
- “I will keep hand sanitizer or wipes much more handy to clean hands. I will wipe down handles when I pump gas, wipe my credit card down and wipe off credit card machines.”
Between the two of us, Julia has always been more diligent about washing hands thoroughly. For me, a little water and a pair of blue jeans for drying used to suffice.
- “We are definitely going to keep a better stockpile of food in the pantry and medical supplies in the closet.”
Stores continue to be low on certain essential items as well as a few things that don’t always seem obvious, like orange Gatorade and Campbell’s Bean with Bacon soup.
- “Life will return to some ‘kind of normal’ but how I interact with my family and how I employ gratitude into my daily life will not. Both are true blessings of this pandemic when so many have lost family members, jobs, and face terrible uncertainty in their future.”
When life changes in an instant, we are reminded how easy it was to take things and people for granted. There is always tomorrow, until suddenly, there is not. In a broader sense, there seems to be an increasing appreciation of experiences over material things.
- “I will be a lot more protective of my personal time and more adamant about spending less hours in the office… I don’t think our lives will go back to the way they were.“
“I went from a workaholic lifestyle to an almost zero presence of work in my life… So this has completely changed where I can dump my energy…. I’ve been tirelessly starting new projects around the house like a maniac.”
This sentiment of re-balancing life was probably said in a wishful way by most everyone at some point prior to the pandemic. But crises have a way of metastasizing certain feelings. Things that were pushed to the bottom of the list before may now become priorities.
- “(My wife) no longer has the desire to travel internationally.”
“I was getting ready to create a product (and) had begun sourcing a lot of the parts from China. That has changed now. I am looking to source things from here and other democracies when availability exists. I will pay more but it’s worth it.”
Multiply these feelings by a few million people and you have a country focused more inwardly. Right now, it is partially out of necessity. The big question is, will this last.
- “I plan on never cooking a meal again, … spending a full day in the house again… And I will wander the streets for days…”
“I hope to continue my long walks exploring new streets in my neighborhood.”
Ok, sheltering in place day after day gets old, even for us homebodies.
Both Julia and I have also been giving this question we asked of others a lot of thought. Besides keeping a few more rolls of toilet paper in our van, we are more energized than ever to resume our travels. The journey will be different though. The roads and parks may be less crowded (except for all the RV rentals), but we wonder how many mom-and-pop bakeries and roadside cafes will still be open. These were always favored places to stop.
When we do see one with a crowded parking lot now though, will we go in? We are unsure. There’s a degree of wariness that will take time to subside. We’ll track area pandemic levels when we’re on the road, much like we do the weather.
Synonyms for the word normal: natural, ordinary, regular, routine. These words have an unfamiliar sound to them right now. Eventually we will adapt, and they will be familiar again.
Bob and Julia