How will you define your new normal and make it a positive experience?
This storm will pass but the choices we make now can shape our lives for years to come. There is a subtle beauty in this situation if you are willing to take the simplicity and space you have created, with you?
The reset button on our lives has been involuntarily pressed.
Here we find ourselves, in this now familiar holding pattern. Employment paused, new lovers on hold, freedom of movement denied, visits to family and friends illegal. We have been forced to slow the pace and exit the race. For all the fear, death, and anxiety this virus has caused, there is a subtle opportunity that exists in the chaos, that’s well worth reflecting on.
Our ‘normal’ has been reconceived. The old way of life simply does not exist. Public policy and social change that would normally take years of debate, deliberation, hesitation and opposition have been quickly and decisively passed overnight. There is no going back.
Yet we still we pine for life to return to ‘normal’. But in the rush to return to normal, we should be asking ourselves, what parts of normal are worth rushing back for?
“It’s like everyone is on an extended summer holiday,” my housemate said, acknowledging the shift we see all around us. Of neighbors recognising you on their morning walk. They smile: more mindful of being considerate, sympathetic, and gentle to others. Parents are out playing with their kids. Their own inner child released with the dusting off of old skateboards and bikes, now left to roam free and discover new nooks of the neighborhood previously ignored.
We are learning about each other in an intimate, deliberate, and considered way. Discovering more about our loved ones and friends in an hour of play, then a lifetime of conversation.
“When choosing between alternatives, we should ask ourselves not only how to overcome the immediate threat, but also what kind of world we will inhabit once the storm passes. Yes, the storm will pass, humankind will survive, most of us will still be alive — but we will inhabit a different world.”
– Yuval Noah Harari – The World after Corona Virus
Indeed, in my community, we enjoy a life of extreme privilege. Australia accounts for 0.33% of the world’s population and has arguably been spared the impact of the virus, contributing a tiny 0.22% of global reported cases at the time of writing. Being ordered to stay home is indeed a mandate to exist, calmly, in paradise. A stone’s throw from stunning surf beaches, which have mostly remained open.
Though currently unemployed, nursing a wounded heart and holding an eviction notice to vacate my home in 4 weeks, I strive to search for optimism in this ‘new normal’.
It exists all around me. In the heightened awareness observed in strangers. In the acknowledgment of opportunity, for what could lie ahead. When do we ever get the chance to tap out of the hustle and recalibrate our heading like this?
It seems I’m not the only one relishing in these newly discovered pleasures of time and space. Those working from home arguably on the lower scale of life disruption, share their delight in stealing back two hours of their day from the office commute. The unhealthy plastic-wrapped takeaway lunch swapped for a nutritious home-cooked meal. More pennies in the pocket from savings made…
Sparks of innovation, creativity, and change are happening all around us. Some of it forced from the need to survive. Some from the space we’re now afforded to explore: a self-reflective, thoughtful place once lost under the hustle of the day-to-day.
Social media reveals baker’s delights and a newly discovered attentiveness to health. People are seeking comfort in art, literature and music. New skills are being learned and old ones rediscovered. Seeds are out of stock across the country as people look to explore sustaining themselves at home, learning about what they can grow from the ground they never once noticed around them. Kombucha scobies are traded amongst friends along with creations from talents, long suppressed in a busy world that previously put little value on such things.
This is the new normal we are adjusting to: The re-organisation and reprioritisation of our lives to create space to let the unimportant simply fall away.
We have all exited the race.
No longer able to run away from our problems, we are being forced to learn more about ourselves. We sit and wallow in the anxiety of our own vulnerability and discomfort. Though it’s a heavy challenge, it is helping many of us rediscover the core of what brings joy into our lives. I for one have been listening to my heart over my head. Unearthing the strength and courage to liberate myself of what doesn’t serve me … and let it go kindly, with love.
Through all the redefining and redesigning of the last 6 weeks, though indeed clouded by fear, unemployment, uncertainty, and struggle, we are consciously or subconsciously taking small steps to steer our lives in the direction of a healthier, sustainable, and more connected existence.
As nature returns to a more even-keel and pollution subsides, making the city’s night sky twinkle like it never has before, humanity needs to make a choice. Is a return to business as usual the best outcome? For we have a beautiful opportunity to redesign and redefine our next chapter.
For when the finger lifts on that reset button, is our previous existence really a place, routine, person, or lifestyle to welcome back with open arms? Infinite growth is indeed entrenched in contemporary Western ideology. It is not sustainable. The past few months have been a poignant reminder of the perils of living on the edge, beyond your means, or balancing on a tightrope of debt and dependence.
This storm will of course pass but the choices we make now can shape our lives for years to come. Be optimistic for your future and take the simplicity and space you have created with you. For when we reflect on the sadness, fear, and uncertainty of this time, we are gifted an opportunity to adapt. To create a sustainable positive change in our own lives, our environment, and communities.
So I ask you, before ‘busy’ creeps back into your life, what have you been grateful for during this time, and how are you going to fight for this as your new normal?