Well, here we are in week whatever of quarantine and the initial novelty of having to stay at home has worn off. We’ve heard all of the toilet paper jokes, seen the quarantine snack memes and now we are all getting antsy to get back into the normal life. The problem is that the normal we knew from before the pandemic no longer exists. Things we used to look forward to like going out to dinner, going on vacation, meeting a friend for coffee will probably look very different than how we remember. It’s hard to look forward to something when you know it will be a watered-down version of what you once knew.
The last entry in my 2020 planner was a reminder for an eye exam for my son, originally scheduled for late March. Of course, that appointment was cancelled before it ever happened, so now it’s crossed out. And every page after that is blank. I’d like to believe that there will be a date that needs to be saved, an event to write a reminder for, while it is still 2020. But it’s difficult to imagine that right now.
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I miss going out with my husband to our favorite restaurant. I miss sitting in the cushioned chair at my hair salon while my long-time colorist expertly makes my grey roots disappear. I miss being able to sit in a café and tap away at my laptop while enjoying a croissant and cappuccino. But when I think about what these experiences will be like in the coming months as businesses open but before there is a vaccine to allow us to safely go back to the way things were before, I start to feel anxious and low.
Am I looking forward to a server in our local bistro bringing our order to the table while dressed in full PPE? Not really. Will going on vacation be worth the tremendous expense or the hassle of proving that we are virus free before we can board a plane? I don’t know.
The uncertainty of how we will re-enter society also means that we can’t make any reliable plans. My son’s June bar mitzva has been postponed…. but without a clear understanding of when large public gatherings might be allowed again, we can’t set a new date. Which means we can’t really look forward to that, either.
There is a bright side, though. True, it may be a while until we are once again excited about an upcoming event, but it turns out that many of us are enjoying the slower pace of life, the sleeping in and the freedom to be makeup less and in sweatpants all day. So many of my friends are relieved to have gotten a reprieve from the relentless demands of the typical work/school week.
We are also spending more quality time with our families. (Yes, sometimes TOO much quality time, but still.). We are experiencing a historical moment with our kids and only our kids. No playdates, sleepovers or parties means that when we look back at this time, we will remember more than just the chaos, devastation and uncertainty. We will have some spectacular family memories of how we rose to the occasion, adapted to a strange time and bonded in a way that we never could have had we not been forced to spend every waking minute together for so many weeks and months.
If you’d have told me some time in February that my four teenage kids would be home all day every day for months on end, that my husband would be working from home, that my days would no longer be mine to shape the way they had been for some time and that we wouldn’t be able to see our friends or extended family I can’t imagine that I’d have classified any of those as things to look forward to. Yet here we are, faring relatively well and growing comfortable in our new circumstances.
By the same token, I have to believe that while I am not eagerly anticipating whatever stages come next because they won’t take us back to the way things were, I will embrace the new normal until my planner once again starts to fill up with things to look forward to.