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The rush to return to normal

January 18, 2021

When my pursuit for the jaunty chapeau was almost over, I kept telling myself – Soon, very soon, you will get to return to some semblance of a normal life. For those who have ever pursued graduate studies, we know the dissertation process is not one for the faint of heart.  Recently, I engaged in a conversation with friends who shared “war stories” of vision, wrist, and back issues just to achieve their dreams of a terminal degree.  So, returning to “normal” seemed like an appropriate reward for four years of hard work.  Only in my case (and that of all the other graduates of 2020), the ending was rather anticlimactic because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.  Instead of normal, the entire world got a big whopping wallop of not normal.

At the beginning the challenges with coronavirus, with so much misinformation and perhaps overly hopeful wishing, led many to believe that the whole pandemic would be done by fall. Much like when my OB-GYN said based on my mother’s childbirth experiences, our first baby would be born by ten o’clock, fall came and went with no return to normal.  (For the record, ten o’clock came and went and came and went again before that baby made his appearance in the world.)

As infection rates and deaths progressively grew worse, a sliver of hope was on the horizon with the vaccine.  Conversations shifted from “How are you holding up?” to “What’s the first thing you are going to do post-pandemic?”.  (Also for the record, I intend to live up to what my husband says I need to have as warning sign. Look out world! She is a hugger! I am going to hug people – lots of people – perhaps all the people!) The wistful and hope-filled shift was subtle, but definitely detectable.  Like every other human, (Okay, maybe not a few of my much more introverted friends, but in general, most human beings) I am ready to return to some sense of normal. 

But here’s the thing, that normal doesn’t exist anymore.  I am NOT being pessimistic, but rather being transparently honest. Every fiber of my being clings to hope, but I know we must honor the sanctity of humanity and all we have experienced. We have to come to terms with the heart-wrenching losses of people, of livelihoods, of traditions and so much more.  So many losses, tangibly and painfully real, as well as those that exist only in our hearts and minds.  Some wounds rose to the surface in 2020 that if we want true community in this country, we must address because we cannot continue to ignore the real pain that exists within the fabric of our society.

While some will emerge from this pandemic relatively unscathed, others will have lost their entire worlds.  Some will rush to return to normal while others will still be trying to define what their life will look like.  Anyone who has experienced deep loss, especially those who have lost in tragic ways, knows that one cannot simply return to normal.  That previous life or existence isn’t waiting for us in the future.  In grief circles, this is referred to as the new normal.  For others, like me, time is marked by the before and after of the tragedy.  I mark time as before and after the bus crash that changed everything in my life.  This measurement isn’t always a conscious one, but it surfaces when asked to remember something from the past.  I have often heard my husband’s family mark time this way after beloved family business was lost to a fire. I doubt they even realize that they measure time in this manner, but those touched by tragedy are unable to separate themselves from that tragedy.  No matter how hard we try it is always a part of what we carry forward.

As hope emerges to the surface akin to that first breath of air racing in the lungs after seeing who can hold their breath the longest under water, I sincerely hope we emerge with an intentional kindness and grace to recognize that for some, the new normal will be not be an easy transition.  As some will describe first world inconveniences, others will have lost their grandparents, their parents, their siblings, their cousins, their spouse, their childhood friend, their children or even their businesses, their farms, their careers. The year 2020 will be the one that we wish they could erase from their memories, but the pain of that year will be one that lingers. For some for a lifetime. 

In the world of teaching and learning, we frequently have conversations that trauma informed practice will be needed extensively even when the old way of doing school returns.  Yet, I haven’t heard any conversations of boldly and bravely preparing to love those for whom the pains and losses of coronavirus will not be easily overcome.

Using my teacher educator speech, those who know better, do better.

My humble prayer is that in the rush to return to normal, we, who know better, shine brightly for those who will need to be kind and gentle to themselves for a bit longer or for as long as they need. Pack our Kleenexes, our listening ears, our crying shoulders, and every ounce of grace, patience, and love we possess.  If pandemic history tells us anything, the world will heal physically even if our waiting can seem like the beginning of the Narnia tale where it was always winter, but never Christmas.  Maybe, just maybe, instead of exerting all our wishing for the pandemic to be over, we could shift that energy, those prayers, to using our waiting time, asking for illumination on how to love others who will need us most on the other side of this mess.

  1. Amy Schuler permalink

    Every ounce is ready..with kleenex in hand and prayers always on my lips ❤

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