A note: Starting April 6 and moving into the foreseeable future, I’m going to be sharing my thoughts on lockdown — along with a random photo from more carefree days. Thanks for joining me on this journey.
The longer the pandemic goes on, the more I hear of and read about the “new normal.” People talk about what “this” will look like on the “other side.” How will the travel industry change? How will education change? Will small businesses weather the storm?
So much of these conversations — and mass media coverage — is focused on scenarios. The “what if” suggestions based on any number of forks in the road, decisions that could be made, conditions that we do and do not have control over as human beings. I could spend my days doing nothing but reading up on predictions. But I’m not convinced any one of them leads to the actual end-game scenario.
I understand why scientists and researchers need to build out forecasts. And yet, what value is there in making assumptions about the future based on something that is so completely unprecedented?
One of the things I find most perplexing about the “new normal” is the way people talk about it. So many of these forecasts have dates attached to them. In various scenarios, dates are attached to when the curve will hit its peak / the most people will have died / numbers will drop.
But it’s not like we will reach that given date (let’s just say June 1) and then suddenly we’ll all just walk out our front doors, blinking into the bright sunshine to see what the “new normal” looks like. We’re not going to wake up June 1 and this whole pandemic is going to be over. We won’t reach the day that defines the “new normal” and suddenly businesses will reopen, everyone will go back to work, and students will return to school. On June 1, borders will not magically reopen, airlines will not suddenly fill their planes, hospitals will not immediately have open beds.
We won’t all just shake this off like it was a bad dream.
Supposedly we’ll go through waves of this pandemic — lockdown, minimal freedom, freedom, minimal freedom, lockdown — for at least several months. It’s an oscillating wave. Not sudden and quick. It’s certainly not the June 1 people seem to think it will be. The “new normal” will not arrive overnight.
I picture the world coming out of the COVID-19 lockdown like someone who has been deeply asleep in a terribly cramped position for a long time. We’ll need to stretch one limb at a time. Slowly, carefully, painfully, with consideration. Sticking out a limb, rotating and stretching each joint, working out the kinks, gently massaging sore, painful spots.
There will be a “new normal,” but it won’t become our day-to-day “normal” in weeks or even months. As steep as the curve was to reach this particular point, our return to “normalcy” will be slow and difficult.
Eventually, we’ll get back to something that looks and feels “normal.” But we’ll feel older, our memories of that painful position and transition will stay with us, and our body won’t quite be the same. We won’t bounce back the way we used to when we were younger. Each wave will make us wiser … but it will never be easier to unfurl from that uncomfortable position.
We measure our part in this story based on our personal milestones: Will Cory return to work at the end of April? Will we actually get to take our summer holiday?
But the much bigger story of the “new normal” will drag on for an incredibly long time.
About this photo:
In 2012, Cory and I visited Iceland for 16 days with my dad, sister, and brother-in-law. We drove around the country, taking our time to appreciate the peaceful landscape. One day, we happened upon a roadside table with several jars of jam. No one was there selling them. Several jars were open for taste-testing, though, and there was a jar to leave money in for people who wanted to buy one. The jam was delicious, of course, and we bought a couple jars. To me, the moment personified the raw beauty and honesty of this lovely country.