I’ve heard a lot of people talking during 2020 pandemic about wanting to “get back to normal”. This is my personal opinion, but that normal is gone. Dead. Lost to us. For one thing, our idea of normal is a fabrication in our minds that has little bearing on reality. What I think of as “normal” has no bearing on what may actually be the “average” experience of life. Normal is a word that describes a steady state condition of my life. It could mean that I am changing and growing, but at a steady rate. It could mean that I am not doing anything with my life. It could mean I eat out a lot and go boating on weekends. Or it could mean I stay home a lot and hang out with my friends remotely because we play video games together. In a way, normal has no real definition except the one we give it, and the one we give it is abstract and subjective.
That said, if each of us have an individual sense of normal, I think it may be more accurate to say “I want my own life to go back to how it was before Covid”. I can understand the sentiment. It is a very normal reaction to change. However, it wishful thinking. “I wish the world would just go back to how it was before that volcano erupted. Maybe if we scoop all the ash up and stick it back in the top of the volcano things will go back to the way they were.” Nope. That’s not how it works. In life, there are points of no return. Events and decisions that can’t be undone. Covid is one of those. If you liked the world before Covid, that’s great. That world is gone. Do what you have to do to mourn it, but it is dead. Lost to us. There’s no coming back from a change impulse like this. We will reach a new steady state, sure. But it will not be the same as before.
Personally, I question whether people actually want to go back to that world as much as they think they do. That world was full of fear and terror and death. People were depressed and disconnected from each other. Stress and depression were considered by some to be the greatest threat we faced (and I think still are). Is that really a “normal” we want to go back to?
I don’t like change much. It is uncomfortable. I am in the middle of substantial change right now, and not just from the pandemic. And I don’t like it. My stress level is really high. But I trust that change is good for me. Things that don’t grow are dead. Growth is change.
To me, as awful as the pandemic is, it is also an opportunity. It is a crucible. We struggled with disconnection before. A world where people felt depressed and isolated. Has Covid made it worse? Maybe a bit. But I think more importantly it just made us stop ignoring it.
Fear was a huge part of our reality before. Fear of terrorists, fear of other countries, fear of what our leaders would do next. Pick your favorite. There were millions of things to be afraid of, and millions of people telling us we should be afraid. Sure, Covid gave us a new focal point for our fear, but that’s about it. Fear is not a new problem. The stress fear causes the body is not a new phenomenon. Fear is “normal”. What isn’t normal is staying in a state of fear all the time. Well, maybe it is “normal”, but it definitely isn’t healthy. Covid didn’t just give us something new to be afraid of. It has forced us to see that fear is ever present in our lives and that is a problem.
The pandemic has taken the issues that we were ignoring and thrown them in our face. We can either shove them back down again in a scramble to put all the ash back on top of the volcano, or we can be brave enough to look our problems in the eye. Covid is just a call to action. It can be a catalyst for change. Change for the better. Will we find a way to connect deeply with each other even if we have part of our faces covered? Will we find a way to let go of our fears? Fear is killing us. Depression is killing us. Covid didn’t start those things. It might have made them slightly worse. But often worse is the only way we actually pay attention. It just exposed the problems we were ignoring. So let’s not keep ignoring. What will you do? Crave your lost sense of normalcy? Or use this event as a catalyst to bring about change for the better in your life?