Monday, July 13, 2020

Beyond Normal

     Think about it for a moment. Does it feel as though the world we used to call home has been hijacked, jerked away from us, leaving us in limbo? 

        To be sure, change has always been with us. We have spent a lifetime adapting to new and altered “normals.” But never have we experienced such drastic change in so short a time. It’s simply not “normal.”

They tell us we are on our way to a “new normal.” But having spent the last few months sipping on 2020’s “on-the-way-to-a-new-normal” cocktail…..a potent blend of pandemic possibilities, economic distress, and social unrest …..I am ready to settle for a different label.

Near as I can tell there is no Goggle map to tell us where this new and disorienting path leads. Truth to tell, it feels like the road to a new normal leads right through the heart of “Abnormal,” an intimidating place where dark clouds gather, the ground is unstable, and visibility is limited…..leaving me to hope that my stumbling attempts to deal with these new challenges will finally lead to a more fruitful “normal” down the road.

And it is not just me. Every one of us has our own litany of “abnormal” complaints……changes that seem to come with the territory these days. They may seem like little things ……activities and events we never dreamed we would someday miss, but now wish were once again part of our daily “normal.”

Take for instance…….grocery shopping. These days we fill out our online order, send it off to Walmart, and a day later sit in our car while they load our order in our car trunk. It is safe and easy, and we are thankful for that. 
But who would have believed that both of us actually miss our weekly stroll through the friendly, often crowded aisles of the local Winco? Granted, I did little more than push the cart. For Roma, however, it was an opportunity to check out their offerings……to pinch and poke the veggies, read the small-print labels, comparing one to another, before selecting the one she wanted. We took our time and never once worried about some illusive virus that might be lying in wait for us. Remember those good times? We look forward to their return.

I understand that it might be unseemly to brag about our monthly Amazon bill, but in a time when we avoid extended shopping trips downtown that “Prime” account has become an important part of our personal “abnormal.”

Or how about Sunday church? As lukewarm Methodists no one has ever mistaken us for fanatics, but we have always looked forward to the fellowship of weekly services in what has been our church home for nearly fifty years……renewing that comfortable and rewarding time spent with friends. The congregation’s YouTube sermons and weekly Zoom sessions may help fill the void, but they are not the same. Chances are you know how that feels.

Speaking of “abnormal,” what about the sudden disappearance of March Madness ……just as the Oregon ladies were primed for a national title? The baseball season too has been neutered, and who knows what football will look like in this new Covid world. For us TV sports junkies the outlook is bleak. How long must we settle for the very definition of “abnormal”……. ”Professional Cornhole competition”? Surely we deserve something more.

And then there is a more hurtful form of “abnormal.” Like many of you, ours is a family-centered family. True, we are spread around the Pacific NW, but we have always stayed in touch, while looking forward to the twenty-plus of us getting together several times a year. This year long-standing family gatherings have been put on hold, including a much-anticipated summer wedding. 
For the last few months our clan has become a “telephone, email, and Zoom” family. We are thankful for the technology that makes all that possible. But it is not the same.

The lucky ones among us, and I count myself as one of those, are facing this “abnormal” slice of life in the company of a caring and compatible quarantine partner. It is not too much to say that in the course of our sixty years together we have become a well-oiled, if somewhat creaky, team. In times like this we give thanks for the backyard garden, which allows us to work off about all the nervous energy we can muster these days.

In the process it sometimes feels like we have become semi-hermits, occasionally venturing out behind our masks and relying on “social distancing” to help keep us safe..…while what seems like an increasingly unsafe world carries on all around us. 

        In the best of times old age includes its trials. These “abnormal” moments simply magnify those speed bumps. Still, in our sometimes unorthodox way we will ride out this unwelcome storm.

And please remember that those who do not have the luxury of a stay-at-home partner need and deserve our continuing attention….. regular phone calls or emails to let them know they are not alone in these crazy times. 

As always, if you are so inclined I would appreciate hearing how you and yours are dealing with your own “abnormal” world. In the meantime stay safe and take care.