Nearly Normal

Friends hugging at sunset

For the first time in 15 months, I hugged a friend. It felt nearly normal. For many, before going in for a once normal embrace, it’s becoming routine to first qualify whether or not each has been double vaccinated and then, once this has been established, to approach with caution and permission to come closer. Or maybe even plant a kiss on one or the other’s cheek. What was once a common greeting was put on hold as we learnt to distance ourselves from others – family and friends alike.

And while I appreciated being able to connect with an old friend in a familiar way, I’m feeling, like many others, a sense of ambivalence about going from nothing to everything all at once. I sense some resistance on my part to going back to “normal” just because I’m more protected.

Many of my clients and friends have also voiced apprehension about stepping outside of their bubbles into the new “new normal”. Some who previously might have described themselves as extroverted even, have become less comfortable with living outside of their cocoons. Some have experienced symptoms of anxiety about attending a social gathering where they might feel more obligated to hug or to make small talk. They’ve become comfortable with wearing shorts or sweat pants below their waists while displaying upper body smarter attire on zoom calls, and not as inclined to dress up and venture away from home. Many are not looking forward to the possibility of returning to their workplace, the commute and the cliques. As much as we’ve craved visiting the hair salon or other personal grooming places, many of us have also enjoyed the break from perpetual grooming. And while we’ve longed for opportunities to entertain in our homes, there’s also been something peaceful about not having to co ordinate social activities or labour over larger gatherings.

And so, as we move from one stage of opening up to another, you’re not alone if you’re feeling some resistance about moving into a nearly normal state again.

But what is “normal” anyway? After 15 months of change, what was normal before may never quite be the same again. I wonder if we will ever again pluck a grape in the grocery store to taste before buying the bunch. I wonder if we will ever not be asked to wear a mask in a hospital setting or to sanitize our hands in most places, for example. I wonder if we will continue to shake hands as a formal greeting again or if it will become our new “new normal” to not expect this. So, even though we are moving towards a nearly normal state of being, the residual impact of what we have been through may be long lasting.

So, pace yourself. Gradually wean into a nearly normal way of living again. Expose yourself to what you have likely become somewhat fearful of – such as being in a store around many others or travelling on a bus or subway, or meeting someone for a meal and sitting less than six feet apart.

The really remarkable and unique thing about what we have all been through is that for the first time in history, every human being in the entire world has experienced (to a lesser or greater degree) what you have too. We are all in this together and I hope that if nothing else, Covid has united us all in our common goal of fighting it and going back to life as we once knew it, even if we’re a little wary about spreading our wings for now.