March 2021: embracing the change.
Covid-19 isn’t something that has just afflicted us; it changed us in ways that are irreversible. It set us on paths from which there is no return. And the change isn’t all bad. I think about going back to “normal,” and I realize that “normal” is elusive. We stepped into the river as the coronavirus surged, and we are stepping out now, in a different place.
What is normal, anyway? Was spring 2019 normal? We were deep into the presidency of a man who damn near brought our democracy crashing down around us.
That four-year political rampage and the emergence of a deadly pandemic are inextricably tied together as historical events; there is little doubt that a more robust, organized federal response could have saved people. But it was the time of Trump and the time of Covid-19, and they met in a spiral of mayhem and grief. Were his lies about the virus and his failure to respect scientific guidance normal in any way? Was it normal to ridicule the wearing of masks when that one simple, inexpensive precaution could have saved lives?
Who would possibly want to reweave what some saw as the “normal” racist threads running through our culture before Black Lives Matter emerged, before Amanda Gorman spoke at the inauguration, before the issue of institutionalized racism came out of the shadows?
We’ve been far from normal for quite some time. In this moment we have to figure out how to go forward, taking the lessons learned from our communal experience with politics chaos and a pandemic.
For example, the isolation and social distancing of this year, the real aberrations, can’t be over too soon for me. That will never feel normal.
But there are new, good things happening now: We are getting vaccinated, and the vaccines work remarkably well. Money from the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill is starting to turn the wheels of the economy, getting people back to jobs and business owners back to feeding and servicing and creating product for our country.
Americans have learned that they are able to work from home better than they ever imagined. What we don’t know yet is how many businesses will go forward with the home-based model. We don’t know if the traditional workplace has reached its expiration date. (I doubt it.) A hybrid model may allow us to employ the best of both worlds, at home and at remote work locations. That could improve on the old normal.
Perhaps the biggest good thing is that schools are starting to accommodate more in-classroom learning. From here in the cheap seats, it seems that closing schools was a mistake from the beginning; we should have vaccinated teachers first and at least tried to prioritize our kids’ education. Going to school is normal.
I love that communities are coming together in ways they didn’t before the pandemic, to help keep food on the table and find vaccine appointments for one another and drive friends to vaccine centers.
This has also been a great year for adopting dogs, or appreciating the pooches already in residence. For many, many weeks our Lillybee was the only living creature we saw or touched.
The proliferation of artsy pastimes is notable, and that, too, may hang around as a creative outlet for people who love indulging old passions and interests and undeveloped talents.
On the plus side as well, many of us weren’t daily exercisers, and now we are. There was only one awful-weather day this year when I didn’t get outside for at least a short walk.
The pandemic has put more people in the kitchen, pouring energy and creativity into the food they prepare. My hunch is that will diminish in direct proportion to the opening of restaurants, but again, who can say?
We learned to sublimate our need for excitement through imaginative meal planning and changing up our walks and connecting with people from our past.
We have so many new skills. I can cut hair. I can fix the TV. I can replace the A/C filter. We truly are different people from the ones who stepped into the river last March.
So, back to normal? Not necessarily. We have to figure out for ourselves, and as a society, what’s worth keeping from the pre-pandemic era and what we want to embrace from the time of Covid-19, going forward.
Copyright 2021 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.