• stephanieraffelock

Way Past Normal


Have you noticed that there’s a lot of talk about things returning to normal? What do we think normal is now? A major world event has touched all of us, and we will move forward with that event informing our lives, for the rest of our lives. But normal? I’m not convinced that normal is what we’re after.


There were lots scenarios in that “normal” past that don’t make a lot of sense right now. For instance, I’m not sure how wise it ever was to hang out with thousands of strangers at a concert. Or if being in a dark and crowded bar where people have to scream in order to be heard – was that ever really a good idea? Life is full of pathogens, germs, viruses, so crowding together isn’t all that appealing anymore.


Or how about traffic? Not everyone needs to go to an office. When everyone does, there’s a lot of traffic to contend with and commuting for a couple of hours each day takes a toll. Our past “normal” often dictated that we spent less time with our family and the dog. The dog didn’t like this very much, and neither did the family. I don’t think being stuck in traffic is a “normal”that we want to return to. If a percentage of people worked from home, the traffic could get better for everyone.


This past year has produced some gifts amid the strangeness that we all endured. Some of those gifts are far from the old “normal,” and some are worth taking into the future.


For instance. I think everybody should be able to live in comfortable yoga clothes. When the pandemic started, the only place that I had to go was the grocery store, but I still had to get up everyday, shower and get dressed. I got into this thing of wearing jewelry with my leggings. Pearls and Pilates, anyone? Further, on a daily basis, I learned to adhere to “Hey it’s after 5:00pm and you don’t have anywhere to go anyway, so you might as well put on your pajamas.” Moral of the story – let’s move forward in more comfortable clothes.


Walking the dog. All of the dogs in my neighborhood have done well during the pandemic. They've encourage us to get outside and move. I now know all the dogs names in my neighborhood. I'm still working on learning the human names. As we move forward, I hope that we'll all walk more.


Zoom family calls. I voting that this little gift will stay around. There’s something sweet and reassuring about seeing my scattered-to-the-winds family in one tidy place, each of us in our own little square, chatting. And it really isn’t about what we say to each other, it’s just the feeling tone of our tribe coming together. It makes my heart feel good.


Like a lot of people, in the first months of the pandemic, I organized my closets and my drawers. That action showed me that I don’t need half the stuff that I thought I did and hopefully I’ll keep that attitude close by.


And masks . . . how the hell that ever became a political hot potato, I will ever know. I learned two things about masks. One, is that there are a lot of really fun masks out there. My favorites are the dog and cat masks. I’m not ditching my mask. First off, I’ll wear it two weeks after my vaccine and I will probably continue to wear it to the grocery store for a long while. I will probably want to wear my fun masks during flu season. There really was no flu season this past year and it’s because everyone was masked up. In fact, I like my cat mask so much, I’m thinking of getting a pair of ears and a tail to go with.


And finally, the pandemic made me dig out all my arts and craft supplies. Because after you clean out your closets, what’s next? I’ve enjoyed coloring, drawing and collage. Hubby and I both read Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way and became loyal fans of the morning pages.


Not everything about the pandemic was horrible, even though it certainly had its horror. I lost a friend and I mourn him. Another friend deals with long-term symptoms from COVID. I’m not afraid or ashamed to cry when I think of how many lost so much. But I hold onto the good, too: families hanging out on Zoom, quiet time with art supplies, writing (I finished a manuscript during COVID), delivered groceries and the unabashed wearing of a necklace and earrings with my yoga gear. Life is good. The gifts are many. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we are moving in the right direction to something new, beyond the old "normal."


What gift did you get from this crazy past year that you’ll take with you into our brave, new future? Please share.