Learning to Live in the New Normal

Originally published August 2020

I laid on the floor of the playroom in total defeat. It can’t get worse than this, I thought. I just need to get through another week and then the kids will be back in school and everything will be normal again and I will be fine.

I will be fine.

And then the baby crawled over to where I was lying on the floor and sat directly on my face with a dirty diaper. Poop right in the face.

Who am I kidding? I’m not fine. I’m not fine at all.

I’m a bundle of nerves about every single thing.

Like a virus is stalking my every move and waiting to pounce on every person I love and care about. Like the very air is tainted and all surfaces are filthy. Like I don’t know what is smart and logical and rational any more.

I spent the first couple months of this pandemic in a sort of constant heightened state of being. I was always on alert and constantly checking the news. I felt like I was preparing for and waiting for a hurricane to come and sweep us all away. The bad news just felt like it kept coming. More cases. More deaths. More restrictions. Less school. Less contact. Less sanity.

I’m not typically one for worry, but I found myself feeling so powerless and defeated while my whole life was seemingly out of my own control. We have stayed super busy because I had a lot of nervous energy to burn and some days were downright wonderful but always with a little tinge of the gravity of what was going on in the world around us.

As the weeks turned to months, I started to finally settle in.

The constant togetherness felt a little more normal and I didn’t feel the need to overly schedule each day or plan some big project to tackle in the home. Eventually, we were just here. Some days we played outside all day. Some days we watched too much TV. Most days we ate entirely too much, but it felt less like a social experiment and more like just a new normal.

As life continued to settle, I found my heart slowly and surely starting to beat a little easier. I stopped obsessively checking the statistics or reading the latest news. I stopped holding my breath for the next big development.

It was as if I woke up one day with a clear mind and an open heart. What had I learned from this experience?

I learned that we were absolutely never guaranteed tomorrow and that hadn’t changed with the global pandemic. Any person who has ever experienced great tragedy will tell you that each day is a gift. They surely didn’t know the cancer diagnosis was coming or the car crash was coming. I didn’t cower in fear before the pandemic and I was definitely not immune to tragedy then either.

Mom playing with boys on floorI learned that kids are resilient, but so am I. I can adapt and change and move with the ever-changing guidelines. I have never thought of myself as an overly flexible adult, but this experience has stretched me and taught me to roll with the punches a little better.

I learned SO much about my children. I learned their academic strengths and weaknesses. I learned that nutrition and sleep matter a lot and that junk food is occasionally really good for the soul. I learned to truly appreciate all the strange and quirky things that make them uniquely who they are.

I learned that most of the time I set the tone for our day and that when I am grumpy, they are too. I learned that my words hold great power with them and to be extra careful how I phrase the current state of the union.

I learned that kids will take a global pandemic and quickly turn it into the latest imaginative game in which they are the “coronavirus guards” defending the world with masks and sanitizer.

I learned that, as much as I long for the normalcy we used to know, I am also overwhelmed daily with gratitude that we are safe, together, and healthy, and that I am now pretty convinced that come what may, we can do it together.

So now we usher into the next phase of the pandemic life – we are all faced with making big decisions for our families, but I am not paralyzed in fear anymore.

I’m not saying that I’m not scared, but I am saying that I approach each choice with the realization that I never did have all of the answers anyway. I’m just taking each day and trying to make the next right choice for my family.

Each. Day.

The girl who usually had the calendar booked through at least December (bonus points if the calendar gave you a few months of the following year as well). The girl who thrives on structure and routine and sense of being in control. The girl who is unaccustomed to canceled plans or rescheduled vacations. The girl who does not like to be told no… like, ever.

The girl who grew up when the world stopped.

This girl is not afraid of what the schools will do because she knows she can adapt and go with it. She is not afraid of canceled vacations because maybe it means one hell of a vacation is to come in 2021 (or 2022). She is not afraid to be with her children 24/7 anymore because she knows they are incredible little people and she also doesn’t feel guilty saying “go away for a little while. I want to be alone.”

This girl will not spend her days wringing her hands and living in fear anymore. She will put on the mask, wash her hands, and know that all she can do is her best, for she was never guaranteed tomorrow anyway.