In every email I receive and each Zoom call I’m on, the phrase “new normal” is mentioned. People toss the phrase around referring to teaching their kids at home, “Well, I guess this is the new normal.” Others create workspaces in makeshift places around the house as they adjust to the “new normal.” People connect with friends on FaceTime or Zoom for happy hour or coffee dates and claim it’s the “new normal” way of hanging out. Everyone is working hard to settle into a routine and to act like this is the usual way of life.
But the phrase “new normal” stirs up some strong feelings in me. It feels icky and sad. It makes me angry. It hurts. It is disappointing.
Normal implies regular and permanence. Normal conveys that we are settled. That this style of living is expected and common. “New normal” suggests that this new way of life is the way it will be from now on. So we should be used to it all.
And I don’t believe that. Not one bit.
We don’t know what the future holds. We aren’t sure how long this shelter-in-place and distancing season will last. We don’t know when school and work will resume. We aren’t sure when we will resume eating at restaurants with friends, when grocery stores won’t feel like an obstacle course of germs, and all the parks and playgrounds will reopen. At some point, we will be allowed to return to social interactions again. We will go back to work and school will resume. Life will return to some semblance of “before,” even if it’s not exactly the same.
It’s not going to be like this forever.
When we use the phrase “new normal,” what we’re attempting to do is find some sort of control in this all. We are trying to sound like we’ve accepted this new way of life and are okay with it. It’s our way of trying to tell our anxiety that it doesn’t belong in our thoughts and behaviors. It’s our attempt to convince ourselves that things will be okay, that we are okay, and that this doesn’t bother us.
We are not okay. This doesn’t feel okay right now.
Nothing about this is normal. Nothing should feel settled or routine. We don’t have to pretend like life is fine, that change is no big deal, and we’re already used to everything. It IS a big deal. We don’t usually spend every waking minute at home, only with the other people that reside there, and never connect with the outside world face-to-face. We aren’t used to working from home or attempting to lead crisis-based schooling for our children. There is nothing normal about any of this. We feel claustrophobic. We miss relationships. We miss presence with one another. We miss our “regular.”
We don’t have to call this the “new normal.” Because it isn’t. Let’s be honest with ourselves – there is nothing normal about this. And that’s okay.