What is normal, anyway?
By Sarah Walker Caron, Bangor Daily News Staff
It was almost 4 p.m. on a recent Thursday when I realized I had a velvet scrunchie in my hair that I had no recollection of putting there. That could, of course, mean only one thing: It had been there since I piled my hair up early that morning while getting out of bed.
In other words, I’d gone all day without brushing my hair — or even considering it.
A year ago, this would have been unthinkable. I would have never gone to work without making sure that my hair was clean and neat.
But after 10 months working at home, things have changed for me. I don’t go to the office, for one thing. Instead, I take a variety of meetings from various workspaces in my house. Sometimes they’re on the phone. Other times, they are video calls. But it’s all over not the same as being in the presence of others.
I mentioned all this to my colleagues and was met with similar confessions.
One realized, upon reading my hair confession, that they hadn’t showered in days. Another said they found themselves spending more and more days without changing out of their PJs. Another confessed that it had been so long since they last drove that they harbored deep anxiety that required phone support from a dear friend as they checked on their car and made sure it still started.
The concept of new normal comes to mind when I relate these stories. But what is a new normal anyway?
Normal is merely a construct — something that we decide is how things are, and are surprised when that something changes. Perhaps normal is really a constantly shifting thing that we only notice when the shift is seismic — and really, the shifts during the pandemic have been pretty darn seismic.
In any case, it’s all left me thinking about where we are now and how this prolonged season of our lives has altered our habits — at least temporarily.
I began this column telling you about my hair, left messy and forgotten all day. I don’t like that I could go a whole day without brushing my hair, but that’s just where I am in the pandemic at the moment.
Still, what I didn’t tell you was about the good changes that mark my days now. For instance, I still get dressed for work daily and it makes me feel like I am doing something. Sometimes I even put on shoes.
Moreover, I am able to fit in more things because of where I am. For instance, I am able to run a half dozen errands in a short time because my home is more centrally located to the things I need to do. In other words, returning bottles, picking up a grocery order and a Target order, exchanging something at another store and getting a pick me up at a drive thru coffee shop all at once is not only possible but completely doable.
And what about the time? I see more of my kids now than I did before. We eat more meals together (we’ve always been a family that ate dinner together, but we now get some breakfasts and lunches together too), have more space to talk and mull over problems together more.
There are a lot of things that don’t feel great about how we are living at the moment. That feeling manifests in the things we forget — whether it’s hair, showering or something else. But that’s only part of the story. There are silver linings in the changes to our normal and they are all around, if we pause to notice them.
So maybe we need to do more of that: pausing to notice the good. I know I will.