A few thoughts on the ‘new normal’

Whilst we were still in the first few weeks of lock-down, back in April I wrote a blog post sharing some of my thoughts and feelings about it all. It’s really funny going back and reading that now as all the restrictions are being lifted and we’re in a phase that is repetitively being referred to as the ‘new normal’. Back when I wrote that post, all I wanted was for everything to return to normality as soon as possible so that we could all get on with our lives. Now that that is what’s happening, I can’t help but feel a little bit conflicted and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

The thing I found hardest about lock-down was being stuck indoors. If there’s one thing I know it’s that I get cabin fever pretty quickly and I was really quite worried about not being bale to leave our flat. Therefore the biggest change for me was when we were allowed outside for more than once a day. Although the area around us became remarkably busier as people were allowed outdoors for picnics and barbecues, I felt like I could relax once I was able to go outside and enjoy myself. Although our flat is nowhere near as clean and tidy as it was in the first phase of lock-down!

Suddenly we were able to go outside and enjoy our local area, doing a range of different walks around Bristol, North Somerset and the Cotswolds. We could go outside for picnics during the day, and go for a walk or run in the evening. It helped break up the day working from home and meant we no longer felt as though our entire day orientated around the hour we chose to spend outdoors at the weekend. The freedom which felt like it had gone had come back and I was happy.

The other announcement which has come more recently which was welcomed is the fact that I’m able to visit my family again for the first time in six months. Living the other side of the country means it would require at least one overnight to visit which is why we haven’t been able to before. Again, it felt like a moment I’d been waiting for and one I’d had to wait too long for. The other announcements though, I’m either not interested in or have made me surprisingly nervous.

It seems inevitable that there will be a second wave of the virus and whether that’s imminent, in the autumn or not until next year nobody knows but it seems likely there will be one and we can’t yet stop it. I am sure there are a lot of people who are therefore jumping on the opportunities they have now before they get taken away again, and life is for living so I can’t really blame them. But I can’t help feeling a little as though a rug has been pulled out from underneath me and that everything is opening up incredibly quickly.

It takes me a while to adapt to things, and just as I’m starting to settle into this slower pace of life where I bake and go for walks, read and watch lots of films and don’t really have to make any plans, it feels like it’s going. I know it’s my choice to engage with the various things that are opening, and it’s my choice to continue living a slower life. However, it’s an awful lot easier to do that when you don’t have any other option. Now as invitations to visit people start to trickle in, suggestions to book things are being aired and people start to slip back into their old way of life, I have to admit I’m not sure if I’m ready for it all but feel guilty saying no.

Ironically, it’s still not fear of the virus that makes me say that. I’ve always been a bit of an introvert and I think the last few months have exacerbated that through lack of choice. If going to the post office and pharmacist a couple of weeks ago felt like an adventure and that I was stretching my boundaries, I’m not sure I’m ready for too much more yet. Which is probably the opposite of what I said back in April when I was desperate for everything to go back to the way it was. I’ve got quite good at avoiding people, and now I need to learn to undo that! Perhaps I’ve spent too much time in my own head.

It probably doesn’t help that I can’t in any way relate to the people who were queuing round the block to get into Primark the day it opened. Other than Tesco and B&Q I haven’t stepped foot in another shop for months and I haven’t really missed it. I haven’t been into the centre of Bristol since this all began and having been told by friends that it’s now back to how it was before, I don’t really have any desire to. I think it has surprised me how easily some people who have shared endless ‘stay at home’ messages, shared health anxieties online and talked about the selfish behaviour of others have been so quick to book hair appointments, cocktails out and trips away; things which in my mind are all non-essential and contradict their earlier comments. I also find it bizarre that I can do any of those things but still aren’t able to work in my office.

So if this is the ‘new normal’ how long is it here to stay? And how long before it gets superseded by another version of ‘normal’? And what I really want to know is, how long will it take me to adjust this time? The next few months will be interesting I think, and I need to keep reminding myself that it’s ok to take them at my own pace. I need to get the balance right so that I do things and don’t end up avoiding everyone and thing like a hermit, but not overly pushing myself as actually I’m learning it’s quite nice to have no plans.

What do you think of the ‘new normal’?

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