Wide Awake: The New Normal
If only I knew what that was

I was kind of shocked the other day when I had been in a store for almost 30 minutes and remembered I was wearing a mask. Which means…for a half hour, I had forgotten. Which means…I’m getting used to wearing a mask. That was the shocking part.

I’m also getting used to seeing other people wearing masks, and I’m even comfortable having a conversation while we both wear masks. (I never thought that would happen.) Now, “eating out” means a table on a patio. And I’m finding Zoom calls or FaceTime are pretty good for conducting business. I haven’t seen my friends, haven’t been to the office. I spend most of my time at home, and I certainly haven’t worn a dress.

I’m not telling you anything you haven’t already experienced yourself.

One of the most challenging aspects of these past few months – of course, aside from the health issues – has been living with so much uncertainty. Even as we experience a wonderful sense of relief as the state begins to re-open, I also get this uneasy feeling every now and then (ok, maybe a little more than that). I’m trying to figure out what life is going to look like moving forward. I can’t envision it. I’d also like to know how long this new normal will last – all summer? The rest of the year? 2021? So, I don’t know the what or the when. I just know the why. That’s not a great feeling.

I get a sense that there are some people whose new normal will be the same as their old normal, and that will return quickly. Then there are others who may never leave the house again. I’m somewhere in the middle.

The other night I was picking up takeout, and while waiting in my car for curbside pickup, I watched a couple walking to the restaurant’s outdoor seating. They were dressed nicely, carrying a bottle of wine. It was Saturday night, and I’d say they were on a date even though they had probably been married for decades. I was so taken aback. You might even say I was stunned, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. The only thing I am sure of is my reaction was something deeper than concern over catching a virus.

Until I saw that couple, it hadn’t occurred to me that Joe and I might want to go out on a date. We’ve done that pretty much every Saturday night since we’ve met. Even when our kids were little and we had to pay for a babysitter, we still went out 4 Saturdays a month. But the thought of picking a place to go, putting on a summer dress and shoes that aren’t flip flops, then driving there seemed so foreign.

I realized sitting there in my car that I had forgotten what it was like when Joe and I would go out together. I had forgotten how much we enjoyed time spent talking to each other with no interruptions, the chance to maybe bump into friends we hadn’t seen in a while, and the fun of ordering a new cocktail with a whole lot of appetizers. If it was happy hour, we would tell the bartender we wanted 1 of every appetizer on the special menu. If it was really a wild night, we’d order 2.

I guess when you don’t go anywhere except the supermarket for 14 weeks, you start to think it’s ok to just stay inside. It’s easy. It’s comfortable. And at this point, it’s a habit.

But I’m starting to think I have this responsibility – to myself, to Joe, to my daughters, to local businesses, to people in South Jersey, the list goes on. If I stay inside, I’m not contributing to the economy, and I know firsthand how important that is. I’m not adding to an ambiance in a restaurant. I’m not greeting friends and listening to how they’ve been. If I stay inside, I’m not participating in life. And we all need to participate in life, because so much good can happen when we do.

As we reopen, I’ll be getting back to life slowly, with a mask and standing pretty far away from everyone. But I’ve decided to take small (and safe) steps toward living something of a normal life. I don’t know what it will look like, but I’m ok waiting to find out. Because another thing I remembered is that life is pretty good, especially when you fully participate in it. I think it’s time to start.

Read more Wide Awake here.

July 2020
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