Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Elusiveness of Normal

I’m not sure I can be normal again.

I’m fully vaccinated, about to leave 29° snow behind for a vacation in Maui, and these are my thoughts: Should I take some calming medication before sitting on a crowded airplane with a mask on for five hours? This is a plane where everyone has had to have a negative Covid test within 72 hours, but that’s not it.

I’m not scared of Covid; I’m scared of realizing that normal is no longer possible.

I look back at the past year; I’ve made a family recipe art book, tackled art projects, organized an online theater-watching group, read a bazillion books. I even was incredibly excited about getting a chocolate-dipped ice cream pop!

But now, I wake up adrift. Plans don’t excite me. I’m sick of snow, sick of skiing, sick of Netflix, sick of cooking, sick of grocery store pickup ordering, sick of my computer. I started posting poetry on signs on my yard, and now I’m sick of poetry. Sometimes I actually don’t feel like reading, which is truly cataclysmic. Vaccination has been like spotting a finish line and totally sagging before you cross it.


We just restarted our athletic club membership so I could swim again … and I haven’t gone. I’m not worried about catching Covid at the club, not worried about germs. I’m worried that swimming won’t feel good.

Early on in my Third Third, I discovered the Big Three that were necessary for a happy Third Third:

Without teaching at the Alaska Literacy Program, without in-person classes with OLÉ, my days have become sort of adrift. My ability to adapt has petered out. The only schedule I have is on the computer: a writing class, author interviews, recorded theater. Only occasionally am I “of use.” My community is on Zoom.

Our daughter quit her first job, one she had loved. For the last year, I characterized our phone calls as her trying to convince herself she was happy with her job. She faced workplace issues complicated by working remotely, and she was valiant in framing things positively, but her heart was no longer in it. It became just too hard and she quit. Hooray! She radiates happiness now. I’m a big supporter of eliminating negative conditions quickly and decisively.

But the ones I’m in – the ones we’re all in – just aren’t quickly and decisively going away, and I’m losing the ability to convince myself that “X will be fun; let’s do X!” Or even “I feel like doing X.” Or even “X has to be done, suck it up and do it.” I don’t suck it up anymore; I just drift.

I know that my negative conditions don’t include illness or death, job loss, or eviction – as many people’s do – and I’m grateful for that. I know that the snow I’m sick of covers a yard I may appreciate when the snow melts. For goodness sake, I’m heading to Maui! (stop whining!) But I also know that the Big Three for a happy Third Third have been disrupted, and it will take time to re-create the Third Third that works for me.

We’ve had our first fully-vaccinated guests for dinner, been guests for the first time in someone else’s fully-vaccinated home. Both those times felt just like the old normal once we were in them. Really. But they took some psychic lifting to actually do them. They’re still not a new normal.

We may have landed in this pandemic suddenly, but I think we’re going to have to lift ourselves out of it with baby steps.



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  2. I disagree -- whingeing does absolutely have value and help sometimes. Whinge away if that's how you're feeling. If it feels good, or even just acceptable, do it. None of this is fair and you're doing great to get through it, whingeing included. What we DON'T need is to feel badly for acknowledging the tough stuff.

  3. I think you have verbalized what a lot of people are feeling. We were troopers, we learned zoom, we made masks, we got what? What IS the New Normal people talk about? It is sort of like when we knew nothing about the virus, now we know nothing about our "new" lives. Hang in there, we will figure this out, sharing ideas and feelings is a good start. Our group has just started meeting in person in combo with zoom; another adjustment. I think we will be constantly adjusting our expectations and attitudes as we go along. Wish I had something more positive to say, but I can say that I HEAR you.

  4. Okay, I had to look up "whinge." I only knew from whine. Yesterday, a friend told me that even fully vaccinated, she and her fully-vaccinated best friend are still Zooming. It's like we don't know how to stop. Another friend said it's not the New Normal, it's the New Odd. Why I whine: it allows everyone else to feel their feelings and if we all feel the same way, maybe that's "normal." As long as I'm drawing pictures about it, I hope I haven't crossed the line into "pathetic." It's wonderful to be heard.

  5. I so appreciate your thoughtful verbalization of all of this. It rings so very true. Enjoy Maui!


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