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The Next Normal

With the turn to a new year and the hopes that the vaccines will bring, it feels like we’re on the cusp of getting back to things.  Instead of the “new normal” I’ve heard referenced by many, I was intrigued to reflect on a phrase a friend had invoked recently:  the next normal.   

These past ten months have shaped my new, and indeed current, normal.  I’ve spent ten months significantly altering how I connect and interact in the world.  Less outside stimulation – not going to a coffee shop or out to eat, not inviting friends over, not travelling – has meant more time with me.  While technically I’m alone, I’m not choosing to necessarily see it that way: in fact, thanks to technology, I am actually more actively in touch with friends and family than I was pre-COVID!  I’ve exercised more.  I’ve eaten more healthfully.  I’ve found safe ways to connect with my grandson and family, and have been touched by their thoughtful, creative expressions of love for me. I’ve worked with colleagues to develop new ways to offer leadership programs virtually.  I’ve deepened my knowledge and awareness of racial disparities.  And, perhaps most importantly, I’ve actively worked on trying to enter each day with an open heart and expansive spirit to see what might emerge.  

The “next normal” will be the flow of life and change once COVID restrictions subside.  I know I am fortunate to not have lost employment or financial security during this time.  2020 gave me time to reflect on the pace and level of activity I’d grown to think as normal.  And I know I’m not ready to just pick all of that back up.  I want to be more of an intentional architect with the parts of my next normal that are within my means of control.  I haven’t settled on the perfect cluster of questions to pose to myself yet, but these will help me be more thoughtful in the days and weeks ahead:

  • What will I most want my life to embody?   I love life and its many possibilities!  That allure has, in the past, sometimes left me exhausted. Knowing what is really important to me will help keep me more grounded with perhaps a (more) humane pace. 
  • What did I treasure in 2020?  The quiet of the mornings, my daily extended walks, delving even more into watercolor are things I might not have done if I had been unrestricted.  I also had ample time to work my way slowly through some material on racial injustice and really let it sink in.  I now know I am generally better if I have uncharted time to ponder, to meander, to explore.
  • What couldn’t I do that represented a big loss for me?  Hugs often convey more meaning to my family and friends than I could ever otherwise express.  I have really missed that—plus I’ve missed being the recipient of their hugs!   I have missed the community that happens when I informally get together with others.  I’ve missed traveling to unfamiliar places.  I’ve missed not volunteering in the community.  

So, yes, I’m looking forward to fewer restrictions on my daily life.  As I move into my next normal, I want to make sure I grow into that time joyfully and with wonder, building on the lessons I’ve learned in this challenging year.  

What might be questions you ask to help craft your next normal?

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