Thoughts on Lockdown: The “New Normal”

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.

jam icelandThe 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.

Read more Thoughts on Lockdown:

2 Responses to “Thoughts on Lockdown: The “New Normal””

  1. Abi

    Very interesting thoughts and I’ve found it fascinating to watch the different approaches that different countries have taken.
    Here in the UK, it feels as though we’re an outlier. The Chief Medical Officer stood up and said that we’d need to close for months – but not yet. That the timing had to be right. We won’t know for a few years whether they made the right call. But we’ve been told for a while that we’re in it for the long haul. Schools have closed until September at the earliest, for example.

    So it’s interesting to watch other places seemingly go on “two week” or “three week” lockdowns, as if that will be the end of it.

    I do wonder which is better for our mental health, though. I think most of us can plough through two or three weeks. But many of us in the UK are reeling at the thought of at least six months. Which three year old won’t be damaged by not seeing a single other child for six months at the time when they are developing and learning about friendships and how to interact with others?

    Maybe we would be better able to cope mentally if our restrictions came in short bursts, one step at a time? Or maybe slamming us with this great load of bad news in one go will be better? I have no idea! But the thoughts fill my time at the very least 😉

    I hope that you and your loved ones are well and stay safe.

    x Abi

    • JoAnna

      Thanks for commenting, Abi. I hope you’re well.

      Your point about whether to hit people with one hard blow of bad news or let it come in bursts is an interesting one and something I hadn’t considered. I think that maybe some things are better off being ground to a halt for a long time just to help deal with disruption. For example, my husband’s school is closed through the third week of April, but they’ve got all these scenarios about what to do if they actually go back, what to do if it’s cancelled for another three weeks after that, or what to do if it’s cancelled outright. That feels unnecessarily disruptive. But things like reopening restaurants and businesses feel like they could be announced in shorter increments. Then again, that’s not disruptive to me, though I imagine it is to those who work there.

      The mental health aspect of all of this is complicated. How do we mitigate the mental human toll in all of this? It’s hard to say.


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