Thursday, August 27, 2020

Adapting to the "New Normal" During a Pandemic

 The  “New Normal” -- Finding Zen in Abnormal Times

By Cal Orey

It’s time to adapt and embrace the chaos…

Welcome to our new life: Sanitized, socially distanced, stay-at-home if the virus case numbers spike, travel at your own risk, and wash your hands. The thing is, when we are hit with a hurricane or tornado, there is a beginning, middle and end. When a novel virus pays us a visit we are in turbulent waters, we don’t know when it is going to be over so we can get back to our pre-pandemic times, the good old days. And the uncertainty of the smart, novel virus is what is stressful to me, and perhaps you, too.

Social Isolation is Not Normal

As an introverted author for decades, working at home is nothing new to me. However, my favorite getaways are no longer available for now. The pool is closed. The resort spa is shut down. Gambling at the casinos is risky because of tourists from hot zones. And the most challenging takeaway is travel. I cannot go to Canada – the borders are closed. So, I sit in my cabin and think, “Not normal.”

I craved the connected-ness to humanity I get when traveling. I booked a flight to Seattle. The upside: I got my first-class window seat, promised it would be blocked off, too. But when I called the hotel, my favorite suite was top dollar yet the spa, pool, room service (all in plastic) is what is offered. The reservationist told me my go-to spots were still half boarded up like before a storm. Visions of folks in the airport, plane, hotel, and a semi-ghost town spooked me. I cancelled.

Fear of Super Spreaders

I’ve been walking the dog is a safe place with no locals or tourists. This activity makes me feel almost normal. Also, gardening and building a fortress with trees so I don’t have to see vacay people as I try and enjoy a “staycation” at home is working, sort of. 

One day at a local nursery, an elderly woman started to chat with me. We both wore masks. But she continued to walk up to me and get too close. I backed away quickly, again and again. And for grocery shopping? The brother is the forager. After all, he is action oriented and younger than I am. But fear of super spreaders goes beyond home.

Recently, my beloved sibling was lured by temptation. He drove with a friend (he doesn’t believe Covid-19 is real) to Las Vegas – a mega hot zone. Think casinos, motels, hotels, crowds, and socializing with tourists from around the country. Once he returned it was a 14-day quarantine. I will not subject myself (or fur kids) to possibility of contracting the virus. I don’t do sick well. We’re on day 9. The dog misses him as do I. We talk on the phone and email but… It’s the new normal. Self-preservation.

Kids Will Go Back to School, Right?

The plan in our region was to go back to the pre-coronavirus world. However, as kids go back to school, so their parents will go back to work, and businesses will reopen – it’s too soon, as I predicted. Kids are testing positive the day they arrive at school. So, Plan B is to adapt to home schooling via computer and some are trying hybrid schooling. But the virus continues to spread. Read: Another reopening likely followed by another lockdown.

No, I do not like to hear kids playing, screaming when I work at home. On the other hand, I do not want the town to go under lockdown two. It’s a dilemma. I know from talking to some moms that they do not know how to teach their kids. Others want to work and go back to normal times. We all do. And I hear the girls laughing which causes my Australian Shepherd to bark nonstop at the novelty.

Adults Not Working – Layoffs to Closures

Sure, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dished out guidelines for safe back-to-work practices. But what good is it when full capacity is not allowed at an indoor restaurant, hair salon, airplane or ferry.

Because of the new normal, many businesses are suffering from the fallout – some close temporarily and others hope we will embrace the pre-pandemic era in the future. Some folks put there lives in danger. It’s a Catch-22: Do I work to pay bills or stay home to stay healthy. For some jobs – grocery store worker to drivers – they are putting their lives (or family members, especially if they have pre-existing health conditions, are elderly or immune-compromised) in danger each and every day.

Taking Care of Me – Body and Mind

Yep, I did get my hair roots done, teeth cleaned, dog’s teeth cleaned – all with special care and following guidelines. But now, reports are noting that some non-essential activities, like teeth cleanings (due to aerosols since the virus is airborne) can be too risky but there is no proof. And the hair salon? On those risk charts it’s up there, probably right with gambling – if not more.

So, will I do these normal things that make me feel normal? More than likely, especially before another lockdown. There has to be a balance of taking care of your body and mind. If I don’t do these things, anxiety and depression – which is soaring in people of all ages – will rear its ugly head. Yes, being mindful of the smart virus is a must – but living life during abnormal times is a must, too, for balance.

 Finding Normalcy

I recall the film “I Am Legend” and the reason why Will Smith’s isolated existence worked is because he found structure in his life. He watched reruns of the news in the morning, exercised (both him and his dog on the treadmill), played outdoors with his canine, ate healthy foods, worked, and lived a semi-normal life without normal healthy people.

I sort of feel like that. Every day I vow to get on the treadmill…and the dog who I taught to do it. I try to have faith that this virus will be like AIDS – a time in the ‘80s – which I covered as a journalist in San Francisco. We may or may not find a vaccine that is safe. But I do predict we will continue to discover good therapeutics. Also, we will learn how to live our lives with Covid-19. And hopefully, by the late spring of 2021 we will have faced the chaos, embraced gratitude for what we had and we have, and survived.

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