The uncomfortable truth about "normal"
We can't return to what was never there. We can, however, keep moving forward.
My extended family had a gathering, but I was reluctant to go. I had been feeling blue and didn’t want people to know I wasn’t OK.
When I got there, I discovered I wasn’t alone. Work issues, school issues, transportation issues, parenting issues, financial issues and health issues laced conversations from the kitchen table to the driveway. It wasn’t happy talk.
Let’s face it. Life isn’t normal and few of us are OK.
When COVID-19 sent everyone to their rooms in 2020, there were rules most agreed on – wear a mask, social distance, stay at home, pray for a vaccine. The re-entry tried to have rules, but no one agreed on them.
COVID is still here as well as RSV, Mpox, and the always infectious influenza. After a few years of staying away from each other, we are getting each other sick at alarming rates.
Work is chaos – quiet-quitting, actual quitting, strikes, layoffs, protests, remote work, back-to-the-office.
No one seems to know what the economy is doing, as employers need workers, yet inflation is real, but a recession is looming...or not?
Schools are open, but no one knows if a fourth-grader is really a fourth-grader or a second-grader in a fourth-grader’s body. And this educational enigma is true for any student up through higher education.
Entertainment is back, but it costs twice as much for half the experience. There are rolling shortages of food, people, microchips, and patience. These “treat” experiences – shopping, eating, entertaining – often involve the most significant staffing shortages. It makes sense. Who wants to serve people at rock-bottom wages when the pandemic revealed just how crummy people could be?
Yes, in my dark hours, I want life to be “normal”, but what does that even mean? Things have changed. I have changed. I’m starting to wonder if normal is just another word for “comfortable”. If that’s the case, when has life ever been comfortable?
As a writer I’ve kept a regular journal for most of my life. Rarely do I reread it, but I find myself doing so lately. Nothing cures nostalgia gaslighting like keeping a journal. I can attest 2019-me was just as uncomfortable as 2022-me. The only difference is I know 2019-me will be OK. She just didn’t know it then.
Driving home from the gathering, I craved a good cup of brewed coffee. Something dark and strong. I turned into the nearest coffeehouse line and waited. When it was my turn, the tinny voice through the speaker relayed one choice for brewed coffee: Brown Sugar Bourbon.
I paused, keeping my “bummers” to myself.
No doubt this oddball roast was a supply-shortage thing. Given the line and the half-covered menu, it would likely be a miserable day for the staff.
Still, I didn’t want to pay $3 for a light-roasted coffee that couldn’t possibly exist without science. So, I paid $6 for an espresso drink that was on the menu and hoped for the best.
I pulled up. The barista smiled. I smiled. They were two very uncomfortable smiles.
The past is gone, my friends. The future is in flux. And the present, well, it might be a present if we stop trying to “return” to normal and keep moving forward.
The coffee was OK. And so was I.
That’s good enough for now.
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